How to Get Brazil (And Latin America) Completely Wrong

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 06/22/2016

It’s been yet another rough week for Brazil’s international image, with an Olympic mascot shot dead in an absurd accident and another national political figure dragged into scandal. But the biggest blow of all came from Declan Ryan, co-founder of the Irish budget airline Ryanair, who told an Argentine newspaper that he was considering expansion into every South American country “except for Brazil, where there is lots of corruption.”

This is precisely the wrong lesson to draw from Brazil’s struggles – akin to believing that the house that gets the most exhaustive inspection must also be the most rotten one on the block. It’s telling that Ryan made his comments (which became huge news in Brazil) while announcing an expansion into Argentina, where the corruption under 12 years of Kirchner rule is only now coming to light. Just last week, a former Argentine secretary of public works was arrested while trying to hide $9 million in cash in a monastery. Ryan preferred tolaugh that story off.

As regular AQ readers know, the negative headlines about Brazil result from a positive process – the independent prosecutors who have uncovered evidence of systemic graft and fraud, and sent some of the country’s most powerful people to jail. This does not mean Brazil is South America’s most corrupt country – it may mean, instead, that it has its healthiest (or most active) legal system. But the mistake Ryan made is surprisingly common, and it provides a golden opportunity for investors who are savvy enough to see the truth.

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