Corruption's Roots Deep and Wide-Reaching in Brazil ; A Parliamentary Report Released Last Week Accuses More Than 800 Officials at All Levels of Organized Crimes

Article excerpt

The longest and most detailed investigation into narcotics trafficking and organized crime ever carried out in Brazil has found that drug-related corruption and money laundering have become so widespread that the country is unable to properly fight the problem.

An unprecedented inquiry carried out by a commission of lawmakers with wide-reaching powers spent more than a year investigating organized crime. Their damning report named 824 people it accuses of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to gun running to tax evasion.

Two federal deputies (congressmen), two former state governors, and 15 state deputies are among those named in the 1,198-page report. Scores of mayors, judges, police officers, lawyers, and even officials from the neighboring countries of Bolivia, Paraguay, and Suriname are also accused of involvement in sending $50 billion in tainted money through Brazil's banks each year.

The report concluded that drug-related corruption is so widespread that it is impossible to clean up in the short term without calling in the military and restructuring and rearming the country's police.

"Authorities have to understand that organized crime is organized and we are disorganized," says Eber Silva, one of the commission's members. " Society can't put up with this much longer.... Authorities must modify the police, the justice system, and the armed forces."

The report named Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo as centers of narcotics trafficking and highlighted how drug mafias across this massive nation cooperate to import cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Andean nations and distribute them in Brazil.

It cited more than 100 companies used to launder money and resell goods stolen by gangs of truck thieves. Some 70 telephone companies and the heads of six banks were accused of not cooperating fully with investigators.

The report called on Brazil's disparate police forces to work together to combat organized crime, and asked the government to increase funding for its nascent witness-protection program.

Most dramatically, the report revealed for the first time the key roles played by politicians, police officers, and other influential figures in a business many had said was run not out of police stations and parliamentary chambers but from the dark alleys of the nation's slums.

"It showed fairly clearly the relationship between drug trafficking, organized crime, violence, and the corruption of authorities - and in particular police," says James Cavallaro, head of the Global Justice human rights group. …