Grabbing Hand: Corruption in Lula's Government

By Liby, Martin | Harvard International Review, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Grabbing Hand: Corruption in Lula's Government


Liby, Martin, Harvard International Review


The almost three-year honeymoon of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Da Silva--Lula, as fellow Brazilians know him--is clearly over. As his party is deeply embroiled in a corruption scandal, Lula's prospects for reelection in 2006 are now not as certain as they once seemed.

Lula's 2002 presidential election landslide was historic. For the first time, the Brazilian people elected a left-wing president, the first leader who could be considered a son of the poor. To millions of Brazilians living in poverty, Lula's election brought to power someone who understood them and their concerns. In addition, the peaceful transfer of power from a center-right to a left-wing administration reinforced Brazil's status as a true democracy.

Not everyone was satisfied. The financial markets worried that Lula's election would bring about costly social reforms and would end economic liberalization. After losing three elections on radical platforms, however, Lula came to the 2002 election as a reinvented candidate. He was still the candidate of the left-wing Workers' Party, but he had formed a broad coalition including right-of-center parties and the Brazilian Communist Party. Campaigning as "Lula Light," he advocated not only social reform but also fiscal responsibility. His election put to rest the worries of international financial markets.

The constantly changing Brazilian political landscape--congressmen switch parties on a regular basis--makes governing difficult. Moreover, discontent was growing within the left wing of Lula's own party over the last few months. Among party hardliners, Lula's reforms were seen as too moderate; they argued Lula had caved in to international business. However, due to Lula's enormous popularity, critics remained quiet and his reelection next year seemed inevitable.

All that changed when the corruption scandal began to unfold. Robert Jefferson, a dissatisfied leader of the Brazilian Labor Party, alleged that the Workers' Party had paid bribes to congressmen of other parties in order to ensure that they would vote with the administration. He also acknowledged that his own party had accepted vast sums of money as campaign contributions in exchange for their votes. The money used for bribing congressmen was taken from publicly owned companies. …

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