Shame on you: citizens move to keep Brazil clean-up on course

When the Supreme Court in Brazil convicted and sentenced senior politicians for having their hand in the cookie jar – a case universally known as the Mensalão – diverting public resources for their own benefit, we had a notion that now Brazil had functioning institutions. The courts were for almost the first time seen as independent of the political superstructure, able to hand out justice and not cowed by people who believe they were above the law.

A few months later, however, we are now faced with a situation that is making us wonder whether we haven’t taken a serious step backwards. Two well-known politicians that have a history of corruption allegations have been elected behind closed doors to the top jobs in the new Brazilian parliament.

Renan Calheiros is now the president of the Senate again after having been forced to step down from the job in 2007 following a corruption scandal. Henrique Alves was elected head of the house of Representative despite the fact that he is under investigation for embezzlement.

The Brazilian parliament has always been home to notorious criminals, protected by parliamentary immunity among other things. The same is true in state legislatures across the country. That was why it was so important last year when Brazil passed the Ficha Limpa – Clean Sheet – law that makes it illegal for those convicted of a crime by what is known as a collegiate judge to stand for public office. Ironically it was a year ago this week that the Supreme Court approved the law’s constitutionality.

But the optimism following the Mensalão convictions appears to be spurring Brazilians to act. At the beginning of this month, shortly after Calheiros was elected president of the Senate, an online petition on the Avaaz.org website called for Congress to impeach Calheiros. It set a target of 1.3 million signatures – 1 per cent of the Brazilian population – because under the law if that many people sign a petition it can be debated in Congress. As of this week, the petition has nearly 1.6 million signatures.

Institutional advances in Brazil only come about through public pressure. The Supreme Court changed the history of the country with the Mensalão. Society must unite to ensure the achievements are not lost. Now civil society organisations should unite to follow through on what is clearly the will of the people: to insist that the Avaaz petition is presented to Congress and Calheiros and Alves are removed from their jobs. That would be a ficha limpa.

Share and enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • TwitThis
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • MisterWong
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • YahooBuzz
  • Print
  • email
Josmar Verillo

About Josmar Verillo

Josmar Verillo is vice president of Amarribo Brasil, the Transparency International partner in Brazil.

, , , , , , , ,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Shame on you: citizens move to keep Brazil clean-up on course - Transparency International (press release) (blog) « - 22 February 2013

    […] Shame on you: citizens move to keep Brazil clean-up on courseTransparency International (press release) (blog)Two well-known politicians that have a history of corruption allegations have been elected behind closed doors to the top jobs in the new Brazilian parliament. Renan Calheiros is now the president of the Senate again after having been forced to step … […]

  2. High Tide: From Arming Syrian Rebels to Warning Students – Wall Street Journal (blog) « Organic Frauds and Scams - 26 February 2013

    […] are keeping Brazil’s anti-corruption clean-up on course. (Transparency […]

  3. Anti-Corruption Compliance News Blog | ethiXbase » Brazil: Corruption fight continues despite Mensalao convictions - 27 February 2013

    […] original article can be found at transparency.org Tags: Brazil, Brazilian parliament, convicted, Corruption, corruption scandal, embezzlement, […]

  4. Can Marina Silva Revamp Brazilian Politics? - Forbes | Playing Politics TV - 5 April 2013

    […] have recently created an online petition calling for the impeachment of Renan Calheiros, who was elected president of Brazil’s Senate on February 1st in spite of his resignation, in 2007, after allegations that a lobbyist had paid […]