Election is business with the poor people

The persistence of corruption in Brazilian politics

Source: https://www.dw.com/en/the-persistence-of-corruption-in-brazilian-politics/a-17974970

Date 05.10.2014

A number of Brazilian politicians are corrupt, and yet that doesn't seem to diminish their chances come election time. Some known to have dubious records remain veteran politicians. For years, embezzlement and corruption have plagued Brazilian elections, and yet the electorate continues to vote for the same convicted politicians time and time again. Why do the crooks remain so popular?

In Rio de Janeiro, politician Anthony Garotinho sits quite high up in the polls. In 2010, the ex-governor was convicted for corruption and establishing a criminal organization. He was said to head a "militia" - a gang of former police officers who extort protection money and organize parallel justice in many parts of Rio. But Garotinho didn't stay behind bars for long. His prison sentence was reduced to a community service order and now he's been back in the presidential race.

Rio de Janeiro is not an inglorious exception in Brazil. In Sao Paulo, former governor Paulo Maluf has just been appointed as a member of the Brazilian parliament. To his fellow countrymen, the 83-year-old politician is known by his catchphrase "Rouba, mas faz," which translates as "Steals, but hands-on." The verb "Malufar" actually derives from the 83-year-old's name and has become a regular word in Brazil's Portuguese vocabulary, simply meaning "to steal from the state." Critics claim the ex-governor has embezzled hundreds of millions of euros over the years. Even today Interpol has an international warrant out for his arrest.

Vote buying is a part of Brazilian political culture. Maluf is just one in a long line of politicians who have made appearances in well-known court cases. But for onlookers the question remains: Why do Brazilians continue to vote for these politicians?

For Brazilian corruption researcher Marcos Bezzerra from Nitéroi University in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the reason lies in the relationship between Brazilians and their politicians. "Local politicians and members of parliament see their task as being to smuggle as much money as possible from the capital to their voters," said Bezzerra. In the administrative jungle of the huge South American country, which is made up of 26 states, this is somewhat of a challenge. The electorate therefore pays back their debt through voting. This indirect vote buying is particularly rife in areas where the population relies on all kinds of donations, for example in the slums of the big cities.

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