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Andy Spalding: Is Brazil’s anti-corruption moment in jeopardy?

Brazil’s anti-corruption effort remains largely in tact, though at least two recent events begin to raise suspicions.

First, as reported last week, Michel Temer (the acting president) dissolved Brazil’s principal anti-corruption agency, the Comptroller General (CGU), replacing it with a new Transparency Ministry. Whether this change in name will also mean a change in anti-corruption enforcement authority remains unclear.

Notably, the CGU’s negotiation of plea agreements with the companies involved in the Petrobras scandal has also been suspended, though this is not as bad as it looks. The government is exploring whether to involve the federal prosecutors and the audit court (TCU) in the negotiation of these agreements.

Then this week, reports emerged that a member of Temer’s new cabinet, Romero Juca, was working behind the scenes to obstruct the Petrobras investigations. It had been widely speculated that someone in government would try to do so, given their tremendous scope and aggressive nature. But again, note that once this minister’s machinations were exposed, he was immediately suspended. Public opinion continues to push Brazil powerfully in the right direction.

So too do the federal prosecutors, who are now investigating Juca for obstruction of justice, continue to move Brazil forward. Under Brazil’s constitution, the federal prosecutors are independent of the executive branch, a kind of fourth branch of government. They have not been reigned in, and will not be. Their ongoing aggressive posture is powerful evidence of their true independence.

Similarly, President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings continue to move forward. Admittedly, these are now driven by politics at least as much as law, but they remain a powerful symbol of Brazil’s new era of accountability.

And most fundamentally, the spate of impressive anti-corruption laws that Brazil has enacted in recent years (and which I’ll explain in coming posts) remains very much in force. We do not see a credible movement to repeal the laws that have made Brazil’s historic anti-corruption moment possible.

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For further explanation of these and other issues, see our ebook, videos, and other resources at the University of Richmond Olympic anti-corruption web page


Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Associate Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He'll be a moderator and panelist at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.

Reader Comments (1)

In fact, CGU`s participation in the plea agreements is entirely wrong. This was a mechanism introduced by Dilma in order to try to rein in the plea agreements themselves, molding them at PT`s will. Therefore, bringing the plea agreements to the exclusive sphere of the Public Attorneys is a step forward, not a setback!
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