Brazil’s Generational Clash
Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 6:28AM
Andy Spalding in Brazil, International Anti-Corruption Academy, Jeitinho Brasileiro, RRio 2016

I recently had the great privilege of working closely with one of Brazil’s federal prosecutors at the International Anti-Corruption Academy. A young person just a handful of years out of law school, he’s that rare individual -- bright in every sense of the word, articulate, generous, someone you immediately trust, a person of deep convictions, a natural leader.

And he’s provided the most compelling account I’ve yet heard of this moment in Brazil’s history.  To him it’s a clash between two generations.

Brazil transitioned from a highly corrupt military dictatorship to a constitutional democracy in 1988. The corrupt officials we now see falling like dominoes were socialized under the military dictatorship. But those prosecuting the corrupt officials are generally younger, largely raised and educated under that country’s new democracy.

The older generation cut its teeth in a society rife with corruption. They learned how to survive in a broken system, how to make it work for themselves. They knew the so-called Jeitinho Brasileiro, or Brazilian Way -- a way of breaking rules and cutting corners to get ahead. The learned it, were acculturated under it, and came to master it. Those most skilled in the art rose to positions of great influence.

But my student’s generation was brought up in a different system. They were taught the democratic ideals of equality, individual rights, and accountability. Their educational curriculum was literally rewritten, to correspond to a different system of government. They were raised to expect more from their government.

Where now are the new generation’s best and brightest? I’ll give you one example. Federal prosecutors are selected each year based on their performance on a battery of five tests. With each test the candidate pool is narrowed, until the final selections are made. My student was among 20 selected that year. And how many started the tests? 12,000.

And it’s not just the federal prosecutors. I’ve worked with anti-corruption enforcement officials, private sector lawyers, professors, and social activists. I cannot say I have encountered, anywhere, a group of people so deeply driven and well equipped to usher in a new era in their country’s history.

And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

For more on Brazil’s anti-corruption moment, please see our e-book and related sources at


Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Associate Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He's the author of the ebook Olympic Anti-Corruption Report: Brazil and the Rio 2016 Games (available here). He'll be a speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.

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