Corruption and Political Reform in Brazil: The Impact of Collor’s Impeachment
Edited by Keith S. Rosenn and Richard Downes
North-South Center Press, 1999, 195 pp.
Fernando Collor de Mello made history in 1992 by becoming the first popularly elected Latin American president to be impeached for corruption. These useful essays take his case to examine the relationship between corruption and political reform in Latin America's ongoing democratization. Despite a free press and wider popular participation, corruption has not significantly diminished with authoritarianism's demise. An excellent chapter on Brazilian corruption by Barbara Geddes and Ribeiro Neto demonstrates how recent constitutional changes, which increased congressional power, facilitated cronyism at the public's expense. Ironically, economic reforms also provided insiders with unprecedented opportunities for graft. Collor fell only thanks to an unusual combination of circumstances: the massive media attention, the Supreme Court's refusal to allow a secret congressional vote, and the impending elections that convinced politicians that they would be held accountable. Hence, a strong president who controls Congress and the Supreme Court is unlikely to be impeached in the future. Leonardo Avritzer concludes with a cautious evaluation of Cardoso, whom he charges with fostering old-time clientelism. Yet Brazil's anticorruption sleuths have often targeted Cardoso's own foreign-trained, neoliberal economists who staff his central bank and conduct his privatization efforts -- just one example of how complex reform in this critical area remains.