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Brazil’s devilish future?

The political opponents of former president Lula look to have ruled him out of the next election, but this risks an even more volatile outcome.


Former president Luiz Lula da Silva at a recent rally

The most striking feature of one of January’s biggest news story was the feigned surprise. No, not the exposure of the horrible and sexist goings-on at the President’s Club in the UK, but Brazilians expressing shock that corruption is rife among its political system.

Three judges upheld ex-president Luiz Lula da Silva’s guilty verdict in January, all of who expressed such shock at his crimes that they increased his prison sentence to 12 years and overlooked the lack of any real damning evidence.

But the corruption found by Operation Car Wash (Lavo Jato) is not an historic anomaly. Neither was the previous Mensalão scandal. Rather, corruption is almost a consequence of Brazil’s fragmented party system – there are 28 political parties in congress at the moment, and that number could rise after this year’s election. And Brazilian politics has always been based on self-interest rather than ideology.

Lula himself is an example of this. The markets were scared at his assumption of power in 2002, but he didn’t attack the rich or the business community but worked with it to implement marginal social programmes – just quite why the market still jumps at the mention of Lula (and in this case his unsuccessful appeal) isn’t clear.