More snags in Brazil's war on corruption

Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:24 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Brazil's war on corruption is hitting more snags as the influential and powerful among those accused begin to fight back against both the government and the media.

In a country where definitions of discretion in disclosure crossed new boundaries since the end of military rule, with politicians suspected of wrongdoing protecting each other in different questionable ways, President Dilma Rousseff's well-meant war on corruption in government, judiciary and legislature is well out of her hand.

Rousseff launched the anti-corruption campaign to "clean up" Brazilian politics, but it was quickly appropriated by the media, which felt emboldened at last to do something about a story it had consigned to the spike for years.

Most of this summer the media had a field day with stories that caused one Cabinet minister after another to fall and kept police and prosecutors unusually busy. The media also netted lucrative profits as circulation and viewing figures soared.

However, the latest likely casualty, Labor Minister Carlos Lupi, said he won't quit and join the list of ministers implicated in numerous corruption scandals.

The reason? Lupi said he had the full support of Rousseff and his own political party. Rousseff did not comment and Lupi's center-left Democratic Labor Party gave him full support, despite some members' calls for an investigation.

Analysts said the media tussles with ministers in Rousseff's Cabinet had more to do with shifting patterns in Brazilian power politics than just a media crusade against wrongdoing. Brazilian media have frequently drawn controversy for remaining silent on key issues of national importance.

For Rousseff, the media-led ferreting for corruption scandals is proving a huge distraction as it takes her government away from the campaign's prime goal: to consolidate her power and make her presidency look good compared with the controversial rule of popular and populist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Veja news magazine said it had learned from lawmakers and officials it did not identify that Lupi demanded kickbacks on government contracts with non-governmental organizations. Lupi denied any wrongdoing.

"It would take a bullet to get me out," he told reporters after meeting with members of his party. The Democratic Party is part of Rousseff's loosely cohesive 16-party coalition. "I guarantee you that it won't happen," he said, referring to a possible resignation.

He said Rousseff, who took office Jan. 1, told him to keep defending himself.

Relations between NGOs that perform activities such as worker training have figured in other corruption scandals that cost five ministers their jobs. A sixth minister quit after the media published his unflattering remarks about Cabinet colleagues.

In most cases the media disclosures led first to denials, more revelations and then the resignations of the persons involved, including several officials holding non-Cabinet positions in the government.

Analysts said the corruption fiasco could eventually benefit Rousseff as it has already spared her the embarrassment of getting rid of Lula cronies she inherited in her Cabinet when he handed over power. The media's anti-corruption campaigns have done that for her.

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