June 21, 2005 [LINK]
The chief of staff of the Brazilan cabinet, Jose Dirceu, resigned last Thursday after being accused of running a bribery scheme by which legislators were paid monthly "allowances" to vote along with the Brazilian Labor Party of President "Lula" da Silva. Brazil has been hit by a crime wave in recent months, and this case further undermines the aura of success that Lula had enjoyed since taking office nearly two and a half years ago. Generally speaking, Brazil has somewhat less of a problem with corruption than most other Latin American countries, but there is also less of a reformist tradition than elsewhere in the region. In other words, small-scale corruption is routine but usually doesn't get out of hand. What this case illustrates is the fragmented nature of the political party system in that giant country, where policy decisions are usually made in the executive branch because the Congress is too bogged down in factionalism to get much done. It may also suggest that Lula's effectiveness as a national leader is on the wane.