'What direction will we give to Brazilian political institutions in order to mitigate the monopoly of economic power of large corporations and wealthy families over the political system?' PHOTO: EBC

Economic power and political corruption are sides of the same coin, in fact: capitalism takes place in that dimly lit anteroom, at dubious hours, where the owners of money and the owners of power meet. The negotiation of executive, legislative or judiciary decisions as a bargain for the interests of large corporations, administrative councils and entrepreneurs is the global rule and not the Brazilian exception.

There would be no market economy from the USA to China, passing through England, France, Germany, Russia, Japan or Korea, without there being an overlap between political interests and business interests, as, by the way, demonstrated by the large and recent cases of corruption at Siemens the German company, the Korean Samsung, the French Alstom, the English BAE, the Swiss Weatherford, not to mention the American banks and rating agencies that, with many embezzlements, kickbacks and illicit acts, caused the great economic crisis of 2008, or did anyone imagine that a country that elected Donald Trump as president would be a case of aseptic capitalism and autoimmune democracy? Perhaps our credulous native liberal republicans who so admire the Federalists and the North American Founding Fathers have been seduced by this deception, but it does little to help us understand the current Brazilian case.

In other words, the mix between public and private – contrary to what part of Brazilian social thought and public opinion believes – is not a national peculiarity. But such an enunciation should not serve to naturalize or normalize corruption in the world and in Brazil, it serves rather to put the debate elsewhere, perhaps, in its proper place.

The scandal provoked by the accusations of Marcelo Odebrecht and Joesley Batista does not only deal with the relations between Odebrecht and Petrobras, or between J&F and CEF or BNDES, they reveal deeper problems that are little noticed by operators and enthusiasts of the Lava Jato as well as by most of those who make a critical reading of the Operation. One point unites them: the obsession with summarizing the entire Brazilian problem to the infamous question of patrimonialism. In Brazil, this concept creates a family atmosphere among the most varied theoretical positions and political colorings.[1]. None of this, it is worth explaining in times of heat and political polarization, softens or absolves the scandalous booty practiced by Aécio's gang, Temer et caterva. But the conjuncture challenges reflection, at least it, to go beyond the mud where this gang of looters put us.

Among us, the concept of patrimonialism has become a kind of “jack of all trades” and the theoretical flexibility reaches such a point that the idea of ​​patrimonialism is treated as a mere synonym of patriarchy, patronage, privatism, clientelism, physiologism, corporatism, a mixture of public and private, and all sorts of pathologies that affect our political culture, in favor of the concept, conceptual embraces are given to welcome and expand the idea that Brazil is really the country of wrongdoings and “ jeitinho”, where capitalism is ill-fitting and democracy is a misunderstanding. The good intention of finding such Brazilian singularity hides behind itself the assumption that somewhere in the world there is pure capitalism and an ideal democracy. Read mistake.

But if corruption is not exclusive to the country, how has it created so much astonishment among us? Our peculiarity is found elsewhere, not in the problem, but in the lack of concrete initiatives capable of facing this problem. What can be seen in at least three fundamental aspects, which, unfortunately, have been neglected by the public debate, namely[2]:

  • The absence of lobbying regulation; given the lack of clear rules on what is allowed and what is prohibited in the field of public-private relations, interpretations are left to the will and values ​​of prosecutors, judges and police officers on duty, all exacerbated by the indiscriminate use of plea bargains, leniency agreements and selective leaks;
  • The possibility that campaign donations are proportionate to the income and wealth of the donors. This type of jabuticaba only exists in Brazil, if there is not a universal ceiling for all donors, it is evident that the richest will always have more decision-making power in this democracy, even if as individuals, which only reinforces the emergence of phenomena such as rise of businessmen in politics;
  • The existence of a weak political culture and weak political institutions, creating a very favorable climate for the disqualification and criminalization of politics in general and for the construction of a public opinion that is very susceptible to moralism and desirous less of justice and more of justice and lynchings.

In any more organized capitalism, the mix between public and private underwent some type of more forceful regulation, in Brazil, no, so that every negotiation is potentially treated as a spurious relationship or as a crime, depending on the interests of the moment. In this environment, every negotiation, every bargain, every adjustment of interests is likely to be placed in a shadow of moral evaluation, giving rise to political persecutions such as that carried out by Operation Car Wash against the PT and against Lula.

It is symptomatic that the investigations have reached other parties, such as the PMDB and the PSDB, only when the J&F's “preventive denunciation” appealed directly to Rodrigo Janot's PGR without going through the Curitiba instance of Sérgio Moro. By carrying out such a procedure, evidently to save himself, his family and private businesses, Joesley Batista revealed, albeit indirectly, the limits of Operation Lava Jato, paraphrasing the popular expression: the hole is higher up. Curitiba's prosecutors, judges and police do not have a clear diagnosis of the problem they intend to combat.

The reading of these young vigilantes ignores fundamental elements to understand and face the relationship between economic power and corruption in Brazil: (i) historically, the institutional arrangement that allowed the development of our economy was anchored in the articulation between state-owned companies and private companies; (ii) structurally, economic power monopolizes the political system in any relevant national state in the capitalist system; (iii) dynamically, economic power and political power are essentially interconnected, it is possible to improve the relationship between them, but it is not possible to isolate them from each other, at least not in capitalism; (iv) nor do they question that the political behavior being investigated may be the general rule of the political system and not the Brazilian party exception.

However, in the narrow and moralistic conception of Lava Jato operators, the problem of corruption in Brazil is a recent evil, concentrated in bad and unethical people who need to be faced by good and competent people. Such reductionism is laughable, vexatious, and it would only be a bad joke if it had not become the principle that justifies the theory of the domain of fact, the hypothesis of flexibility of evidence, the prioritization of the MP's convictions over the right of defense of indicted people, and the expedient of convicting accused by the media rather than by the justice itself, all this carried out by the generalization of the plea bargain, a propitious instrument for those who understand corruption as a personal or moral problem and which has been replacing the construction of other more efficient mechanisms to fight corruption.

With this moralistic diagnosis and this inquisitorial practice, Operation Car Wash creates an unstable political climate, marked either by ecstasy with the revelation of the supposed truth, or by depression with the denuding of reality, while it puts all the country's institutions under suspicion, The ultimate result has been the public's astonishment and hopelessness about politics as a whole.

To a certain extent, Lava Jato operators count on the complicity of public opinion, which, if, on the one hand, has always suspected that things would work like this, since it is itself given over to small crimes and illicit daily activities, on the other hand, it she was startled and gaping at seeing the guts of “the system” bare and raw. In fact, as long as public opinion does not overcome the shock of the trauma and welcome the desert of the real, we will hardly recover, and the political avenue will remain open to outsiders on duty and last-minute adventurers.

Is corruption a systemic problem that needs to be addressed? Yup. Is any instrument valid to face corruption? Not. Operation Car Wash goes against the grain of governance and international jurisprudence and does Brazil a disservice by throwing water at the mill of those who only repeat monotonously like a chant: Brazil is the country of patrimonialism, where capitalism has not taken off. No, Brazil is a capitalist country like so many others, and if we want to overcome the complaints and regrets we have to face the reality shock that has been imposed on us by the adverse situation and answer a question already faced by other countries:

What directions will we give to Brazilian political institutions in order to mitigate the monopoly of economic power of large corporations and wealthy families over the political system? Surprises, moralism and inquisitorial expedients will not help us at this moment, Operation Lava Jato already does this, just as generic formulations about democracy and ethereal platitudes about the lack of Brazilian republicanism will not help us.

Historical time demands more than we have been able to offer so far, it demands concrete measures for the reconstruction and improvement of our institutions on other levels, without regulating and regulating the rage of economic power and the rage of political power, we will continue to stumble, facing coups, constitutional ruptures and breaches of social pacts.

* William Nozaki is a political scientist, economist and professor at the Fundação Escola de Sociologia e Política de São Paulo

[1] The criticism against the widespread and indiscriminate use of the concept of patrimonialism can be found in: Souza, Jessé. The foolishness of Brazilian intelligence. Sao Paulo: Leya, 2015.

[2] This problematization can be found in more depth in: Reis, Bruno. Lava-Jato is the Cruzado Plan to fight corruption. Available in: http://novosestudos.uol.com.br/a-lava-jato-e-o-plano-cruzado-do-combate-a-corrupcao/>.


Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name