Glad to see media in Mexico and Brazil covering corruption stories
How quickly things can change in Latin America!
A year ago, Mexico's new president, Pena-Nieto, was enjoying all of the international recognition of pushing energy and education reforms. The Economist is now down on him, and Mexican historian Enrique Krause wants him to go on TV and admit some errors.
Down in South America, Brazil was getting ready to host the World Cup a year ago and present itself as a rising economic power with political stability.
To be fair, President Pena-Nieto did a good job in passing the reforms, and Brazil has a huge economy. However, both countries today are suffering from structural corruption, and especially crony capitalism in the case of Brazil.
Jaime Daremblum, a respected diplomat, wrote an excellent summary of the problems affecting the two big economies of Latin America:
Now, Pena Nieto is in full damage control mode. His wife cancelled her mansion purchase. And, more seriously, Pena Nieto has announced an anti-corruption reform plan that will, among other steps, allow the central government to dissolve local police forces that have been infiltrated by drug cartels. “Mexico cannot go on like this," the 48-year old president said in announcing the plans, "After Iguala, Mexico must change." He’s right – though it remains to be seen whether fundamental change is possible in a country with such a rich and long history of endemic corruption.
Further south, Brazil has similar problems – a major corruption scandal involving the state-backed energy giant Petrobras is raging. The Brazilian Federal Police are currently conducting “Operation Car Wash,” and what they are finding is astounding. Executives at Petrobras, the world’s sixth largest energy company, are alleged to have paid bribes to Brazilian government officials totaling as much as $1.6 billion in exchange for lucrative government contracts. The bribe money was allegedly siphoned off of company profits. Senior executives at the company have been arrested, as have bosses of construction and engineering companies who work with Petrobras. More heads are sure to fall as the case develops.
The two countries are worth watching – especially Mexico, with a population of 100 million people on our southern border. Brazil is far away but could descend into chaos at a moment's notice.
The bad news is that both countries have a history of corruption. In Mexico, it was 70 years of one-party rule and the billions of dollars that finance the drug cartels. In Brazil, the cozy relationship between government and business leaders gives "crony capitalism" a Portuguese definition.
The good news is that the local media is covering the story. We congratulate local journalists who are asking questions and demanding answers.
I worked and lived in Mexico during the last two years of the very corrupt Lopez-Portillo administration. There was corruption everywhere, but no one in the media touched it.
That's not the case anymore. Just read the front pages of Mexican and Brazilian newspapers. I am happy to see that Mexican and Brazilian journalists are alive and kicking.