To avoid the inevitable political sputtering and the partisanization of the
scandal at the Ministry of Health, the authorities took care to call it an
example of "endemic" corruption. Understandable, but such a classification
is deceiving. What we call endemic are diseases which are characteristic of
particular regions, the result of particular geographic circumstances. Our
corruption is organic, circulatory, systemic.
And in order to combat
it, we must put aside minor questions such as nomenclature or morphology.
The drain down which a considerable part of the country's budget has been
pouring is not simply moral, anthropological, juridical or social. It is political.
This case of the Blood
Mafia is one for the record books, because the delinquents managed to lower
the cost of blood products purchased by the government, and fixing the price
among themselves, maintained a higher price which would produce formidable
commissions. They faked efficiency, and with it they were able to cover up
cheating in the bids.
The secret of our corruption
rests in the fact that it is beyond white hats and black hats, beyond religious
beliefs and what type of administration is in power. It goes beyond differences
between branches of government because it is deeply rooted in the state apparatus.
The prevarication is not
found in payment records or receipts because then it would be easy to detect.
It stems from how regulations are written and carried out, through breaches
in the bureaucracy, through casuistic shortcuts, but it reached this scale
due to a generalized metastasis. It formed capillaries.
Modern vampires and leeches
are no longer criminals on the margins of society; they don't dress the part
nor hide themselves in the underworld, but spread out through an enormous
archipelago of gray areas, next to lobbyists, high-level public employees,
lawyers, magistrates, prosperous businessmen with their secretaries, promoters
Now that it is chic to
wear striped shirts with smooth and gleaming collars the metaphor of white-collar
crime has become inappropriate, but it is universal. The delinquents continue
to be impeccable and unrecognizable, but they don't leave fingerprints, and
can be seen in the finest restaurants and in the most respectable company.
This is why among those arrested is one of the close associates of the present
minister of health, working side bye side with veterans from the PC Farias
The contiguity of different
scams under the aegis of the public budget leads to bizarre matches, as in
the case of the inspectors in the Rio de Janeiro `'propinoduto'' (bribe-a-duct)
and in the presence of a prosperous owner of a newspaper in the midst of the
Blood Mafia. Our corruption is interstate, transnational, apolitical, non-temporal.
Above all, agile.
And mutant. Switzerland
still fascinates sophisticated folk like former São Paulo mayor Paulo
Maluf, but the old republic of the cuckoo clock, of chocolate and numbered
accounts is becoming démodé.
Newer generations don't
believe in tradition, they prefer hard cash. In São Luís do
Maranhão, two years ago, a fabulous collection of 50 real notes appeared
(the presidential hopeful Roseana Sarney's scandal); in São Paulo,
a few months ago, Operation Anaconda found in a cabinet heaps of dollars and
gold bars. Now, with the European Union in ascension, the vampires have taken
to hoarding euros.
A few days ago the head
minister of the Casa Civil (Presidential Staff Office) surprised the politicians
by proposing a national pact to confront the uncertainties of the world economy.
Not a bad idea. But first we need a national pact to depoliticize the fight
Our entrenched tribalism
leads us to turn a blind eye to the bandits in our tribe, and to focus only
on the bandits under the enemy flag. In power we are tolerant, in the opposition
we are belligerent. In this immoral relativism, the bandit from the left makes
common cause with the bandit from the right, and the result is impunity.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório
de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies
in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório
da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was
originally published in Observatório da Imprensa www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br.
the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and
culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French,
Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. Comments welcome at