Violence and Corruption: Double Challenge for a Prosperous Brazil

Corruption in Brazil The numbers from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) are impressive: Brazil Gross Domestic Product is the highest in the last 12 years. There's been a 5.8% registered increase in the first quarter of 2008 thanks to its industrial growth and a general consumption increase.

Economics apart, Brazil still has some homework to do. This is what reveals the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) released in April. Despite measures to decrease poverty and protect human rights, the country still faces violence and many forms of exploitation, which includes forced labor and sexual exploitation.

According to Pedro Abramovay, Under-Secretary for Legislative Affairs of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, violence is still a serious issue. According to him, in 2007, 40.000 homicides were registered in Brazil, while 420,000 Brazilians are currently in prison.

"It is embarrassing to see that only in a few cases, a criminal is arrested," declared Phillip Alston, special rapporteur for the United Nations Humans Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

If violence were not enough, the country faces another challenge in its battle for social justice: corruption. According to the president of Rio de Janeiro's OAB (Bar Association), Wadith Damous, organized crime is on the very basis of the center of the state.

"The impression I have is that corruption seems to be quite functional, that is, it seems like public services can no longer function without it," declared OAB president.

The most recent cases, just last week, involved two governors, one of Paraí­ba, Cássio Lima, in the northeast region, accused of buying election votes, and governor Yeda Crusius from one the wealthiest states of the country in the southern region – Rio Grande do Sul. Crusius was accused of financially compensating political parties in exchange for political support.

According to the OAB's president, the whole country needs to mobilize to address this issue: "We need to have political willingness, mobilize the entire nation, in order to attack this problem that affects all levels of the State.

"As long as Brazil maintains such concept of criminalizing the poor while granting impunity to the superior casts of our society, corruption will remain as a sad registered mark of our history," remarked Wadith.

While the economy continues to grow side by side with social issues, Brazilians are not yet celebrating. Food prices already soared up to 71%, even though, Brazil is not listed on the food crisis report of the United Nations.

An article published by São Paulo daily Jornal da Tarde, shows that 1% of Brazil's GDP is allocated to international reserves. If this weren't enough, the Brazilian Society Organization for the Progress of Science indicated that if the country wants to continue growing, it needs to develop its own technology.

Annually, Brazil spends close to US$ 2.1 billion in royalties from basic needs such as food and medication to technology. Back in 2006, royalties reached an extraordinary number of US$ 3.1 billion.

According to Marcello Nonnenberg, an economist for Ipea (Applied Economic Research Institute), the country could be in a much better position, if it would invest in knowledge.

"Many companies prefer to import technology, rather than invest in development." Currently 90% of all Brazilian products rely on foreign technology. The United Nations Universal Periodic Review does not point out specific solutions for poverty or economic development, nor the difficulties to accomplish such a huge task, but it offers criticism over the failures and successes of each country-member. In Brazil, only 10% of the nation's population retain 75% of all the wealth in the country

Edison Bernardo DeSouza is a journalist, having graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, Brazil. He lived in the US for close to 10 years and participated in volunteering activities in social works agencies. DeSouza currently lives in São Paulo where he teaches English as a Second Language, and is pursuing further advancements in his career. He is particularly interested in economics and human rights articles.

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