Corruption: Brazilian tranquility contrasts Indian outrage

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While social activist Anna Hazare was able to temporarily paralyze the political process by mobilizing tens of thousands of Indians in his fight against corruption, Brazilians are much less inclined to take the streets, despite frequent press reports about corruption on virtually all levels of government. According to Transparency International's Global Corruption Index, perceived corruption in India and Brazil is comparable - they are less corrupt than Russia and Iran, but more corrupt than Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa or Ghana. Brazil and India are also comparable in that journalists in both countries are independent and eager to unearth corruption scandals. As a consequence, hardly a day passes without major newspapers reporting on yet another case of corruption. The Folha de São Paulo, one of Brazil's major newspapers, routinely depicts politicians as blood-sucking vampires in its caricatures. On September 4, the newspaper's top article on the first page informed the reader that Brazil lost 21 billion US-dollars due to corruption over the past seven years, the equivalent of Bolivia's GDP. Only days later, Jaqueline Roriz, a politician from Brasília, was acquitted of misconduct by the House of Representatives despite video evidence that she had accepted bribes. Although the President has dismissed two ministers and her powerful chief of staff within her first eight months in office after the media accused them of being involved in severe irregularities, the general perception is that corrupt politicians are rarely punished. While the reasons for corruption are complex and rooted in history (seeking to explain the matter, Fernando Rodrigues recently argued that in Brazil, the state apparatus existed before the birth of Brazilian society), the different ways Brazilian and Indian society react to the phenomenon is striking: While India's newly formed middle class seems willing to vent its frustration in the streets (as Gandhi once did), turnout for anti-corruption marches during yesterday's Independence Day in Brazil was low and outrage is usually limited to the dinner table conversation. When asked what the country's most urgent problems are, Brazilians rarely mention corruption. In Brazil, the anger so visible in India and the mobilization that followed was perceived as rather odd. After all, as my Paulistano cab driver pointed out on my way home today, it remains to be seen whether all that fuss Anna Hazare unleashed in India will make any difference. Only time will tell.

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