Major government corruption case hits appeals process

August 16, 2013
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One of the biggest cases in Brazil returned to the country's highest court and began hearing appeals by the 25 people convicted in a scheme to buy pro-government votes. The high-profile political bribery case is raising hopes for a concrete way to stop corruption in Brazil. This process could last months.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the group offering appeals consists of former government officials, party members and business executives who were convicted last year of organizing the vote-buying scheme from 2003 to 2005.

The case, which is popularly referred to as the "mensalão" or the big monthly payoff, has been a part of the protests that have swept the country this summer. The outrage is that none of those convicted have been sent to jail and overturning any of the sentences could add fire to the demonstrations and make things worse.

"The trial, the appeals, and the continued freedom of most of the mensalão culprits…demonstrate the huge dysfunction of Brazil's judicial system," said Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank. "The high visibility of the mensalão is an important part of the explanation of why Brazilians have such a low regard for congress, the executive, and justice system."

This corruption case just adds to the overall feeling of an unjust government and judicial system. A study from anticorruption watchdog Transparency International found that 81 percent of Brazilian respondents believe political parties are the most corrupt institutions, while 50 percent believe it is the judiciary branch. This feeling will not be going away overnight but the outcome could have a major impact on it.

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