In the cauldron of Brazilian political life now boiling over more harshly and dangerously, the criminal and semi-criminal element, which is sprinkled throughout Brazil’s Congress, continues its ride roughshod over the people.
Many dozens of legislators who have been charged, and even convicted of crimes, rule pretty much supreme. Money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder are interspersed throughout many resumes, obvious for all to see. And, somewhat incredibly, many lawmakers involved in corruption scandals have avoided jail. You see, some 700 veteran politicians have special judicial standing, including all 594 members of Congress, plus senior cabinet members.
In case you are wondering, Brazilian congressmen receive salaries over $175,000 and close to that amount for things like housing, gasoline and “ electoral research,” plus perks like allowing them to hire as many as 25 aides each.
One case of many… Hildebrando Pascone (nicknamed the “chain saw” Congressman), who ran for office despite common knowledge he was being investigated for operating a death squad using techniques like throwing victims into vats of acid or dismembering them with chain saws. He won easily, but was eventually (a rarity) stripped of his seat.
Brazilians who elect these clowns actually cast more ballots for a professional clown named Grumpy in 2000 than any candidate in history.
“Congress,” said Manricio Santoro, a respected Brazilian political scientist, “is without a doubt the most despised institution in Brazil. A good deal of this hatred is related to the fact that Congress has a tradition of preventing its own members convicted of a crime from ever going to jail.”
And you thought Washington was a problem!