Justice Minister Sergio Moro (L) and President Bolsonaro. Photo: PR

This text on the Car Wash leaks was re-published, with authorization, from the Harvard’s Global Anti-corruption Blog (GAB).


As most GAB readers are likely aware, one of the biggest stories in the anti-corruption world in the last couple of months has involved the disclosure of private text messages by Brazilian officials involved in the so-called Operation Car Wash. The investigation, which has been in progress for five years, is one of the largest anti-corruption operations ever, not just in Brazil but worldwide. The operation has secured the convictions of scores of high-level Brazilian political and business leaders once thought to be untouchable, including former President Lula of the Workers’ Party. 

Lula’s conviction rendered him ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election—which he likely would have won—and this factor, many believe, helped far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro win the presidency. The prosecution of Lula, and a number of other Workers’ Party figures, triggered accusations, mainly from supporters of the party and others on the political left, that the Car Wash Operation was a politically motivated conspiracy against Lula and the Workers’ Party. That view had not been taken very seriously by Brazilian or international experts outside of a relatively small circle of left-wing activists, though when Judge Moro, who had presided over most of the Car Wash cases, including Lula’s, accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s cabinet, it certainly fed into that narrative.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then, last month, </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> published a </span><a href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/09/brazil-archive-operation-car-wash/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">series of stories</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> based on leaked/hacked/stolen private text messages among the prosecutors on the Car Wash Task Force, and between Task Force prosecutors and then-Judge Moro. According to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and <a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2019/06/25/the-intercept-strategy-covering-car-wash-leaks/">others reporting on the revelations</a> (dubbed “Vaza Jato” on social media), the disclosed texts corroborate the longstanding Workers’ Party narrative that the Car Wash prosecutors and Judge Moro were </span><a href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/09/brazil-car-wash-prosecutors-workers-party-lula/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ideologically biased</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> against the party, especially Lula, and that the former president was </span><a href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/09/brazil-lula-operation-car-wash-sergio-moro/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">denied a fair trial as a result</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">described its own reporting as </span><a href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/09/brazil-archive-operation-car-wash/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">“explosive,”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and while one might quibble with the lack of humility (guys, it’s generally better form to let </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">other</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> people praise the importance of your work), the characterization is accurate.</span></p> <p><script src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/299876/1269271-64-you-can-t-spell-car-wash-without-leaks.js?player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, I think the evidence of misconduct is less clear than </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and other commentators have suggested (see a useful debate on the legal and ethical issues </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2019/07/02/do-the-lava-jato-leaks-show-illegal-or-unethical-behavior-a-debate-between-brazilian-legal-experts/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">), and I find the claims of </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">ideological</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> bias especially flimsy (see </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2019/06/17/the-incredible-shrinking-scandal-further-reflections-on-the-lava-jato-leaks/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2019/06/11/just-how-damning-are-the-lava-jato-leaks-some-preliminary-reflections-on-the-intercepts-bombshell-story/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">). But there’s no doubt that the revelations have </span><a href="https://vaaju.com/brazileng/datafolha-research-effect-of-the-proliferation-of-dialogues-attributed-to-moro-and-the-prosecutors-national-news/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tarnished</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Judge Moro’s reputation, and have also damaged the credibility of the Car Wash Task Force prosecutors (though unfairly and excessively so, in my view).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who has benefited from these stories? The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Vaza Jato stories hurt not only Sergio Moro, but also the Bolsonaro administration—both because Moro is a senior figure in that administration, and because the Vaza Jato stories imply, or state outright, that Bolsonaro’s election was illegitimate due to the fact that the strongest alternative candidate was barred, on trumped-up charges, from running. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And the biggest beneficiaries of the Vaza Jato stories, the conventional view maintains, are Brazil’s left-wing parties (the Workers’ Party and its allies), mainly because the Vaza Jato stories show (allegedly) that Workers’ Party activists were right all along when they claimed a right-wing conspiracy against Lula. That view is plausible, and seems widely shared (not least by </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">’s reporters and editors, who make no pretense of journalistic neutrality). But I think it’s wrong.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indeed, I worry that the biggest beneficiary of Vaza Jato may be President Bolsonaro, and the biggest loser may be the Brazilian left. I say “worry” because I view Bolsonaro as a </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2018/10/09/some-things-are-more-important-than-corruption-brazilian-elections-edition/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">dangerous bigot and wanna-be authoritarian</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, one who is also likely </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2018/10/16/brazils-electoral-dilemma-which-outcome-will-be-better-for-anticorruption/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">to worsen Brazil’s corruption problem</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. But my personal political views are not really important for present purposes—I mention them in the interests of full disclosure (much as I have been careful, in previous posts, to disclose my cordial professional relationship with Car Wash Task Force lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rather, my goal here is to explain why I think the Vaza Jato leaks, and the narrative they have helped to amplify, are likely to help Bolsonaro, while hurting the Brazilian left. There are four reasons for this perhaps counterintuitive conclusion.</span></p> <h2>Bolsonaro unchecked</h2> <div id="attachment_20894" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-20894" class="size-full wp-image-20894" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1173987349.jpg" alt="car wash bolsonaro" width="1000" height="666" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1173987349.jpg 1000w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1173987349-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1173987349-768x511.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1173987349-610x406.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-20894" class="wp-caption-text">Car Wash leaks may end up benefiting Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Shutterstock</p></div> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">First</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and most immediately, the Vaza Jato stories have damaged the standing not of President Bolsonaro, or of his administration generally, but of Sergio Moro specifically. And that could remove one of the few possible checks on Bolsonaro’s more lawless, corrupt, or outrageous tendencies. Now, I thought that it was a </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2018/11/13/say-it-aint-so-sergio-judge-moros-apointment-to-the-bolsonaro-cabinet-is-a-setback-for-brazils-struggle-against-corruption/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">mistake</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for Judge Moro to accept a position in Bolsonaro’s cabinet, both because I worried that doing so might undermine the credibility of the Car Wash Operation and because it might help to legitimize Bolsonaro. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But those who defended Moro’s decision to join the cabinet had a couple of reasonable arguments. First, as Justice Minister, Moro could push through important reforms to the justice system—ones that Bolsonaro on his own might not favor—and might also help temper some of Bolsonaro’s excesses in this area. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second, Moro could help ensure that Bolsonaro and his inner circle didn’t try to interfere in investigations that might implicate or embarrass them. The reason Moro would be able to do these things is that Bolsonaro needed him, and that if Moro were to resign—especially if he were to </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2018/11/16/four-steps-brazilian-judge-sergio-moro-can-take-to-remain-an-anticorruption-fighter-as-the-new-minister-of-justice/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">resign “noisily” over an issue of principle</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">—it would be politically damaging for Bolsonaro. Thanks to Vaza Jato, whatever leverage Moro might have once had over Bolsonaro is now gone. Instead of Bolsonaro needing Moro, Moro now needs Bolsonaro—and both of them know it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If Bolsonaro decides he wants Moro gone, he can easily engineer his downfall, even while continuing to claim in public that he supports him (if doing so is politically expedient). And were Moro to resign, even over an alleged issue of principle, this won’t carry the same sting that it might have before the Vaza Jato stories broke. Again, I never thought that Moro’s decision to join the Bolsonaro administration was a good idea. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whatever constraining effect Moro might have on Bolsonaro was outweighed, I concluded, by the damage that such an appointment would do to the credibility of Car Wash and the legitimacy it would lend to Bolsonaro in the early days of his presidency. But those costs have already been paid, and at this point weakening Moro removes one of the few internal checks on Bolsonaro’s worst tendencies.</span></p> <h2>Trust in the judiciary</h2> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Second</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, amplifying the narrative that anti-corruption investigations are </span><a href="https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Lula-Is-a-Political-Prisoner-Victim-of-Lawfare-Brazil-Workers-Party-20190610-0012.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">politically-motivated “lawfare,”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and that Brazil’s legal and judicial institutions are themselves </span><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brazil-sergio-moro-corruption-lato-javo-bolsonaro-the-intercept-glenn-greenwald-a8982486.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">biased and corrupt</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, helps Bolsonaro more than the Workers’ Party or other left-wing parties right now. It’s true that although the Car Wash Operation has secured the conviction of politicians from across the political spectrum, the Workers’ Party and its allies have been disproportionately represented among the defendants. But that overrepresentation, as </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2019/04/02/new-podcast-episode-featuring-deltan-dallagnol/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Car Wash’s defenders repeatedly emphasize</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, is most likely because the Workers’ Party was the party in power for most of the relevant period. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now Bolsonaro and his allies are the ones in power. And in my view </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2018/10/16/brazils-electoral-dilemma-which-outcome-will-be-better-for-anticorruption/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">it is highly likely</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> they will be, or already have been, involved in serious corruption. Indeed, some investigations, most notably of </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/world/americas/brazil-flavio-bolsonaro.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">one of Bolsonaro’s sons</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, are already underway </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">[Note by The Brazilian Report: investigations were suspended this week according to a decision Supreme Court Justice Dias Toffoli].</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> So what happens if prosecutors go after Bolsonaro’s allies, and judges convict them? Presumably Bolsonaro and his crew will denounce the prosecutors and judges as political enemies. It’s harder to make that charge stick in a society where trust in the institutions of justice is high. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Where that trust has been eroded, the charge seems more plausible. The Vaza Jato stories, by undermining confidence in legal institutions generally, and in the impartiality and professionalism of anti-corruption investigations specifically, will make it easier for future politicians to attack anti-corruption investigations in this way. And at least in the near future, those politicians are more likely to be on the right than on the left.</span></p> <h2>Abandoning anti-corruption</h2> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Third</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the Vaza Jato stories and the reaction to them seem to be contributing to the framing of anti-corruption as a “right wing issue,” and the positioning the left (at least substantial parts of the left, including the Workers’ Party and its main allies) as anti-anti-corruption. This is hardly an inevitable alignment. Indeed, it’s actually a bit surprising, since traditionally it was the Brazilian left that was more concerned with grand corruption in Brazilian politics, given the ways in which such corruption privileges wealthy elites and contributes to poverty and inequality. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The explanation, so far as I can tell, is the left’s desire to defend Lula at all costs. Lula is, without doubt, an exceptionally important figure in modern Brazilian history, and his administration did a lot of good. But only the hardest of the hard-core Workers’ Party activists would try, with a straight face, to deny that the party under Lula (and his successor, Dilma) was seriously corrupt. As for Lula himself, the evidence suggests that he was personally involved in corruption or, at the very least, he must have known about and tacitly condoned what was going on. (If not, he was the most out-of-touch, easily bamboozled party leader ever.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But let’s put that aside for the moment and assume, for the sake of argument, that Lula wasn’t personally involved in corruption, that the evidence against him was weak and legally inadequate, and that he shouldn’t have gone to jail. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are two ways that Lula and his defenders could have handled this situation:</span></p> <ul> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Option 1: They could have focused their criticisms on the specific charges brought against him, talked up the flimsiness of the evidence, expressed confidence that he would eventually be exonerated, etc.—but done so while refraining from attacking the legitimacy of the institutions of justice or the personal motives of the prosecutors and judges involved, and emphasizing the importance of the anti-corruption efforts more generally. </span></li> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Option 2: Lula’s defenders (and Lula himself) could launch a scorched-earth attack on the Car Wash Operation writ large, impugning not just the decisions of the prosecutors and judges but also their integrity, and attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the entire operation, not just the one case. </span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They chose the Option 2. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indeed, it’s striking, to this outside observer, how much the conversation about Car Wash is dominated by discussions of Lula. If one were to read only the left-wing commentary, one could be forgiven for thinking that Lula was the only person charged in the Car Wash operation. In those discussions, there’s barely a mention of other high-profile Car Wash defendants, including right-wing political leaders like former House Speaker </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Cunha"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Eduardo Cunha</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and former President </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Temer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Michel Temer</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, as well as business tycoons like </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcelo_Odebrecht"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Marcelo Odebrecht</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <div id="attachment_20895" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-20895" class="size-full wp-image-20895" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1420858355.jpg" alt="car wash deltan dallagnol" width="1000" height="667" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1420858355.jpg 1000w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1420858355-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1420858355-768x512.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1420858355-610x407.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-20895" class="wp-caption-text">Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol has been under heat. Photo: Shutterstock</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In pushing the simplified narrative that Car Wash is nothing but an ideologically motivated vendetta run by conniving schemers, the Brazilian left has positioned itself as anti-Car Wash </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">generally</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> rather than as defenders of rule-of-law principles or as critics of a handful of particular prosecutions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And this is probably a political mistake, because while </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lula</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> remains very popular individually, Car Wash is </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">also</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> very popular. Indeed, the last presidential election featured a face-off between a different Workers’ Party candidate (</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Haddad"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fernando Haddad</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">) attempting to cloak himself in Lula’s mantle and a right-wing candidate (Bolsonaro) claiming to be the anti-corruption candidate (among other things). And we know what happened. Of course, the Vaza Jato stories didn’t appear until last month, and so didn’t contribute to any of this. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But they seem to have fanned the flames of the left-wing anti-Car Wash, anti-anti-corruption narrative, and in so doing are further contributing to the ability of Bolsonaro, and the Brazilian right, to “capture” the anti-corruption issue as their own. If that solidifies, it would be very bad news for the left, because anti-corruption remains a popular and important cause in Brazil, and rightly so. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Politically, the left would be better off developing and advancing its own message about how it would fight corruption in Brazil, and possibly also exposing and denouncing both individual corruption in the Bolsonaro administration and the various ways in which that administration may be quietly </span><a href="https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2019/02/25/the-bolsonaro-administration-is-quietly-reducing-transparency-in-brazil/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">rolling back important anti-corruption measures</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Instead, thanks in part to the salience of the Vaza Jato stories, the left appears to be ceding the anti-corruption issue to the right wing.</span></p> <h2>The Lula fixation</h2> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fourth</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and building on the previous point, the Vaza Jato stories seem to be contributing to what seems to me, as a left-leaning outside observer, to be the Brazilian left’s unhealthy, counterproductive obsession with Lula. I understand that Lula was a uniquely important figure, and an inspiration to many Brazilians. I understand that his policies are widely thought to have helped </span><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2016/09/12/a-look-at-brazils-poverty-rate-after-14-years-of-workers-party-rule/#6e8f27337703"><span style="font-weight: 400;">lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">(I also know there are </span><a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/151082/left-lost-brazil"><span style="font-weight: 400;">controversies</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> about his administration’s policies and questions about how much those policies, rather than other factors, contributed to rising incomes, but for now I’ll assume that Lula’s administration did indeed do tremendous good for millions of poor Brazilians.)</span></p> <div id="attachment_20896" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-20896" class="size-full wp-image-20896" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1442231612.jpg" alt="free lula workers' party" width="1000" height="667" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1442231612.jpg 1000w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1442231612-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1442231612-768x512.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/shutterstock_1442231612-610x407.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-20896" class="wp-caption-text">Lula remains the sun around which the Workers&#8217; Party gravitates. Photo: Shutterstock</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I certainly understand the frustration that many Brazilians—especially those most vulnerable to the Bolsonaro administration’s vicious rhetoric and inhumane policies—feel about the fact that Lula’s disqualification from the 2018 election is what made Bolsonaro’s victory possible. But Lula hasn’t been president since 2010, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he probably won’t be president again. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He’ll probably still be incarcerated by the time the 2022 election rolls around (even if his current conviction is reversed, there are </span><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2019/06/26/brazils-supreme-court-rules-against-ex-president-lulaagain/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">many more cases against him</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> still pending), and by then he’ll be 76 years old. The Brazilian left’s fixation on Lula, and the injustice allegedly done in keeping him off the ballot in 2018, seems to me to be counterproductive. It’s backward-looking, not forward-looking, and seems to be inhibiting the left from cultivating a new generation of leaders and formulating a new set of policies that offer an alternative vision to address the problems that matter to most Brazilian voters (economic stagnation, violent crime, and, yes, corruption). The left’s political strength can’t be grounded, over the long term, in the personality cult of one man, especially one in his 70s. Yet the large number of </span><a href="https://www.vox.com/world/2018/10/29/18025066/bolsonaro-brazil-elections-voters-q-a"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lula-to-Bolsonaro voters</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> suggests that the left hasn’t yet managed to build a sufficiently compelling “brand” outside of the Lula personality cult. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To fight a dangerous demagogue like Bolsonaro, the opposition needs to keep the attention on his administration’s many failings and abuses, and to offer a compelling alternative vision that resonates with voters. That’s not going to happen if the focus stays on 2018. But the Vaza Jato leaks have had the effect of keeping the conversation, particularly in left-wing circles, fixated on the injustices allegedly done to Lula. Maybe Lula’s supporters have a valid complaint. But, speaking as a matter of pragmatic politics rather than justice, Bolsonaro is one of the biggest beneficiaries of anything that gets the opposition to spend its time focusing on the past, and on Lula, rather than on the future.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Before closing, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I am by no means suggesting that </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> was wrong to publish the Vaza Jato stories because of their political effects. My general view is that investigative journalists have both a right and an obligation to publish material that they believe the public has a right to know, without taking into account who the story will help or hurt politically. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indeed, it would be very wrong of me, or anyone else, to suggest that investigative journalists should refrain from publishing a story that would otherwise be newsworthy because of its alleged adverse political effects. I do not want my commentary above to be misread as making any such suggestion.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With that important caveat, I do think the rest of us can and should try to better understand the likely political ramifications of major revelations of this sort, especially those of us (not me, in this case) whose framing and discussion of the story might influence the public narrative in significant ways. And in this case, for the reasons sketched above, I do think that the Vaza Jato revelations may turn out to be a boon for President Bolsonaro, and a trap for the Brazilian left.

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BY Matthew Stephenson

Matthew is a professor at Harvard Law School, where he teaches administrative law, legislation and regulation, anti-corruption law, and political economy of public law.