Power

The acrimonious end of Operation Car Wash

The anti-corruption task force helped shape contemporary Brazilian politics — but now suffers a process of dismantling

Operation Car Wash went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Photo: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock
Operation Car Wash went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Photo: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock

In an April 2020 article, The Brazilian Report called former Federal Judge Sergio Moro “the most influential figure in Brazilian politics in the 2010s.” He was the conductor of Operation Car Wash, the biggest anti-corruption effort not only in Brazil’s history, but perhaps in the world. It was, without a doubt, the most significant political event in the country since its return to democracy in 1985. 

It began on March 17, 2014, when federal marshals cracked down on a money-laundering scheme operating out of a Brasília gas station, just three kilometers from the Congress building. Since then, every...

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