- The Odebrecht scandal has tainted nearly every government in Latin America
- Those less affected are in countries where the rule of law is strong
- Voter anger is leading to sweeping political change throughout the region
- Economies may sputter as governments scale back infrastructure investments
When the Worker’s Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) came to power in Brazil in 2003, it and newly elected President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva rode a furious wave of anti-corruption sentiment. Finally, the PT promised, Brazil’s endemic, seemingly intractable corruption would be put to an end, thanks to a party committed to ethical, by-the-book governance. A new era seemed to be opening in Brazilian politics.
That story, we now know, was a fraud. Under the PT’s watch, corruption flourished. In fact, it spread on a vast scale across Latin America. The depth and breadth of the so-called Odebrecht scandal, which originated in Brazil and ensnared numerous Brazilian politicians and executives, has become the defining event of the past decade in the region.