Corruption is not exactly a new phenomenon in Latin America. Indeed, corruption scandals have been a fixture on the region’s landscape since time immemorial. So there is nothing in principle new or surprising about the ongoing, almost endless drama that has engulfed Brazil’s President Luis Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, his political organization – the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, or Workers’ Party) – and much of the country’s political elite. But this scandal, unlike many others before it, is taking place in a consolidated democratic environment, and on the left.
Of course, there has never been any reason to expect the left to be more honest than anyone else. To be sure, socialist, communist, or Castroite movements and leaders in Latin America have traditionally denounced graft, influence-peddling, and government grand larceny by the hemisphere’s traditional right-wing dictatorships or even centrist constitutional regimes. It is also undeniable that the left, rarely having held power, has enjoyed fewer opportunities to lay its hands on national treasuries for one purpose or another.