Oct 24, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Brazil Braces for More Corruption

When Brazil won the right to host the 2014 World Cup, half of the country celebrated. The other half had something else in mind _ the corruption that was expected to come from it. That fear has just increased exponentially by the latest scandal in Brazilian politics, involving the misuse of at least 17 million reais (US$ 9,7 million) by the Sports Ministry (some say it is more than 2 times that).

The main suspect is the Sports minister himself, Orlando Silva, who has been accused of using contractors to illegally channel money to his party, PC do B. Silva is the coordinator for the infrastructure projects related to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Although FIFA, the international soccer association, has just said it does not want to deal with him anymore, he is still the person in charge on the government side. The minister denies any wrongdoing.

Also a suspect of corruption is the head of the Brazilian soccer association.

The amount of money circulating in Brazil because of the World Cup (and the 2016 Olympics as well) is way too large to be properly controlled. There is a need for quick decisions on contracting and also serious doubts about the country’s ability to be ready on time. All of that fosters an environment where embezzlement thrives.

“All World Cups are full of corruption”, told me a veteran brazilian sports reporter. “And this method of channeling money to parties is old news around here.” Granted, he is probably right, but this one is particularly sensitive for two reasons.

One is that even before these new temptations appeared, the record of public misuse of funds was familiar to Brazilians. It can hardly be called a “scandal” when it happens, since no one is shocked anymore. (Transparency International corruption index in 2010 ranked Brazil as n. 69, worse than Namibia, Georgia and Tunisia)..

Another reason is that Brazil has been trying really hard for the past 15 years to improve its stand in the world, and everybody is watching what happens with the World Cup. A series of corruption and governance problems now could be harmful.

This is spelling bad news for the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff. She has come out in support for Orlando Silva, and it has reflected negatively on her. Rousseff had pledged before a tough stance against corruption and already got rid of a number of officials in order to “clean the house”.

Maybe the risk of tarnishing the reputation of her cabinet while the world is watching is too high for Rousseff. But so are the dangers of trying to make the scandal go away.

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5 Comments

  • The World Cup is notoriously corrupt in just about every fashion, from bidding to host to building the infrastructure to the events surrounding the actual hosting of the games. It seems like every four-year cycle is a competition between FIFA, the regional confederations (CONCACAF, UEFA etc.) and the individual countries’ Football Associations to “out-corrupt” one another.

    For an organization that capriciously suspends nations for what they deem “political interference” (Kuwait, El Salvador, Iraq, Nigeria, and in the most egregious case, Togo*), neither FIFA nor any of their notoriously corrupt officials seem to have any care for corruption that flows in the other direction. Particularly when they profit from it.

    * Togo’s national team was banned from the next two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments for political interference, after the Togolese government ordered their players to come home following an attack on their bus in Angola during last year’s Cup that killed three team members.

  • Yes, and the situation turns even more volatile when it so publicly spills into governmental problems for the host countries. In the case of Brazil, corruption from federal, party and Fifa spheres might just feed each other.

  • FIFA is an odious organization. South Africa lost money in the 2010 World Cup in large measure due to FIFA’s demands.

  • I have coincidentally had some really interesting conversations these last months on the subject of sports, international relations and development. One subject that’s popped up quite a bit has been a series of challenges created by the World Cup and FIFA. There have been a ton of questions on whether or not they even realize the problems they are causing and if they do what if anything they might intend to do about it. As the sports and development field theoretically grows, maybe there will be some room for people to blunt the damage some of these organizations can do, or even bring some positive changes about?

  • [...] update on Monday’s post: Orlando Silva, the Brazilian minister of Sports, left the position after a meeting with president [...]

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