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When Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won Brazil's presidency in 2002, he and his Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores; PT) had most observers convinced that this was a watershed moment for the country's democracy. The victory of this former shoeshine boy, metalworker, and union leader symbolized to many the arrival to power of Brazil's excluded masses and the opportunity to put into practice the modo petista de governar (the PT way of governing), lauded as participatory, redistributive, and above all, transparent. Fourteen years of PT government and several astounding corruption scandals later, few illusions remain. The PT was gravely wounded by the scandals, starting with the so-called mensalão (monthly bribe scandal) in 2005. This scandal brought resignations and later jail sentences for the party's top leaders and members of Lula's cabinet as well as renewed calls for reforming Brazil's political institutions as multiple parties were caught taking bribes. Despite punishment for the mensalão's perpetrators, the PT's own efforts to strengthen participatory and transparency institutions, and the promises to clean house by Lula's successor, Dilma Rousseff, even larger corruption scandals followed, imperiling the PT's hold on the presidency and threatening its future.


Democratic Brazil Divided is a volume of the Pitt Latin American series.

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