In sum, the vast bulk of the top-shelf political and economic elite have proven to be radically corrupt. Billions upon billions of dollars have been stolen from the Brazilian public. Recently released recordings from the judicial confessions of Marcelo Odebrecht, scion of one of Brazil’s richest families, depict a country ruled almost entirely through bribes and criminality, regardless of the ideology or party of political leaders. And yet, even in the wake of this oozing and incomparable elite corruption, the price that is being paid falls overwhelmingly on the victims — ordinary Brazilians — while the culprits prosper. The same Brazilian politicians implicated in this criminal enterprise continue to reign in Brasília, as they enjoy virtual immunity from the law. Worse, they continue to exempt themselves from the austerity they impose on everyone else.
Imagine being a Brazilian laborer, working in poverty, spending years listening to stories about how corporate executives bribed political officials with millions of dollars in order to corruptly win state contracts — bribes that these elected officials used for yachts and luxury cars and European shopping sprees — only to then be told that there is no money for your retirement or pension and that you must work years longer, with fewer benefits, to save the country. That’s the tale Brazilian citizens are being fed. The only mystifying aspect is that these types of protests have taken this long to erupt.