The year 2017 in Brazil began with 3 almost symbolic events. In a prison in North-central Brazil, a day of celebration for inmates and their families ended when the families were suddenly told to go home, and almost immediately an orgy of prisoner-on-prisoner violence erupted with 57 inmates killed.
Meanwhile on that same day, new Mayors were sworn in in Brazil’s 2 biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Both men were political outsiders. Both ousted allies of the country’s President Michel Temer.
What confirmed both events as summations of Brazil’s current chaos is what happened over the next few days. A series of related riots seared at least 3 more prisons, in which some 70 more inmates died, and a series of revelations about plea bargain testimonies by executives of the Odebrecht construction empire, one of Brazil’s biggest companies, left accused dozens of leading politicians of corruption including President Temer and 2 of his top aides, and a top advisor to Dilma Rousseff, Temer’s impeached predecessor President whom he had helped force out of office.
It is widely believed and authoritatively reported that Brazil’s prison system is under the control of warring organized crime gangs, whose warlike competition was behind the series of murderous riots. It is also widely believed and authoritatively reported that virtually all the major political parties in Brazil and many of their top leaders, as well as the executive class of the biggest private sector companies in the country have been on a decade-long riot of shared corruption that has robbed the economy of billions of dollars.
Just sorting this out will take years. Setting it, and the Brazilian economy, right will take a decade.
Mauricio Savarese is a correspondent for the Associated Press, based in Rio de Janeiro. He has written of himself, “Living la vida loca of journalism since 2003. Interactive Journalism MA at City University, freelancer and a junkie for football and politics. I worked at Reuters, FourFourTwo Brazil and news website UOL. I covered politics, sports, economy and general news.”