Brazil has been granted with the largest territorial share of South America, a continent which was accounted for 78% of the global drug trade. Housing 209 million people, it is accustomed yearly to 60,000 gun homicides, a figure larger than that of Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Apart from the National football team’s theatrics, Brazil has hardly witnessed any event that would term as globally embarrassing until 2014.

While their football team was busy conceding seven goals from the Germans, in a World Cup event hosted by them, thousands of miles away in Brasília, the police held one gas station under heavy surveillance which they suspected was being used as a base to launder money. Having no shortage of corky nicknames (example: Operation weak meat), they decided to name this one Operation Car Wash, after their suspicions had been affirmed with the arrest of Alberto Youssef, a known money launderer.

Since Alberto’s plea deal with the prosecutors, the Nation has been cursed to his words.

“If I speak, the Republic may fall”

According to Brazil’s political tradition, it is customary to brush away prosecution any office holder as that job is reserved for the Supreme Court. A dark stain reigns in on the “Highest” court’s history as the Judges appointed have had friendly statuses with their masters (appointer), which has held only 4 politicians under its investigative crosshairs.

Operation Car Wash is seen as an investigation to end all investigations. In 4 years, this ongoing investigation has prosecuted 16 major companies and jailed 500+ officials including politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. This figure is considered to be peanuts when compared with the indictments handed out to Petrobras (state-owned oil company) as their officials left behind a trail of bribes so enormous that it has implicated a third of their Congress and has managed to knock at the doorsteps of the Presidential Palace.

The investigation has indicted ex-President Lula to 12 years, paved way for his successor Dilma Roussef’s impeachment and implicated her successor Michel Tremor in several other cases. All of this was orchestrated by the independent investigators, unhinged with the bribes and blackmails.

A slight political bias could be traced in this investigation as the timing of Lula’s arrest coincided with the general elections, moreover the implicated Presidents all belonged to one single political party, which was in hopes to retain the Presidential Palace. The marbled pillars of the Presidential Palace was expecting to welcome Lula as its next resident, in reality it received Jair Bolsanaro, a hard line Trumpian figure who possesses a “not so democratic” formula for Brazil. In a James Bond like plot twist, the Judge who slapped the 12 year prison sentence on Lula, was offered a key post in Bolsanaro’s cabinet; He accepted without any ambivalence in his decision.

Every time the investigation appears to have taken a political turn, the ordinary people are then bound to suffer from its political fall-back. An ambitious petrochemical plant in Itaborai was expected to host 200,000 employees and multiple new businesses. Owing to direct involvement of Petrobras, the project hasn’t reached its completion as the contracts had been corrupted with greed and bribes, causing the price to rise from $6 Billion to $14 Billion and denying the benefit the project came with. In Brazil alone, the Car Wash scandal has wiped out 500,000 jobs thereby stalling 11 mega projects which bore benefits reminiscent to that of Itaborai.

The unemployment rate too synchronised with the major arrests of key officials as the rate of unemployment rose from 6% in 2014 to 13.1%. Petrobras is no ordinary company, which has its finger prints in almost entirety of South America, causing 17 projects to be stalled outside of Brazil. Facing its own economic crises, Venezuela too was compelled into suspending 23 projects bearing the name of Petrobras.

Operation Car Wash could be called both blessing or a curse which uncovered years of systemic corruption but in the hindsight, the corrupts had yielded influence so vast that their downfall would likely mean the downfall of Latin America. The cracks have been exposed which may likely result in a domino effect spanning the entirety of a continent which resisted the colonial rule, starting from Brazil.


The writer is studying A-levels at

UCL and has an interest in history

and current affairs.