Hinckley Forum: The Criminalization of Corruption in Latin America
Date: February24, 2021
Time: 12 p.m.
Ezequiel González-Ocantos, Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford; Professional Fellow, Nuffield College
Operation Lava Jato started in Brazil as a money-laundering case. It quickly turned into a full-blown judicial anti-corruption crusade with far-reaching political implications across Latin America because the same companies at the heart of the Brazilian scandal offered kickbacks to public officials in at least 8 other countries. Critics see the prosecutorial zeal behind some of the national chapters of Lava Jatoas yet another instance of “lawfare.” For others, however, it anticipates a new era of accountability and political regeneration. In this talk I discuss a current book project, which asks two sets of questions. First, what explains why the investigation gained momentum and delivered results in some countries but not others? The answer looks at the legacy of capacity-enhancing reforms in Latin America’s prosecution services as well more immediate determinants of prosecutorial zeal and effectiveness. Second, the book relies on focus groups and original surveys to understand the impact of Lava Jato on public opinion. What kind of emotions and attitudes towards corruption and politics do voters experience when exposed to these shocks? Does LavaJato reinforce or curb political cynicism? Are all Lava Jato’s created equal, or does the way in which different investigations unfold shape emotional and attitudinal responses?
This is a virtual event.