Two cheers for Brazil’s Lula

Brazil’s presidential election was surprising after all, wrote Edgar J. Dosman, a senior research fellow at York’s Centre for International & Security Studies, in an analysis of the Brazilian elections for The Globe and Mail Oct. 3. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had been expected to walk away victorious on Sunday, failed to secure the 50 per cent of votes needed to win in the first round. By falling just short at 48.6 per cent, he now faces a run-off against opposition candidate Geraldo Alckmin, the estimable but uncharismatic ex-governor of Sao Paulo, whose surprisingly strong 41.6 per cent showing gives him a chance at a major upset in an otherwise lacklustre campaign.

The Social Democratic Party’s Alckmin, with his cleaner image, has vowed to mobilize “a national alliance against corruption” to capture the presidency. It may not be enough, wrote Dosman. Despite a wildly anti-Lula media, defeating him will not be easy. Although prone to gaffes, he is charismatic, charming and a street-smart deal-maker – a leftist Ralph Klein of Brazilian politics. Nor are the other political parties paragons of virtue.

Dosman concluded that four years later, Lula’s Workers’ Party has broken many hearts. But last weekend’s electoral result has at least refocused attention on ethics as a priority and whoever wins on Oct. 29 will have to address it – good news in a political system normally resistant to change.

$2.2M secret cop fund worrisome

The RCMP has made a secret $2.2-million settlement for “malicious prosecution,” but Canadian taxpayers footing the bill are in the dark over details of the case, reported The Edmonton Sun and The Toronto Sun Oct. 3. According to the federal government’s recently released public-accounts documents, the name of the victim is being withheld “in accordance with terms of settlement.”

Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who runs the Innocence Project to help the wrongfully accused, said the massive $2.2-million settlement suggests an “egregious” violation of the plaintiff’s rights. The victim deserves to expose details of his experience and the public deserves to know more in the interests of accountability, he said. “Because there’s a public interest here, and police serve the public, and because the award is paid out of taxpayers’ money, one could make a very compelling argument that this is contrary to public interest to allow these confidential settlements,” he said.

Young said chronic secrecy also hampers the ability to monitor modern policing. “We don’t have a real good sense of how frequently this occurs and what sort of violations the police do because it is shrouded in secrecy,” he said.