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The Animal Farm in Brazil

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the political upheaval in Brazil. One of my key points was that it takes time to rebuild trust that’s been repeatedly broken over the years by politicians. In the weeks that have followed, the challenge in Brazil has only gotten bigger and the government has continually provided a model for what not to do.

Sure, it has suspended President Dilma Rousseff while she faces an impeachment trial and charges of manipulating the country’s finances. But the team of interim president Michael Termer isn’t off to a very good start when it comes to restoring trust.

The New York Times noted that it’s a “government that seems to limp from one scandal to the next.” And one of the more ironic examples came in the recent resignation of Fabiano Silveira amid allegations that he tried to derail the investigation into government corruption.

The irony? Silveira was the “Transparency Minister” and was tasked with fighting corruption. The Ministry of Transparency formerly was known as the comptroller general’s office, but was renamed in an effort to demonstrate a renewed commitment to fighting corruption. It all sounds like something out of George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm.

The Times describes the atmosphere among Brazil’s politicians as “increasingly paranoid,” which has led many of the top leaders to secretly record their conversations with each other. One such leader, Sergio Machado, is under investigation related to bribery schemes, so he’s turned over tapes of his recordings, including the one that led to Silveira’s resignation.

Silveira, of course, contends his words on the tape were taken out of context.

Regardless, here’s the big lesson all leaders should take away: It takes more than nice-sounding titles to restore trust. It takes real transparency. If you’re delivering something less, you’re only making matters worse.

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