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Brazil’s Car Wash Scandal Reveals a Country Soaked in Corruption

What may be the largest corruption case in modern history runs deep in Latin America’s largest country.
Illustration: Simon Abranowicz

In U.S. history, entire cities and states have been branded corrupt: Think Richard J. Daley’s Chicago or Huey Long’s Louisiana. But amid even the worst federal scandals, Watergate included, the country has never been nationally profiled as crooked—a venal society from coast to coast, from dogcatcher to commander-in-chief.

Brazil feels that way right now, largely the result of a bribery scandal of Amazonian proportions known in Portuguese as Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash, believed to be the largest corruption case in modern history. The multibillion-dollar tsunami of sleaze barreling through Latin America’s largest country and economy is deeper and broader than any Trump-Russia allegations pouring out of Washington. And it could force the resignation of Brazilian President Michel Temer, who’s been fingered repeatedly in recent weeks for allegedly orchestrating and receiving millions of dollars in bribes.