CEE General Seminar: “The Criminalization of Corruption in Latin America: Causes and Consequences of Operation Lava Jato”, November 10 (Sciences Po, France)

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. 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 Jato as yet another instance of “lawfare”. For others, however, it anticipates a new era of accountability and political regeneration. In this talk I will present my 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 determinants of prosecutorial zeal endogenous to the investigative effort. Second, I rely on focus groups and original survey data to understand the impact of Lava Jato on public opinion. How does the public process these shocks and what are their implications for structures of political representation? In particular, what kind of emotions and attitudes towards corruption and politics do voters experience when exposed to anti-corruption judicial crusades? Do they 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?

Speaker: Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos, University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations and Nuffield College

Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College. His research agenda is in the field of comparative judicial politics, with a regional focus on Latin America. He is the author of two books: Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2016) which won the Herman Pritchett Best Book Award from APSA’s Law and Courts Section, the best book award from ISA’s Human Rights Section and the Donna Lee Van Cott Best Book Award from LASA’s Political Institutions Section; and The Politics of Transitional Justice in Latin America: Power, Norms and Capability Building (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos’ peer-reviewed articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of Political Research, International Studies Quarterly, Law & Society Review, Journal of Peace Research, Sociological Methods & Research, and The International Journal of Constitutional Law, among others. In 2018 he received the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Politics and International Relations. Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos is currently co-authoring a book that examines the causes and consequences of anti-corruption judicial crusades in Latin America comparing different national chapters of the Lava Jato investigation 

Discussion: Pablo Cussac, Sciences Po, CEE and Virginie Guiraudon, Sciences Po, CEE, CNRS 

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