In another prominent case of political corruption in South America, the mayor of a small Brazilian town who ran the city using Whatsapp is on the run after she was accused for embezzlement.
The 25 year old Lidiane Leite was the mayor of Bom Jardim, a tiny town in the state of Maranhao in the northeastern region of Brazil. The population is approximately 35,000. Leite was elected as mayor in 2012 after her boyfriend at the time, Beto Rocha, was banned from running for the office because of corruption. Unfortunately, the corruption did not end with Rocha.
Once Leite was elected, she appointed Rocha as her top adviser. She then moved to Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhao - 170 miles away from Bom Jardin. From that distance, she performed her mayoral duties using a mobile app known as WhatsApp. The app is a mobile messaging program which allows users to exchange messages without having to pay for a normal simple messaging system (“SMS”). She simply sent messages to her cabinet through the messaging system, thereby “running” the town remotely.
As if that was not bad enough, Leite is now under a federal investigation for embezzling funds that were supposed to be used for the town’s education system. The investigation, named Operation Eden, discovered that approximately $4 million that was set aside for Bom Jardim’s school system was unaccounted for. After further investigation, federal authorities allege that Leite and Rocha stole the funds. Leite is now on the run and an arrest warrant has been issued for her arrest. A new mayor was sworn in over the weekend, promising to aggressively support a complete investigation into the missing funds and Leite’s involvement.
A local judge has confirmed that he will seek an international arrest warrant for Leite if she does not turn herself in by Tuesday. Leite’s attorney, Carlos Barros stated that, “[Leite] was too young and inexperienced when she took office. She lacked confidence and delegated many tasks to Mr. Rocha.”
Whoever was beyond the the embezzlement, the fact is that Bom Jardim’s school system has been left in a complete mess. The schools were already in trouble before their funds went missing. Now, the system has collapsed and teachers are not receiving compensation.