Brazil: The Magnificent Reprobate

No man was ever purer than Adhemar de Barros. His jutting profile, immense belly, and expansive grandstand manner were pure Falstaff. His snake-charming baritone and God-fearing homilies were pure medicine show. His pork-barrel pilfering as three-time Governor of São Paulo, Latin America's greatest industrial state, was pure Tammany. He once fled the country to escape a jail sentence for misappropriating public funds, and he seemed almost proud to be known as the politician who "builds while he steals."

Little Tin Box. Yet for all his wily grandeur, the Governor always landed on his feet. The charges against him somehow...