Sometimes it is hard to believe that Brazil really wants to advance.

I’ve written a lot, and repeatedly lauded, the economic progress and the reduction of inequality that marked the Lula years, such as in this Time piece and in this feature for the KPMG magazine.

But then I see reports like this one in today’s Folha and wonder whether Brazil’s development will remain purely financial.

The report is about how drink driving is still an serious issue on federal motorways because loopholes allow establishments, including service stations, to sell alcohol at the side of the road.

The story says that 93 percent of the shops alongside federal highways are in urban (or municipal) areas and so exempt from the federal legislation.

The idea that you can seriously hope to reduce road accidents while allowing establishments to sell alcohol at petrol stations beggars belief.

I wrote about the government’s well-intentioned but somewhat half-hearted attempt to tighten laws on alcohol sales in this Christian Science Monitor piece in 2008.

The Health Minister at the time said that alcohol is a factor in more than half of all accidents on federal highways. Alcohol-related accidents cost the country more than $6 billion dollars a year in lost production, car damage, and health costs, the ministry said.

In my story, I noted:

“Supporters of the ban note that 62 lawmakers, or 1 in 10, had their election campaigns financed by makers of beer, wine, or cachaça (a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane), according to the Congresso em Foco website.”

The sad and outrageous fact here is when the law was proposed several associations, such as the Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants, went to court in order to maintain the right sell alcohol to drivers.

Two big retail store chains, Walmart and Carrefour, won injunctions against the ban. The ban passed but in this watered-down state.

The idea of putting a common good before profit is still rare in Brazil and as companies exercise more and more power and the government fails to support regulatory agencies that shows no signs of changing.

The actions of those two multi-billion dollar firms, as well as of the local associations, would be scandalous if it weren’t so tragic.

They put making money ahead of saving lives.