Summaries In Brazil there is a significant gap between legality and reality. Legal Brazil is a country of equality and extensive rights, while the real Brazil is amongst the most unequal in the world and rights are consistently violated. This article examines how substantial legal innovations introduced by the 1988 Constitution may be narrowing this gap between the legal and the real. It focuses in particular on how new diffuse and collective rights in the Constitution may represent a potential mechanism for distributive justice, and on the greatly expanded role of the Office of the Public Prosecutor. Public prosecutors have become significant political actors in Brazil, playing an ever more important role in overseeing public institutions and in defending collective rights. They increasingly work with civil society actors to solve social problems that lie behind the defence of these rights.