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Brazzil - Politics - June 2003

No One's Minding the Store Brazil

Chief of Staff José Dirceu commands the political tractor
to get reforms passed. Finance Minister Antonio Palocci chains
himself to the fiscal calculator. And Lula does what he loves
to do—campaigning—happily this time, followed by
constant applause, free from superegos, absolutely loose.

Alberto Dines


The old speech from the throne, solemn and rare, gets new formats and new frequencies. FHC (President Fernando Henrique Cardoso) converted the little presidential ceremonies into opportunities for conviviality between the government and the people. In his periodic pronouncements, he assumed the role of narrator in the play of the country's life.

Fabulous fabulist, Lula has enriched the formula by replacing the rational model, permeated with ironies, with the rhetoric of common sense. He exchanged what the Americans call opening jokes (to disarm the spirits) for a climate of casual chat among friends—jocular and colloquial, with the affectionate allusion to the "patroa" (the boss), the indefatigable Dona Marisa. He has rendered grammar irrelevant and, with the help of metaphors taken from the world of the small-bourgeoisie (mainly from sports) and appropriate doses of emotion, established an irresistible formula for communication.

"I haven't changed, it's life itself that changes", last Tuesday's eloquent `pearl', has disconcerted those critics less inclined to sophism and left the radicals (at whom it was aimed) with the inglorious task of explaining the intricate meanings of coherence in detail. "All of us have had our moments of madness", he proclaimed the following day, at the signing of the new mental health program. The President ignored the possible relationship between one statement and the other: on Thursday he was ready to unveil his musical side to the nation of whistlers and batucada makers, asking for patience, because the orchestra is tuning up: the spectacle of growth will soon begin.

It's a strictly correct strategy, actually. José Dirceu commands the political tractor to get reforms passed. Palocci chains himself to the fiscal calculator. And Lula does what he loves to do—campaigning—happily this time, followed by constant applause, free from superegos, absolutely loose.

But someone has to mind the store: the blunders are evident. We are missing a manager to bang on the table and spell out that the "present" from Boeing is an insult: the country is not broke and can pay for the chartering of a passenger plane from one of our large domestic companies. Even more serious: the jet embellished with the coat of arms of the Presidency to take Lula to the G-8 Summit comes from a direct and ostensive competitor of Embraer, an object of pride for the Brazilian industry.

The "Zero Hunger" program already has its likes in the rest of the world, such as Hanbre Cero. However, we must admit that it has not taken off; actually, it hasn't even arrived to the head of the runway. The absurdity of the multiplication of federal departments to console defeated comrades, with the resulting increase in expenses and inevitable ego clashes, was foreseen but minimized. The solution found now is even more absurd: a superdepartment for the social area, which will obviously irrigate with extra monies the budget and the vanity of all the discontented.

The crusade against regulating agencies is pure nonsense and a step back in the old style of tabula rasa and discontinuity that have always characterized government changes and contributed so much to our backwardness. Instead of a fix, what we see now is the dismantling of one of the most effective and legitimate institutions in modern democracies.

Someone forgot to check that the framework of the just-created Special Secretariat for Fishing is incomparably larger than the framework of the National Secretariat for Public Safety, a key piece in the fight against organized crime. It is exactly this issue of safety that shows most clearly how the illusion of metaphors and the crudeness of reality are out of step. And the culprit is not the Ministry of Justice, which does not hide the need to federalize the fight against narcoterrorism.

It's been 10 days and all the troika from Brasília does is to explain why the interest rates are the same, forgetting that it is a consummated, irrefutable fact and there's no use kicking our legs. The government is concerned with the PT radicals, the Shiites from Fiesp (Federation of Industries of São Paulo State) and the guerillas from Coteminas (a textile company), forgetting that any possible changes can only occur within three weeks, at the next meeting of Copom (Monetary Policy Committee). Meanwhile, the situation in Rio de Janeiro becomes more and more radical and alarming. Anxious and humiliated, the country watches the triumphs of the coalition between ineptitude and corruption and criminality.

José Dirceu was sensitive to the jeers of government workers—well, he would better get accustomed to them. At some point, the country may start referring to the metaphors from upstairs as idle chatter.


Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br  

Translated by Tereza Braga, email: tbragaling@cs.com 

This article was originally published in Jornal do Brasil - www.jb.com.br


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