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Brazzil - Politics - August 2003
 

Brazil: Why Is the Speaker Crying?

João Paulo, the Speaker of the House, cried because he is irretrievably
immersed in one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of Brazil's
redemocratization. We are faced with a new totalitarian temptation,
the devilish "sledge hammer" kind of politics that pushed us into the
well of bitterness and from which, 39 years later, we begin to emerge.

Alberto Dines

 

Men are also allowed to cry. So are members of the House of Representatives, including the Speaker of the House. The tears shed by João Paulo Cunha on Thursday, however, are something else altogether. Not only will they be part of his biography but they may also become the symbol of a very serious political crisis.

Worse than the permission given to the Military Police shock battalion to enter the enclosed chambers of the Legislative Branch, and more serious than the accusation that the press was distorting reality, is the realization that the country is preparing to break the pacto social, as well as the pacto político and, for that matter, the rule of law.

The paulista congressman is not only the president of the People's House—the most authentic and representative chamber of the Legislative Branch. He is also the second in the order of presidential succession. The Vice-Presidency is not a position, but a mere hypothesis of vacancy. To preside at the House, however, even in the presidentialist system, is to hold a legitimate power, one that sustains the Republic. The tears of its president have both political weight and institutional ballast.

What is at stake here is not the person of the young legislator—a man of honor, idealism, courage, competency and, on top of everything, an occasional poet—or the public demonstration of sensitivity and sincerity. which can only boost his merit in a scenario where rudeness, aggressiveness and cynicism reign supreme.

João Paulo cried because he is irretrievably immersed in one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the redemocratization of Brazil. What we are faced with now is a new totalitarian temptation, the devilish "sledge hammer" kind of politics that pushed us into the well of bitterness and from which only now, 39 years later, we begin to emerge. In 1964, João Paulo Cunha was only six years old, but during his years of political activism he also paid the price of the irresponsibility of those who put their bets on confrontation and the tactics of "everything goes".

João Paulo cried because the administration is confused between its marketing attempts and its need for good strategies, while he is left alone to disarm a crisis the speed and size of which he cannot control. The right always grabbed on to law and order to deceive the rule of law, but the left has the historical commitment to bring change and preserve democracy. Fascism of the left is as dangerous as fascism from the right—both promise miracles they are never able to bring about. Hunger and poverty cannot serve as pretexts for surprise attacks. Disorder only feeds injustice. Putsch sounds like the name of a soup, but it only fills the stomachs of those organizing it.

João Paulo cried because he was the protagonist of a tragic predicament: his choices were to either attempt against democracy by allowing angry conflict to take place in the very chamber where congressmen and women were voting on the reforma da Previdência (welfare reform), or to compromise the inviolability of the Legislative Branch by allowing the military police to come in.

This is exactly what tragedy means—a situation with no way out, and no alternatives—past mending. The catharsis took place on the following day, when his tears held up his voice and clouded his reason. To blame the press is part of the generalized disturbances. It's easier to hunt for witches than to put a stop to the escalation of tumult.

João Paulo cried because, in spite of being a plant worker and not a degree-holder, he knows what it would mean for the country to have a national strike of its judges. Even in the form of a threat, it represents an unthinkable intimidation, an irreparable blemish in a process based on balance, harmony and respect among powers and institutions.

This ultimatum cloaked in justices' robes is no different from the demands cloaked in the military uniforms of a not very distant past. Before, the generals frowned and ordered the tanks to rev up their engines at Vila Militar. Now, the magistrates pout and say they will withdraw the scales of Justice. In the end, it's all the same; it's the tacape (*) again, this time in its real and virtual version.

João Paulo cried because he understands the extension of the chaos, the huge no-man's-land where crime lives alongside exclusion and a thief who stole 62 reais from a gas station knows that he can take refuge in a campground of the landless movement, murder the first person that confronts him and escape unpunished. If the victim were not a photographic reporter from an important magazine, all we would be left with is a B.O. (police report) to fill up statistics. We journalists cry for La Costa, who was assigned to do a portrait of the crisis in Brazil, but ended up as a portrait of Brazil.

The PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira—Brazilian Social Democracy Party) should have cried with João Paulo. A party that resulted from an ethical rupture and stayed in power for eight years cannot surrender to ostentatious opportunism, exciting all soreheads and adding wood to a fire that it has, like everyone else, the obligation to stifle. The real truth is that João Paulo Cunha should not be crying alone.

July 26, 2003

(*) Translator's Note: tacape = native Brazilian attack weapon

 

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 

This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br

Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: tbragaling@cs.com

 









 
 
 







 



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