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Brazzil - Politics - November 2003

The Frying of a Black Minister in Brazil

What the Lula administration wants is Minister Benedita da
Silva's seat, but they avoid mentioning the inactivity of her
Ministry. The already-almost-former Minister would likely claim
that she has no budget funds—an uncomfortable argument
that unveils the intestines of Lula's neo-liberal policies.

Carlos Chagas


Let us put things in their right perspective. This campaign against Minister for Social Welfare Benedita da Silva, which was unleashed by the government itself, has the smell, shape and depth of a craftly set-up operation. With prominent aids to President Lula on board, including his Chief of Staff José Dirceu and PT president José Genoino, the true intention here is to destabilize the image of the Minister and fry her in a way that prevents her to remain as Minister.

It's a Skin Thing

We must question, first of all, how the whole thing—Benedita's trip to Buenos Aires, with airfare and accommodations paid by the taxpayer, in order to participate in an evangelic event and have a meeting with her corresponding Minister in the new Argentine government—hit the newscasts. Who provided all the newspapers, always friendly and coached, with the information about the cost and purpose of the scanting periplus?

Why did the Public Ethics Committee, subordinated to the Chief of Staff, decide on a preliminary condemnation of the Minister, exhorting her to return the money paid for the tickets to the Treasury without even hearing her or giving her the right of defense? Why does the PT President keep hitting her every other day with condemnations without having made a single phone call to obtain clarifications?

What they really want is Benedita's seat, but they avoid mentioning the fact, which could well be the primary reason, i.e. the inactivity of the Ministry of Social Action. This is because the already-almost-former Minister would likely retort by claiming that the reason she has accomplished so little is the utter lack of budget funds—an uncomfortable argument that unveils the intestines of the neo-liberal policies still in course. There could be yet another reason for the massacre, though: the Minister is black and she comes from the slums. Would the same thing happen if, instead of Benedita da Silva, we had Madame Favre (the mayor of São Paulo, Marta Suplicy, who is married to Luis Favre), for example, as Minister?

Coordinated Reaction

Palocci and his gang are busy facing the increasingly frequent exhortations in opinion polls, Congress, the president's cabinet and within the PT itself, that the time has arrived for profound changes in economic policy. First we had the reaction to the position spearheaded by Itamaraty (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and supported by President Lula in Cancún, with Brazil shouting in protest and demanding equal treatment in our trade relations with rich countries.

Now, in spite of having had their ears pulled by the head of the government, the economic team reloads and fires again by way of the meticulous disclosure to the press of confidences made by the Minister of the Economy that they need one more year of arrocho (tourniquet) and neo-liberalism in order to save Brazil from chaos.

The key-word is "perseverance", a mere synonym for a continuation of the same ideas and the same people. They defend themselves by attacking and alerting everyone about the dangers of abandoning the recessive stance, drastically reducing interest rates, decreasing the superávit primário (primary surplus) and beginning the public investment phase, aid to domestic producers, job creation and wage increases.

Much praise has been going around for former Minister Pedro Malan, with talk about erecting him a statue. The problem is that if they do manage to get one more year, Lula will then have reached half of his term, making it more difficult and even unfeasible to set up the so-called spectacle of growth. Could this be the objective of the financial system they seem to be representing?

The Northeast

Congressional blocs from Bahia upward are at a boiling point following the comments made by Marta Suplicy that "o Nordeste é complicado" (the Northeast is complicated). The mayor from São Paulo was reacting to the decision by the Senate to postpone the review of a request for a R$ 493 million (US$ 164 million) loan to be invested in transportation.

Nothing wrong with her claim, if were not for the unusual indignation of Marta against northeastern legislators accused by her of being against São Paulo and linking this operation, in their imagination, to the creation of political favors for her reelection.

The Northeast may be complicated, but it is also exploited. The reasons behind it are secular reasons, a result of poverty and the treatment received from federal governments, almost always representing the interests of the richer party. São Paulo does not enter the equation, just like Pilates is not mentioned in the Creed, notwithstanding the recognition for its efforts, capacity and success. The paulistas continue to demonstrate that Brazil is viable.

We must admit, though that the Mayor was unfortunate in her choice of words. Her way of expressing her frustration for not being able to return to paulicéia (São Paulo) with the millions in her purse was unjust and simplistic. From Teresina to Salvador and including Fortaleza, Natal, João Pessoa, Recife, Aracaju and Maceió, all mayors are equally eager for some welcome reais and centavos to apply in public transportation.


Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com

Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net




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