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Brazzil - Politics - April 2004
 

Next in Brazil: Protests in the Streets

The Brazilian Left coalition, which put Lula in power, is planning on
taking their grievances to the streets, demanding the changes
which were promised 16 months ago. Brazil has changed
since Lula took power, with hope giving way to frustration, and
then indignation. The only question now is when to start the protests.

Carlos Chagas


Brazzil

Picture President Lula appealed to labor movements and movements for social justice: "Don't be in a rush, all of our promises will be carried out in time." There is no way one can disagree with the head of the government. Miracles do not happen and real changes cannot be made overnight.

It might even be possible to accept the President's reasoning and find the strength to dispel the shadows of frustration hovering over the entire country, if it weren't for…If it weren't for the realization that his appeal is lame.

The 13 million unemployed should not be in a rush to find work. Nor the 53 million indigent who survive on half the minimum wage each month. Much less the 40 million who receive the minimum wage (R$ 240/month, US$ 80) and do not know by how much this will be increased. And Brazilian companies who wish to see the tax burden, which hinders them in competing with multinationals, reduced should not be in a hurry either.

Nor the landless who are waiting to receive their little plots. The hell of it is that the government continues to be in a rush to look after any and every demand of the speculators. And in a rush to religiously send out of Brazil tens of billions of dollars in payment for the interest on external and public debt.

In a rush to counter any hypothetical alteration in the economic model, which according to Minister Antônio Palocci will have to last for another ten years, a promise made before the ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Chain Reaction

The employees of the INSS (Social Security) went on strike in thirteen states. Not a day passes without new sectors calling for paralysis and confrontation with the government. The public functionaries have already set May 10 as the day for a general strike.

What does it mean, this succession of events which are responsible for the near paralysis of the State? Nothing less than the general recognition that the campaign promises are not being fulfilled, and that the solution will be to permanently put pressure on those who hold power. And why is this happening? Because the government is losing authority, after having lost its credibility.

And not just with the masses and the various sectors which are demanding their rights. The elites have also signed on to this dangerous formula. What is most often heard in Avenida Paulista and thereabouts is that if the government does not continue to be shackled to the economic model inherited from the past, investments will no longer be made.

Foreign capital will no longer enter and domestic capital will leave the country at an accelerating rate. Threats go from the necessity of making the rules, which govern regulatory agencies permanent, to demands for repression of illegal squatters.

To sum up, everyone is putting pressure on the government, having discovered its weaknesses. More than ever, a show of firmness is necessary. Preferably, addressing those who hold power.

Popular Mobilization

In portions of the Left, which are only weakly aligned with the PT, or not at all, a way to push the government to fulfill its campaign promises, to put the neoliberal cycle to a close, and begin to promote social and economic change has begun to germinate.

It would be a sort of popular mobilization in the manner of the "Diretas Já" (Direct Elections, Now) campaign. People in the street, demanding the changes which were promised, and which were responsible for Lula's ascent to power, sixteen months ago.

For some, the movement ought to be unleashed on behalf of the government, a sort of support for the elections of 2002. Others imagine a protest. It doesn't really matter, because conditions which justify popular pressure already exist.

Brazil has changed since Lula took power, with hope giving way to frustration, and now indignation. What is the exact time for this operation: before or after the municipal elections in October?

A Cage for the Animals

The scenes of horror staged by drug traffickers in Rio, and by Indians and detainees in Rondônia, go to show that there is only one Brazil. The interior and the coast suffer from the same malady, expressed in the animality of those who, not believing in the force of law, try to construct a world without it. If things continue as they are going, we will witness the collapse of organized society.

Public power is the only way to avoid the unraveling of society. But it needs to act rapidly. These animals need to be caged. To temporize in dealing with such acts would be to acknowledge the failure of constituted authority.


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 from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. He is the librarian for music, modern languages and media at The College of New Jersey. Comments welcome at mooret@tcnj.edu.


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