President Lula's resolve to keep Henrique Meirelles as president of the Central
Bank at any cost remains firm. However, frequently, facts don't go hand in
hand with intentions, and the question concerning the banker's future in case
he is removed from his post comes to mind; assuming, for example, that new
accusations of illegal transfers of funds and tax evasion emerge, even if
such operations were indeed investigated prior to his nomination as head of
the Central Bank.
Meirelles, although born
in Goiás, has spent 20 years away from his home state. He built a career
in the financial world, first in São Paulo, and later in the US, climbing
to the position of president at Bank of Boston.
Upon noticing he was about
to receive the pink slip, a common practice experienced by top executives
from that institution, he decided to return to Brazil through the political
He registered as a member
of the PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia BrasileiraBrazilian Social
Democracy Party) and took a shot at a nomination for the Senate, in the 2002
elections. Unsuccessful, he settled for the House of Representatives.
For him, that was a cake
walk, since more and more, with the usual exceptions, getting a House seat
has become a financial operation. The candidate needs to link up with other
candidates running for state office and finance them through a one-two team
effort capable of rendering them votes.
Meirelles went way beyond,
and funds were not an issue for him. The only thing he did lack was political
and campaigning experience, that is, votes. He banked 22 candidates to the
State House of Representative, not all from his own party.
They all got elected.
It would be irresponsible to say how much each candidate received, but it
wouldn't be too far off to estimate between US$ 100 to 165 thousand each.
On the eve of his taking
office, the representative with the largest number of votes to Congress from
the state of Goiás, with more than 180,000 votes, found himself taken
by a surprise invitation from President Lula to be the head of the Central
His name would ease tensions
throughout the markets. Nonetheless, by law, he would be forced to resign
the House seat to which he had not yet been sworn in. He resigned, but obviously
was promised a few compensations.
Atop the promise list
was an anti-dismissal guaranteeto serve all of Lula's term in office.
And more: the government would pull out from Congress, in 2004, legislation
of an independent Central Bank, paving the road for Meirelles to secureif
electeda four or five-year term, from where no one would be able to
The vote on the proposal
has been pushed back to 2005, but the pledge still stands, at least on Lula's
determination. Nevertheless, if Meirelles becomes an insurmountable liability,
be it for the series of accusations or not, what does the future hold for
No need to fret over it.
Should that turn out to be the case, to make up for his interrupted congressional
career, he would be named Brazilian ambassador to a country of great magnitude;
and he would return to politics in time for the 2006 elections.
The government is announcing
a new act capable of shutting down the umbrella of bank and tax secrecy safeguards.
The Brazilian Intelligence Agency, the Federal Police, and agencies involved
in national security will be able to overstep the privacy of any individual
or organization under suspicion.
It's a necessary measure,
because he who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear. It is hard to comprehend
a constitutional device that today benefits a minute portion of 175 million
Brazilians, whose great majority has nothing to hide. Those who do, we want
to know why.
After the calm comes the
storm. Another bill expected in the coming days will establish that only ministers
and high level officials may pass on to the press information regarding federal
inquiries and investigations underway.
Employees who fail to
comply with this directive will be punished. Now, the only thing missing is
the rebirth of the Gag Order Bill, which bars State Agencies, Federal Police
and the Judiciary from disclosing information of unresolved procedures.
One must try to understand
President Lula, when he thrashes the wave of accusations and loses his temper
with any new revelation of irregularity performed by government employees.
Nothing justifies the protection of despicable people, responsible for wrongdoings.
But no government can stand being criticized.
Some 40 years ago, General
Arthur da Costa e Silva took office as President. In the beginning, everyone
paid him tribute. During a banquet at the Brazilian Press Association, he
sat next Countess Pereira Carneiro, owner of the newspaper Jornal do Brasil.
She said to the President
that he could count on her newspaper for constructive opposition to the government.
The old general, very casually, countered: "Look, countess, what I really
appreciate is praise, OK?" Things have not changed since
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is
a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of
experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and
political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email: email@example.com