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Brazzil - Politics - August 2004

In Brazil, Dictatorship Is Back

Brazil's President Lula is intent on building a brilliant and lasting
career. He has proposed the Federal Council of Journalism, to
get a better grip on those "coward journalists" who don't have the
guts to back projects from his administration. The prototype, for
comparison purposes, is the Ethics National Commission… from Cuba.

Janer Cristaldo


Picture When a supreme court, bowing to the fiscal fury of the Executive, in one blow knocks down two of the three fundamental institutions of democracy—vested rights and perfect judicial acts—made scared by the Constitution, in democracy we no longer live.

If the Constitution can be smeared by seven ministers, nothing is in the way of new violations. Cultural ingredients for such already exist. Last year, a reporter from the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo spoke of "vested rights, perfect judicial acts, res judicata (matters given a final judgment, which cannot suffer any further revision), and other clichés."

When a purportedly liberal newspaper doesn't terminate writers of such gibberish, the climate appears ripe for any form of totalitarian regime.

According to the August 20 edition of newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the government considers a milestone the ruling by the Supreme Court that authorizes the taxation of non-active federal employees, which puts an end to "the myth of the vested right cláusula pétrea" (stone clause, a constitutional clause that prohibits any bill seeking alterations).

To my knowledge, never in Brazil has such enormous legal absurdity been committed. The institutional acts by the post-1964 military regime violated the Constitution, but never did anyone pretend that we were in a democracy.

The 1988 Constitution created this exotic figure called "Stone Clauses", untouchable as the deities on Mount Olympus. Only a new Constitution could annul them. Now, another Constitution is no longer necessary.

"The law will not affect vested rights, perfect judicial acts, and res judicata," stated article 5th, paragraph XXXVI, of the 1988 Constitution. It so stated and still does. It took measly seven courtiers appointed by the Executive to make of this guarantee dead letter.

The newspapers insist on the vested right issue. The offense was a bit more serious. The real harm, as one jurist observed, was done to the perfect judicial act of retirement, from which, secondarily, vested rights of non-active employees derive.

If the ruling on August 18 was a milestone, which marked the end of the vested right "stone clause" myth, as sources close to President Lula allege, then the door is now open to do away with other stupid myths, such as private property, inheritance rights, 13th salary (a mandatory annual year-end additional monthly salary), paid vacation, and other truisms.

However, by milestone always presume a new beginning. With this announcement, the government clearly signals that in the near future other myths are to be eliminated.

Changing the Constitution

The next one has already been made public. Last July 15, very discreetly, Statute no. 10.910 was enacted. Its article 4th establishes GIFA (Gratificação de Incremento da Fiscalização e da Arrecadação, or Inspectorate and Tax Collector Incremental Bonus) payable to those in career posts as Internal Revenue Services Auditors, Social Security Fiscal Inspectors, and Labor Fiscal Inspectors, to the rate of 45 percent on top of the highest base-salary of each career post.

Further down, article 10, paragraph 1st says, "For retirement pays or pensions that come into effect prior to the elapsed period referred to in the introduction of this article, the GIFA rate of 30 percent is applied to the maximum value to which the government worker would be eligible were he in activity."

In a very casual way, in a strike of pen, the Legislator knocked out another one of those inconvenient myths, in this case, the parity between active and non-active employees.

Since non-active workers don't have bargaining power, let it play out: either die early under living conditions allowed by the salary, or die later on, in disgraceful old age.

And bring on the ADINS (Ações Diretas de Inscontitucionabilidade, or Constitutional Violation Law Suits), class action suits, and appeals to Congress or to the bishop himself.

Because six gentlemen who attribute themselves constitutional powers is all that's needed to eradicate myths, the government will not have much difficulty to reach into the pockets of the poor old timers.

Besides, since the post-1964 "retroactive heroes" were incapable of ruining the country, they must now find somewhere in the shadows of the nation a source for their fat pensions, tax free, by the way.

One day before the notorious ruling by the Supreme Court, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said in meeting with Abel Pacheco, president of Costa Rica, that he is learning the art of staying in power many years.

"I have just visited Gabon to find out how it is that a President manages to stay 37 years in power and still run for re-election," said Lula, citing his recent trip to Africa.

Well, there is no mysterious formula. All you need is a one party system, or yet, consenting to the existence of other parties but always defrauding the elections.

Silencing the Oposition

It is recommended to keep the people in misery, so that their preoccupations are never greater than finding the next meal. As to the press, silence any opposing voice. In honesty, no need to travel that far to meet a guru. His dear friend, Fidel Ruiz Castro, the dean of all dictators on the planet, could afford some advice.

Furthermore, any library offers one biography or another on Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Envers Hodja, Nicolai Ceaucescu, Muamar Kadafi, or Mobutu Sese Seko, these admirable leaders, who intoxicated by the affection for their people, never allowed another principal in charge.

Fascinated by the extraordinary political path of Omar Bongo, President Lula is taking further actions to build a career as brilliant and lasting. He has already proposed the Federal Council of Journalism, to get a better grip on those "coward journalists"—in his words—who don't have the guts to back projects from his administration.

The prototype, for comparison purposes, is the Ethics National Commission… from Cuba. Also, on the table is a proposal for a National Agency for Cinema and Audiovisual, to influence the major portion of the nation's illiterate; after all, each illiterate represents one vote.

To rescue a high level government official accused of corruption, a new ministry has been created. And, with the campaign to disarm the population, any attempt to resist to the authoritarian regime has been foiled.

One of the Supreme Court Justices, Eros Grau, recently sworn in—and not by chance—released an opinion to a teachers association, prior to taking his bench on the Supreme Court, for which he charged approximately US$ 11,000 to position himself against taxing non-active federal employees.

Once a Supreme Court Justice, he voted for the taxation. According to journalist Jânio de Freitas, justice Eros Grau, this month, will be receiving half as much his legal opinions.

"Justice Grau's services, in fact, have become much cheaper," says Freitas. I disagree. The US$ 11,000 was the fee for a random opinion. It is another thing to make half of that—for the rest of your life—to endorse what the Executive wants and requests.

For Bandeira de Mello, Law Professor at PUC-SP (Pontific Catholic University—São Paulo), the decision to tax non-active employees "eliminates legal safety measures. If the Supreme Court can do this, the State of Law is bankrupt."

I don't know if you noticed … but the dictatorship has already begun. Worse yet: With the backing from the Judiciary.

Janer Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonne—is an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and lives in São Paulo. His e-mail address is cristal@baguete.com.br.
Translated 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: eaqus@adelphia.net.

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