While Brazilians were enjoying the long Carnaval holiday (from
Friday to Ash Wednesday) in the streets and clubs, watching
Rio and Salvador samba school parades on TV or simply hiding
in some place from the maddening Dionysian crowd, President
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the leaders of the PT governing
party weren't having any real rest.
some time for a soccer match with visiting members of the Silva
clanby the way, as asked by the protocol, his team won
6 to 3but his mind wasn't in the game.
The President announced
that he intended to meet the political coordinators of his administration,
this Ash Wednesday, in order to evaluate damages and plot strategies after
the previous week's eclosion of the Waldogate scandal. Waldo is Waldomiro
Diniz, who was the top aide to the powerful Chief of Staff, José Dirceu,
until his boss fired him for extorting money from Rio's druglords.
Among the top cabinet
members expected to meet President Lula da Silva are Finance Minister, Antônio
Palocci; Luís Dulci, General Secretariat of the Presidency; Jaques
Wagner, Economic and Social Development Minister and José Dirceu. Lula
spent Tuesday at Palácio da Alvorada, the presidential palace, where
he met Palocci and had a session with Gu Hang Hu, the President's acupuncturist.
For Brazilians, the revelation
supported by a videotape, in the weekly newsmagazine Época,
that Diniz was a crook was nothing more than politics as usual. Year after
year, decade after decade, these shady deals have been uncovered, given some
publicity and then forgotten as the price of doing business in Brazil. The
new fact, however, is that Lula was elected in a platform of clean hands and
his party, the PT (Partido dos TrabalhadoresWorkers' Party), has been
able to cultivate an image of integrity and transparency.
In an effort to dispel
the bitter taste left by the Diniz scandal, the PT's executive committee announced
its intention of setting up, March 3, a national act of redress to Dirceu
and a motion of support to President Lula. The Workers' Party leadership believes
that the occasion calls for an offensive position and not a defensive one.
The public act to be held
in Brasília and in several cities across the country should bring together
ministers, senators, representatives, governors and mayors who belong to the
PT and also many of the federal government's allies and sympathizers.
Petistas (PT members)
are being asked to show their colors and "defend the party's ethical
patrimony." The party's main strategy seems to concentrate on laying
the blame for the bribery scandal at the opposition's door. The PT wants to
make the voters believe that the Waldomiro's embarrassment is primarily an
effort by the PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia BrasileiraParty of
Brazilian Social Democracy) and the PFL (Partido da Frente LiberalLiberal
Front Party) to destabilize the government and steal votes at the coming regional
elections, later this year.
the PT president, put forward the tenor of the coming battle for the voters'
minds, by saying: "We are living a climate of political confrontation.
Our political foes displayed their intentions when they said that their interest
is the 2004 municipal election. The PT will not allow that its ethical patrimony
be besmirched. We are taking the offensive route. This will be an act of defense
of the federal government and of solidarity with José Dirceu."
For Genoíno, Dirceu
will continue as Chief of Staff, since his removal of that post is unnegotiable.
The PT president vouches for Dirceu's honesty: "He did not commit any
irregular act and we cannot accept the way he is being attacked. At most he
committed a political error or acted naively for having trusted Waldomiro."
Congress is giving the
Lula administration a helping hand. Legislators of both Houses decided to
extend their holidays for a few more days. Senators and representatives will
be back to work only on March 2nd. Bad news should be coming though
from other areas. Organized groups intend to go to Court to contest Lula's
MP (Medida ProvisóriaProvisional Measure) closing all bingo
houses in the country and prohibiting the import and operation of slot machines.
And Friday, the IBGE (Instituto
Brasileiro de Geografia e EstatísticaBrazilian Institute of Geography
and Statistics) will be announcing Brazil's 2003 GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
One thing is sure: it will not be the announced "growth display"
as Lula put it a few months back. Unless 1 percent can be considered a good