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Brazzil - Politics - February 2004

Brazil: Lula's Party Gets Ready for Battle

In an effort to dispel the bitter taste left by a scandal from a Brazilian
top government's aide, the Workers' Party executive committee
announced a national act of redress. Lula's party believes
that the occasion calls for an offensive position and not a defensive
one. The public act is to be held in Brasília and across the country.

Émerson Luís

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.

Lula reserved some time for a soccer match with visiting members of the Silva clan—by the way, as asked by the protocol, his team won 6 to 3—but 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 Trabalhadores—Workers' 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 Brasileira—Party of Brazilian Social Democracy) and the PFL (Partido da Frente Liberal—Liberal Front Party) to destabilize the government and steal votes at the coming regional elections, later this year.

José Genoíno, 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 Provisória—Provisional 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 Estatística—Brazilian 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 show.

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