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Brazzil - Politics - July 2004

Brazil's Lula: An Arrogant Way of Being

During these 18 months of the Lula administration, the Brazilian
senators, even when they do not say this publicly, feel robotized.
A new group of senators has been formed to bring together
those who still remember the pledges of President Lula's
campaign. And they want to help him fulfill his commitments.

Cristovam Buarque


Picture On Sunday, July 11, the journalist Gilse Guerra published an article in O Estado de S. Paulo about a group of senators who want to fulfill their mandates without servile submission to the administration. Without systematic adherence, without asking for either political appointments or liberation of project funds.

A group of people who will not limit themselves to nodding their heads in favor or shaking them in opposition, a group worried about the direction—or the lack thereof—of the Lula government.

In the article, the president of the Workers Party (PT) says, "I am not going to give this any importance. Right now I am taking care of the PT's beautiful electoral campaigns. That is what is important."

This arrogant disdain by president José Genoino proves this group is needed. The administration, the President, the persons surrounding him and even the leadership in the Congress have all closed themselves off in such a way that they feel no need to hear from outside people.

When some congresspersons, in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, meet to say that they want to speak and be heard, as the representatives of their voters, the president of the PT says disdainfully, "That's not important." The Congress is not important.

Although it is only getting started, the group already comprises five PT senators, another six from the administration's base of support, and an opposition member with integrity, Jefferson Peres. This is 15 percent of the Senate, almost half of the base of support. And yet the president of the PT expresses his disdain. Because that is the style of the administration. And this is the reason that justifies the group's emergence.

This group is not the embryo of a new political party; it will not oblige its participants to be tied together, to vote as a block. It will not impede each of them from writing what he or she thinks, expressing his or her ideas without compromising the others. This is a group that, in the opinion of the author, has four reasons for its existence.

The group desires to bring together the unrobotized. Those who are not happy with the robotic oppositionalism that always votes "nay." But they do not want to be robots in voting "yea" either.

During these 18 months of government, the senators, even when they do not say this publicly, feel robotized. They receive the projected bills, which are almost always provisional measures, and they are forced to approve them.

The group also desires to bring together the unamnesiacs. Those who still remember the pledges of President Lula's campaign. And they want to help him remember, push him to fulfill the commitments advocated.

Because the greater part of the Congress today has the impression that the administration, besides being closed off into itself, is ignoring the commitments advocated by the PT throughout its history.

We have no doubt that some of these commitments cannot be fulfilled immediately, but we want this to be explained to the people. We want the people to be asked to pardon the obligatory delay, but we do not want to forget what was promised. The group will support extending the time to fulfill the campaign promises but does not support forgetting them.

It is also the group of the unleashed. Those who consider it a mistake to tie the administration to the PT or to any other political party. Administrations come and go but the parties must remain. The Lula government is the fruit of a coalition, the Frente.

Since it is the President's party, the PT is the most important one in the coalition. But it is not the PT's government; it is the Frente's. Lula is no longer president of the PT; he is President of Brazil.

He is not obliged to do what the PT desires when the coalition is not in agreement, but he does not have the right to tie the PT together as if it were the same as the other parties of the base of support. This also goes for each of the other parties. Each of them has its own banner.

Lula has the banner of the government. It would be good for the government if the PT would be unleashed. It should remain faithful to its program and its past and should continue supporting the government even when the Frente's circumstances might not permit the PT to achieve what it desires, declares, recognizes as impossible at this moment, but which it does not abandon.

This is not what has happened. The president appears to want all the parties to be equal among themselves and equal to him as President. He is losing the chance to be the center, the equilibrium of the coalition. And with that he is compromising the future of the PT, which loses its distinctive character when it becomes the same as the government and the other parties.

Besides this, it is necessary to expand national decisions beyond a nucleus formed basically of people from São Paulo State. The Lula government sees Brazil and acts according to the interests, conflicts and motivations of a small group linked to the politics of São Paulo, a group that sometimes conveys the impression that it sees the country as an appendix of its richest state.

It was these four reasons, in the author's opinion, that brought together the group of senators and deputies to dialogue in search of a way to exercise their mandates responsibly as members of Congress, as militants, as people with progressive positions, with patriotic sentiments for the needs of Brazil.

We want to collaborate with the administration so that it will not forget the commitments advocated; not try to robotize us, wasting the good suggestions that our voters pass on to us; not kill the parties that support it by leashing them to the government; and not function as if the national political terrain were limited to the contours of a group linked to only one state.

Cristovam Buarque - cristovam@senador.gov.br - has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04).
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.

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