Now that the dust is beginning to settle, it's time to realize that it was
neither the end of the world nor one last defeat for the government. Losing
elections is a natural thing in democracies.
More important than naming
the winners and losers of Thursday night in the Senate is realizing that an
alert signal has been sent to the people in power: the elections are coming
and the people whose lives depend on votes are not running against the national
sentimentneither is the Congress, in spite of all its mistakes, excesses
By opposing the R$ 260
(US$ 83) minimum wage bill and favoring the equally obscene R$ 275 (US$ 88)
figure, the intention of the Senate was not to defeat President Lula but to
make the case for the need for change in the economic model.
If there was a real loser,
that person was Finance Minister Antônio Palocci, who lost much, much
more than even Political Affairs Minister Aldo Rebelo. Palocci was the drafter
of the offensive R$ 260. Any single cent more would express, as it did, the
disagreement spreading among the political class about the economic model
It does not serve the
government to keep trying to assign blame and, even worse, to punish those
it calls traitors. The bursting of the lock gates has started. If we don't
find a conduit immediately and there is no drainage, the October ballot boxes
will inundate the good intentions of the Planalto Palace.
It's useless to try to
hold the national feeling of rejection for this economic policy. The minimum
wage itself is just emblematic in this whole story. Lula had better accept
reality and tell his leaders in the House not to oppose the R$ 275.
This could be the first
step on the way to disassemble the model responsible for our national problemsprobably
after the elections. It will be increasingly difficult to justify a law forcing
workers to survive on this miserable minimum wage while we send US$ 61 billion
abroad this year to pay the external and the public debts. We already have
too much as far as wealth is concerned; no reason to go on multiplying poverty...
Decisions made in the
heat of emotions always become fuel for future regrets. There are those in
the government who want the President to strip Minister Aldo Rebelo from his
position as political coordinator. We should not commit the injustice of visualizing
Chief of Staff José Dirceu, donned with Dr. Silvana's apron, milimetrically
plotting defeat in the Senate, only to regain lost space.
The Chief of Staff does
not usually act with such subtlety. He is even less likely to expect the most
important decisions in the government to return to his hands, now that he
has shot gunned his comrade in the ministry. The true confrontation coming
out of the most important inner circle of power is far from being between
Dirceu and Aldo.
The problem actually resides
in the economic team and the rest of the administration. Or, if you prefer,
between the nation and those who are choking it. Until this issue is resolved,
preferably with a change in the model, the ditch between Planalto and society
will only grow deeper and deeper and be eventually represented by the vote
of 44 senators against the symbolic R$ 260.
Senators José Sarney
and Antônio Carlos Magalhães, or even Paulo Paim, for that matter,
cannot be made into heroes and be counted among those who contributed to the
victory of the R$ 275. Neither can the people from PFL and PSDB. Actually,
deep inside, as senator Heloísa Helena said, they are all wines from
the same barrel. They simply noticed where the wind was, and still is, blowing.
Indications are that the
President will only and finally wake up to the importance of fundamental change
after all election results from both capital and major cities are announced.
The national tendency
to defeat all candidates who are identified with the government will either
lead Lula to rethink the economic model or serve to leave him alone. Sorry,
not aloneactually, accompanied by all the speculators, those who profit
from the misery of others and their representatives.
Senator Paulo Paim should
be careful. He was revered during a whole weekend as the great hero of the
decision made Thursday by the Senate, defeating the minimum wage bill. There
are those wanting to burn him, so many are the festive screams. And it's not
only in the PT; nobody in the opposing parties wants the competition.
PT president José
Genoíno was inelegant and even rude when referring to the senator from
Rio Grande do Sul and the other two senators from the party who insurged against
the official bill. If he insists in punishing his comrades, even without the
absurdity of the expulsion, Paim's stature in the present scenario will grow
This is where the danger
lurks. The Senator would be well advised to remember history and what happened
to the Roman generals arriving in triumph to the Empire's capital to be honored
by the crowds.
In the carriage they were
always accompanied by a slave whose job was to incessantly repeat a saying
about how transitory is glory in this world. They want to take advantage of
Paulo Paim, but he needs to be aware that his fight needs to stay within the
PT. Even if it adds to the rows of those who want to change our economic policies.
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.
Translated by Tereza
Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.