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Brazzil - Politics - May 2004

It Seems Cardoso Is Still President in Brazil

Brazil Lula's government will have to take care, less through not
having fulfilled its campaign promises, and more because it was
transformed into a videotape of the previous administration. It is
said in jest, that the first term for Cardoso was good, the second
bad, but the third is even worse. How the fourth will be?

Carlos Chagas


Picture Prevarications, lies, schemes or accommodations are pointless. It is the government itself which reveals, through the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística—Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) and the IPEA (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada—Institute of Applied Economic Research), the existence of 53 million Brazilians at the poverty line, surviving on half the minimum salary. The monthly minimum wage in Brazil has just been raised to 260 reais (US$ 87).

Worse yet: of these 22 million are indigent, that is, without a house or fixed occupation. We are not talking about a regular job, which the others don't have either. The indigent don't even have work. This in a population of 170 million, adding the 12 million in the active labor pool who already have their work papers signed, or are entering the market.

This is the piece of data that those in power did not reveal, whoever they are, preferring to stick with the deceptive percentages. Now and again the Ministry of Labor, whether in the government of Fernando Henrique or of Lula, reports that unemployment is over 10, 12, even 20 percent, but never reports the actual number of the unemployed, that is those who have worked already or want to work. Now we know. And now and then we will report it.

The Failure of the Economic Model

This information would be enough to give a recipe for the absolute failure of the economic model which is devastating us, carried over from one administration to the next, the promises of change notwithstanding. At least Lula's team ought to know that neoliberalism concentrates income, in addition, of course, to its diversion outside of Brazil.

It is of little importance for the potentates and their partisans that Brazil is being transformed into an immense favela, since they can retort, with illusory ratiocinations, that this is the price to be paid for modernity our inclusion in the globalized world. It isn't.

The bill goes to the excluded, on a forced march to barbarism, if things should continue as they are going. Because without employment, living from what it can scrape together, without food, dwelling, clothing, health and education, our people have lost the hope that they fictitiously acquired in the 2002 elections.

There is no way to cross this barrier, which, instead of being demolished, continues to grow day by day. Soon, the larger part of the population will be on that side, and let us not imagine that it will remain inert, amorphous and contemplative.

In the same way, it will not wait for the results of the only, slow solution presented to it by the government, that is, that investments in education will someday be able to raise the living standards for the masses. It is a lie, because poverty and indigence are growing ever larger.

Lula's government will have to take care, less through not having fulfilled its campaign promises, and more because it was transformed into a videotape of the administration of his predecessor. It is said in jest, that the first term for Fernando Henrique Cardoso was good, the second bad, but the third is even worse. Imagine how the fourth term will be….

The Two Brazils

The word of the day, according to the pronouncement made by the President of the Republic in the interior of São Paulo state, is that all of Brazil should show the world the beautiful things that we possess.

That we should advertise our natural wonders, and also our export products, vowing that Japan, Germany and China should increase to ten percent the level of alcohol mixed into their gasoline. And so, our production would be entirely allocated and we would have to double it in a few months.

With all due respect, we need to ask if we are not living in two distinct countries. One, the Brazil with increasing exports, conquering new markets, with growing agribusiness, open to foreign tourism and partnerships with other nations.

This is Lula's Brazil, fantastic, only benefiting a small minority. Another Brazil exists, where one finds the majority of the population. It is the Brazil of the minimum salary readjusted to R$ 260, the Brazil of 55 million indigents who survive at half the minimum wage, the Brazil of 13 million unemployed.

This is our Brazil, which voted for Lula out of indignation, in the hope that everything would change. The problem is that the deck was stacked and Lula's Brazil came to be the Brazil of the elites. Our Brazil? Well, our Brazil continues to be where it always was: at the bottom of the well…

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 carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. He is the librarian for music, modern languages and media at The College of New Jersey. Comments welcome at mooret@tcnj.edu.

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