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Brazzil - Politics - May 2004
 

Brazil: Lula Should Know He's Not a Czar

The government of Brazil erred in speaking against the report in
The
New York Times that Lula likes his drink. Hitler was a vegetarian
and drank non-alcoholic beer. Bin Laden drinks fruit juice, and
the American generals who oversaw the torture in the dungeons
of Baghdad are abstemious, work out, and never miss their carrot juice.

Carlos Chagas


Brazzil

Picture Would the population of the United States have become concerned when its president re-established relations with China and began détente with the Soviet Union, simply because he drank countless mao-tais in Peking, and in Moscow, a few glasses of vodka?

And were the English, isolated, bombed, one step from the invasion of their island concerned because their greatest historical leader began the day with a bottle of champagne, moved on to cognac until five pm, and until it was time to sleep, composed himself with a liter of whiskey?

Government should not respond to The New York Times. Richard Nixon and Winston Churchill also smoked like chimneys, but they were far above the false Puritanism that is devastating modern societies. They changed the history of their nations, while Hitler was a vegetarian and drank non-alcoholic beer. Bin Laden drinks fruit juice, and the American generals who oversaw the torture in the dungeons of Baghdad are abstemious, work out, and never miss their carrot juice.

The government of Brazil erred in speaking against the report in The New York Times that Lula likes his drink. First of all, because it is nobody's business. Secondly, because there have never been reports that the federal administration has been deleteriously affected by the preferences of the head of state in the matter of aperitifs.

Finally, because this supposed "national preoccupation" ought to have proof as to its origins. Brazilians are concerned with the increase in unemployment, the lack of investment in infrastructure and in the social sector, the flow of billions of dollars out of Brazil for interest on debts which have already been paid, the terrible inequities in income, the freezing of salaries and even the Stalinist posture of the PT regarding its comrades.

But who is losing sleep because Lula is drinking cocktails, or drinks whiskey rather than cachaça? The malice of the accusation made outside Brazil didn't have to have been followed by the stupidity of indignation here in Brazil.

Radicalism on the March

It will not have been a coincidence that the offices of Incra (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agrária— National Agrarian Reform Institute) in Brasília were occupied by three hundred landless and their families. The takeover coincided with the first day of the general strike of public employees, without the expected results. More than half of the public bureaus functioned normally. MST, the Landless Rural Workers' Movement, however, was in solidarity with the paralysis.

Except for some planters and the flowerbed in front of the offices of Incra, there was no land to be occupied. The support of the landless for the public functionaries could have taken place without this peculiar occupation of a federal building.

Let the MST put their shacks on the Praça dos Três Poderes or on the Esplanada dos Ministérios. Fine. It would be supporting the struggle of the public servants for better salaries. By transforming offices into dormitories, bathrooms and kitchens what have Stédile's followers gained? The rejection of the man on the street, even those who think that the takeover of unproductive properties is just.

Now, if yesterday's action gave the green light for the beginning of revolution in Brazil, they made a serious mistake. The land around the Palácio da Alvorada seems much more promising for agrarian reform than the offices of Incra...

Not Czar

The government has provided two more examples of intransigence: it will repromulgate the provisional measure that prohibited bingos or will adopt an initiative to that effect, and will reject any increase that the Congress will propose for the minimum wage.

The Palácio do Planalto is showing that it wants to shut up the legislative branch, which is always contrary. The representatives rejected the provisional measure prohibiting bingos? Propose another, and another, until Congress sees that it is defeated. Congress thinks that the minimum salary can be increased from R$ 260 (US$ 84) to R$ 275 (US$ 89)? No way. What the government decided must prevail.

If things continue as they are, voices will arise which consider the legislative branch ineffective, and call for its closure. If the opinions of the representatives of the people are not to be taken into account, better to force them to be silent.

The government has already forbidden representatives from its base to sign, without its permission, any document which would set up CPIs (Comissões Parlamentares de Inquérito—Parliamentary Committees of Investigation).

It interferes every day in the formation of every sort of commission, replacing comrades who are less inclined to accept the ukases from the throne without discussion. Let's be careful. The President of the Republic is not a czar. And Rasputin, in addition to his mustache, had a beard.


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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