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...
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 InquéritoParliamentary
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.