Someone has written that the past is our greatest treasure, not because it
will tell us what to do, but precisely because it always tells us what we
ought to avoid. Lula needs to watch out. If, when he wakes up, he is able
to look backwards, then he will be able to solidify the future in every day's
journey. The president finds problems everywhere he turns.
The fact that the speculative
sector is prevailing over the productive sector; the permanent foreign and
public debt, with an ever-increasing dependency on foreign interests; the
increase in the number not only of the hunger, but of unemployed and indigent;
the loss in purchasing power for salaries faced with increases in prices for
fundamental goods and services.
Brizola believed in a
Constituent Assembly. João Goulart was almost prevented from being
inaugurated because his past revealed his disposition for confronting similar
questions, which were less acute than those of today. They pushed parliamentarianism
on him, to play for time.
He needed two years to
be rid of that body, which was foreign to our republican tradition, but when
he got back the powers necessary for his reformist enterprise he made his
Or rather, the second,
because if he had rejected the parliamentary system of government and taken
advantage of the popular push contrary to the coup, he could have surgically
removed the disease, which he thought he could treat with allopathy.
It was a way of creating
an unchangeable fact, to ask for a constituent assembly and change Brazil
all at once. That was what Leonel Brizola, governor of Rio Grande do Sul and
the leader of the democratic resistance, then 37 years old, defended.
The second mistake came,
paradoxically, at the point when he thought he had the strength to make changes.
He gave in, soothed and conciliated, when he didn't need to. He thought better
of it and wanted to change everything at the same time. He made the error
of going to the opposite extreme.
Agrarian reform, urban
reform, banking reform, reform of education, reform in transportation, reform
in dealing with foreign capital, reform in the production of popular medicines,
reform in the system of communications and even reform in the structure of
the armed forces. From a placid and accommodating president momentarily transformed
into the Queen of England, he jumped to the other extreme.
He stopped taking advantage
of the lessons of the past, from his great political mentor, the ex-president
Getúlio Vargas. This was the signal calling the forces impacted by
the reformist drive to unite against him.
Jango made the third error
by not resisting at the final hour. He ended up being deposed, not without
having first, in the final denouement, having flowed back to the inaction
only explicable by his humanitarian feelings, whose aim was to avoid spilling
blood, even when facing the executioner.
He will have had his motives
that only the future will judge. It is still early to know if the image that
he left behind will be that of the meeting of March 13, when he disappropriated
land and nationalized petroleum refineries, or that of the governor, who,
in order to spare lives, refused to bomb the revolting troops and saw the
ranks of those who expelled him from Brazil grow.
Lula Balances Between
Why recall episodes from
the past? Because mutatis mutandis, the more the elites try to hide it, there
is a whiff of the sixties in the air. The elites want a Lula who is boxed
into neoliberalism, they even surrounded him with an economic team about all
that can be said is that it is being praised by members of the previous administration.
They want a reformist,
but who is complacent in dealing with the privileges that have left Brazil
stuck in the mud. If he were to make the popular push that brought him to
Brasília prevail, there should be no illusions. The same ones as always
are prepared to make him into a new Jango, even though dispensing with military
After all, the armed forces
will not twice make the mistake of being the ones to burn their hands taking
the chestnuts from the fire for the benefit of those who are ready to gobble
It will not do, for very
long, for the new president to oscillate between the reforms that he promised,
and which were responsible for his election, and the utopia of conciliating
the guillotine and the neck through the mixture of his promises with continuing
to hold to neoliberal postulates.
To think that he can manage
to be able to balance between these opposites will mean that he will be eroded,
as has been the case, for example with president Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
With the aggravating factor that a people which is ever less present at the
gates of the Alvorada to greet him will be able to show its frustration in
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.