Born in 1944, Cristovam
Buarque was 20 years old when the military coup took place. He finished the
mechanical engineering course at the Federal University of Pernambuco and
received a doctorate in economics at the University of Paris.
Between 1973 and 1979
he worked at the Inter-American Development Bank. At the end of his term as
rector of the University of Brasília (1985-1989), he joined Leonel
Brizola's campaign for the presidency.
Migrating to the Workers'
Party (PT), he was elected governor of the Federal District by the Party (1995-1998).
A candidate for reelection, he was defeated. He was elected to the Senate
in 2002 and diverted into the Lula government Ministry of Education, where
he entered into a confrontation with the hard nucleus of power commanded by
He was dismissed by
President Lula and assumed his seat in the Senate. In the following article,
the Senator reflects upon the military coup and the Campaign for the Direct
Election of the President in light of Lula's election and of some landmarks,
for him symbolic, of the many ruptures occurring in Brazilian history.
History is made continuously
but is marked by outstanding dates. In the second half of the 20th
century, Brazilian history had five of these: the suicide of President Getúlio
Vargas (1954), the military coup (1964), the clarification of the political
opening (1974), the end of the military regime (1984), and the affirmation
of liberalism (1994).
Behind each of these dates
are signs of the exhaustion of one road and the attempt to take another, yet
undiscovered, one. In spite of the revolution signified by the election of
Lula and the Workers Party government, the year 2004 has not yet clarified
the new course that the country needs and has been awaiting since 1954.
On the eve of August of
that year, Brazil was experiencing two crises: the visible, short-term one
of the corruption surrounding Vargas; and the long-term one of the exhaustion
of the model he had initiated in the 1930s. Vargas was victim of a regime
incapable of taking hold of the country and of persons, surrounding him, without
a national accord.
The acts committed by
his aides were the pretext for his fall, which in fact was due to the lack
of a national project acceptable to the country's elite that would unite Brazil
and seduce its people.
Juscelino Kubitschek (JK)
was successful in taking hold of the country by making abundant use of the
public resources, thanks to a growing debt and inflation to support consumer
goods manufacturing, like the automotive industry and the establishment of
the economic infrastructure.
Within the democratic
system he undertook projects, like a new capital, freeways, and hydroelectric
plants. He mobilized Brazil for five years, but left a country drainedwith
latent inflation and in no condition to continue incurring debtand with
a demand limited to its small consumer elite.
Moreover, the country
was divided ideologically between those who wanted to retain that exclusion
model without attending to the needs of the masses, and those in favor of
making the continuously postponed profound social reforms.
Some still wanted to embark
on the socialist revolution, which, at that time, was inspiring progressives
all over the world, given the Soviet Union's successes and the Cuban example.
In the long run, the JK
model was not viable. Either the reforms would be made, shifting the axis
of progress to a project that would benefit the masses and sacrificing liberty;
or the regime model would exist in a deepened exclusion project, sacrificing
The fragile position of
the ideologues who desired to implement an unclearly defined model with imported
touchesincluding what is referred to as the authoritarianism of the
Leftand the international reality of the Cold Warwhich at that
moment would not permit the establishment of a leftist system in Brazilbought
the crisis to a conclusion in 1964 with the conservative military coup.
Assessing the Military
Much can be said about
the military governments that began in 1964, but both adversaries and allies
alike can agree on some points. First, the military presidents were not corrupt.
Compared with similar regimes in the rest of Latin America, no military president
left office wealthy and neither did the majority of their collaborators.
Second, they had the clear
project of making Brazil a nation, although this implied the construction
of a nation for the few, with concentration of wealth, preference for economic
infrastructure, and disdain for social infrastructure.
Third, they committed
shameful political crimes, such as political repression, torture, censorship,
interdiction of the democratic debate.
Fourth, they set up an
efficient economic model based upon the concentration of wealth as a way of
creating demand, restricted to the rich and the almost-rich, but sufficient,
in a country with such a large population, to dynamize the new Brazilian industrial
Fifth, the model was depredatory
in every sense of the word: socially because it abandoned the poor; ecologically
because it destroyed nature; financially because it indebted the country under
the monetary system of the inflationary, financial dynamic of debt to the
banks; and politically because it impeded the emergence of leadership with
alternative propositions for the future.
model was bound to exhaust itself, especially considering the world crisis
brought on by the increase in oil prices beginning in 1973.
The military and civilian
leaders of the epoch were committed to a peaceful solution of the crisis by
means of a transition without either great disruptions or national bitterness.
But that solution did not take into account other alternatives.
The authoritarian crisis
was avoided but this was done without installing a model that was unconcentrative,
liberalizing, responsible, balanced, national-globalizing and capable of formulating
and establishing a new type of development.
When a civilian government
replaced the military regime in 1984, the transition was political but not
economic. The new government left behind the authoritarian model but continued
the same economic one: It was concentrative, protectionist, statist, irresponsible,
developmentalist, nationalist, depredatory.
But it now had a civilian
president, no censorship, a new Constitution, and freedom of the press and
of party politics. The situation was aggravated by a tragic corporative power,
created during the military regime, which could only expand and demonstrate
its tragic ability to destroy nationhood after the return to democracy. Everything
was the same except for the words used and the civilian suits worn by those
doing the governing.
The year 1994 marked the
first true national change since the 1930s or since the crisis that led to
the suicide of Vargas. Forty years after the President's suicide (thirty since
the military coup), Brazil, which had already abandoned the authoritarian
political model, would leave behind the statist, nationalist, protectionist,
developmentalist model, but would continue to be depredatory, concentrationist,
and, above all, lacking a clear national alternative.
In the last ten years
what has once again been seen is the transposition of the international model
to Brazil. This time it is not through the intermediary of closed borders
with the goal of protecting industries to dynamize the economy with multinational
investments. It is, rather, through the intermediary of opening borders to
the direct importation of international products.
With this came all that
was positive for the dynamic of a new industrial reality that was competitive
internationally and the interruption of the inflationary perversion. With
it, too, came all that was negative: the worsening of societal inequalities;
the degradation of all sectors of the State apparatus; the dependency upon
other countries; the reduction of growth; as well as the continuation of the
model's depredatory tendency, especially now, through the societal depredation,
violence, unemployment, and the lack of hope.
We abandoned monarchist
slavery for republican abolition, the rural for the urban, backwardness for
development, dictatorship for democracy, fiscal irresponsibility for super-surpluses,
without any substantial societal change, without abandoning exclusion for
The political democracy
came to coexist with the most brutal of dictatorships: development with separation
between the poor and nearly poor and the rich and nearly rich. The 2002 movement
was as strong as that of 1964. What the people sought with the election of
Lula was a change with as much impact as that sought by the military and the
dominant classes with the military coup.
Lula's election marked
a date as significant in Brazil's course changes as 1822 (independence from
Portugal), 1888 (abolition of slavery), 1889 (establishment of the Republic),
1930 (Vargas coup) and 1964 (military coup).
A country that maintained
an aristocracy for nearly 200 years, scorning its people, for the first time
elected a president from the poorer classes without his having paid any tribute
to the elites. He did not study at either the university or the military academy,
like some of his predecessors who began life in poverty.
He did not reach the presidency
through a conservative party or by making a fortune. Lula is the expression
of peoples' power; he has a personal history allied to the Workers' Party.
With him, Brazil exchanged its fear of giving national leadership to a people's
leader for the hope that a people's leader could make changes in the country.
But this hope has still
not been transformed into change. Brazil has still not found its national
project since it abolished the slave-ocratic, agriculturalist, exportation
regime in 1888. With the exception of short periods, like that of JK, the
last stable, inspiring moment in Brazil occurred in the second half of the
19th century with the Pedro II regime.
debate, that of abolition or the slow death of slavery was made without great
spasms, without the sense of a change of course. One hundred fifteen years
later, Brazil has still not been able to complete the abolition of slavery
or to establish a republican society.
We removed the Pedro II
regime and put nothing in its place that would incorporate the interests of
the great national masses. Brazil continues to be a country divided between
an opulent consumerist aristocracy and an immense mass excluded from the most
essential services. And our government, that of the Workers Party, has still
not presented a new, different, alternative project capable of attracting
all of Brazil.
We have still not abandoned
the concentrative, internationalist, economistic, depredatory model in favor
of a model that would inspire the nation: abolitionist of poverty; constructor
of a republican society; guarantor of ecological balance; amplifier of wealth;
integrator into globalization while maintaining our national identity.
The Next 20 Years
In less than 20 years,
we will be celebrating our Bicentennial, thus completing the second century
of our independence. Perhaps we will do this without changing the true character
of Brazil: We will retain the bankruptcy of social apartness, which did not
disappear in 1888; the incomplete republican society, which we have not achieved
since 1889; the inability to complete the economic development that we have
not yet achieved since 1930, 1956, l964, 1994.
The challenge of our government,
of the Workers Party, and of Lula, is to transform 2004 into the year in which
we leave behind the hope for change and set out on the long road that we began
in 1822 to transform the country into a nation in 2022. For that, two decisions
are necessary and must be made immediately.
In the first place, it
is clearly necessary to state that our objective will not be realized merely
by means of the economy. Economic growth is the road to increasing wealth,
but the Workers Party government must contradict the historic lie that this
automatically leads to the end of poverty.
Lula is obliged to be
the divulger of a new ideology demonstrating the difference between increasing
wealth and diminishing poverty, one beckoning not merely to the growth of
the economy, which, in a globalized world, does not depend merely upon us,
but also to a reorientation of society.
Disposable wealth must
turn towards development without poverty, with respect for ecology, monetary
stability and a democratic system that is in fact republican, in which everyone
feels a part of the same Brazil, without the gold curtain that separates the
included from the excluded.
The greatest frustration
with our government will not come from its administration of the same old
thing, but with its lack of a dream for a new country, with an abolition and
a Republic that are complete.
In second place, there
is a necessity to defineand to begin to implementthe public politics
instruments that work upon the panorama of poverty to carry out a second abolition
in Brazil, the abolition of poverty, guaranteeing essential social services
to all Brazilians, and upon the political panorama to eliminate corruption
and increase societal participation.
In January of 2002, the
magazine Primeira Leitura presented a project for confronting the panorama
of poverty without waiting for economic growth, proposing how to grow through
a strategy of eradicating poverty. Quality universal education for all Brazilians
would be the most important of the steps but not the only one. It is necessary
to guarantee food, health care, housing with drinking water, garbage collection
and sewerage and quality public transportation.
Brazil has the resources,
it knows how to proceed, and has leadership that is prepared. It needs only
to leave the prison in which hope has been held captive since 2003. Lula's
government has to be economically and financially responsible but it cannot
be frightened of social progressiveness, as it was during its first year.
There are diverse ambitious
but responsible proposals. Some ministers have already presented them. All
that is lacking is for the government to leave its castle of fear. Lula liberated
Brazil from fear and carried it to hope, but our government appears to be
fettered with fear of the party alliances, of the mayors' and governors' desires,
of the economic agents' interests. In 2002 hope triumphed over fear; in 2003,
fear imprisoned hope.
Losing the fear of debate
is the first step to liberating hope. The military coup of 1964 occurred because
the military and the conservative forces were afraid to let the debate continue
until the elections of 1965. Now, once again, it appears that our government
is afraid of ideological debate.
This is why the government
remains divided between those who only defend the changes that were inherited
from Social Services and the judiciary, and those reactionaries who fear even
those changes because they are considered leftist but who defend corporative
interests as anti-popular as the interests of the old sectors.
Lula's government needs
a Left that makes proposals and carries on within itself the ideological debate
that is taking place at the street levelbefore it reaches the heads
of the intellectuals and the speeches of the politiciansbetween continuing
the old model, under the leadership of a worker, and constructing of the new
social model that Brazil has been waiting to complete since 1888-1889, when
it set a republican regime in place while maintaining a society divided between
the excluded poor and the consumerist aristocracy, and created abolition without
giving land or schools to the slaves and the poor.
The eve of the military
coup of 1964 was a time rich in debate. The year 2004 is beginning with the
fear of debate, or with an impossible debate, given the success of the establishment
of a single truth to which even the government of workers itself would have
to be submitted.
The worst frustration
of the Brazilian nation will be the Workers Party's inability to inspire the
country with a new dream that is possible for Brazil to fulfill before the
2022 Bicentennial, beginning in 2004. There is still time.
The great leader and person
responsible for such a task, alongside the Workers' Party, is President Lula.
Depending upon him, we will commemorate the Bicentennial as a country even
more socially defeated, ecologically depredated and internationally dependent
than it is today, or as a complete republic with a second abolition that has
been carried out.
That can be Lula's legacy.
If not, we can reach 2022 with no legacy, different only in the origin of
the President's class but not in the beneficiaries of his government.
In that case, 2022 will
be the year we commemorate the Bicentennial of our independence and of social
apartheid, of apartness. There is still time to change, to reorient Brazil.
Remembering the past in general is the best step to begin to construct the
future. The future of the continuation of the same, of the last fifty years,
or of the construction of the new for the 21st century.
Cristovam Buarque - email@example.com
- is a Workers' Party (PT) senator for the Federal District. He was also
Brazil's Education Minister during the first year of the Lula administration.