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Brazzil - Politics - May 2004

Brazil vs. NYT: Will Lula Take Brizola to Court?

Former Rio governor Leonel Brizola, in a story signed by all major
newspapers in the country, revealed that he had "unsuccessfully
advised" President Lula to stop drinking. Will the government
annul Brizola's citizenship? Constitutionally, it can't. Will
he be indicted for trying to destabilize the government?

Carlos Chagas


Picture Among all the voices heard during this episode with the New York Times correspondent, the wisest came from another professional of the press, in this case our master Hélio Fernandes: "No Brasil, o dia seguinte sempre consegue ficar um pouquinho pior do que a véspera" (In Brazil, the day after always manages to be a little worse than the day before).

What will President Lula do now that former Rio governor Leonel Brizola, in a story signed by all major newspapers in the country, revealed having been interviewed by Larry Rohter, said that the americano "published what everyone already knows" and recalled being stunned, when he ran in the same slate with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, "with the way in which he used to consume distilled beverages".

And more: "(...) in a fraternal way, as someone older who had had the opportunity to know the evils of excessive consumption of drinks, I unsuccessfully advised him (to stop)".

Will Planalto annul Brizola's citizenship? Constitutionally, it can't. Next time he returns from his farm in Uruguay, will the national president of the PDT be stopped from entering the country? I don't think so.

The Constitution does not foresee such scenarios. In modern days, the only time Brazilians were banished was during the period of the military dictatorship, which was overcome by the amnesty that reintegrated everyone to public life. How about now? Brizola ceased to be a Lula ally a long time ago and actually became his opponent.

Will he deserve an indictment for trying to destabilize the government? Or will he be summoned to court for defamation crimes? The proof of truth, in such cases, can only be granted if the maligned party allows it, or if the defamation has been made against a government official while in office…

Ear-pulling or Guillotine?

Another reprimand was given by President Lula to his ministers. In public, the nation's chief pulled the ears of at least fourteen of them who serve in the Conselho Nacional de Segurança Alimentar (National Council on Food Safety). The ministers found themselves called to order for poor attendance at the meetings of that body.

The President is running the risk of demoralization if his admonitions have no consequences. There are only two possible scenarios here: either some ministers do not deserve to remain ministers and should be fired right away for not fulfilling their obligations, or the President had not right to admonish them in front of the television cameras since he did not intend to fire them.

Lula has been way too tolerant with his team. There has been so much face to face clashing among ministers that some weeks ago he had to forbid them to attend social gatherings and to voice public criticism.

When Ricardo Berzoini announced evil deeds against senior citizens, he was promoted instead of punished and went from Previdência Social (Social Welfare) to Labor. Amir Lando, the new Minister of Previdência Social, was left alone to face the onus of the proposal of more deductions on pensions and retirement checks.

He made it clear that the idea came from the minister of the Treasury, but nothing happened. José Dirceu, under close fire from Waldomiro Diniz's guerilla, extrapolated and criticized the economic policy several times, but remained as Chief of Staff.

Other examples could be brought up, all the way to the one about the off-color remarks of the Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, about the minister of Planning, Guido Mantega. The President could use some careful attention. The administration may face a real mess...

Shuffling the Cards

Changes are likely to happen in the alliances being formed during the run for City Hall in São Paulo. Launched by the PSDB, José Serra is looking for a sidekick who can help him win more votes and also run the city for him for two years if Serra decides to run for President in 2006. People immediately started thinking of a return of the alliance between tucanos (PSDB members) and liberais (liberals).

The PFL would provide the veep: either congressman José Aristodemo Pinotti or senator Romeu Tuma. If such a hypothesis proves impossible, why not search for an agreement with PMDB? Would Congressman Michel Temer, already a candidate himself, accept to be hauled along? Mayor Martha Suplicy has stood irreducible in rejecting the PMDB in her attempts at reelection. She imposed Rui Falcão, also from the PT.

Would the concept change this far into the game? Or would the party directors invest in Luiza Erundina for her to remove her candidacy? Multiply by all the other candidates the possibility of cards being shuffled around.

Would Arnaldo Faria de Sá, PTB, go all the way to the end? Would he support Serra or Martha? Same thing with Paulinho Pereira da Silva, of the PDT. And what about Paulo Maluf? Would he play the game of PT, who wants his candidacy, or would he give up? The cards from São Paulo have rarely been so shuffled as they are now.

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 by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.

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