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Brazzil - Nation - May 2004

Brazil's Lula Can't Be Like All the Others

Brazilian President Lula da Silva should stop repeating partial
projects and embody an alternative discourse. Lula needs to be
the spokesperson for a change of mentality. But, unfortunately,
this is not what we are seeing. The discourse of hope has remained
imprisoned, limited to the same vocabulary of past failures.

Cristovam Buarque


Picture Brazil has always had a reserve supply of hope in the bank of its dreams. When one hope was lost, another was still waiting. For decades we were told that Brazil was a country of the future. And in each era we were sold a new dream, one that would begin and then remain unfulfilled. But another hope always surged forth. There was no need or time for nostalgia.

The country, it appeared, was afraid of fulfilling its destiny. It was always imprisoned by the rules made abroad or by the local elite. It was always ignoring inequality, always recusing itself from completing its Abolition and Republic—which delayed four centuries in beginning—, always recusing itself from investing in the sectors that can construct a rich, educated nation with solidarity and without inequalities. With each fiasco, another hope took the place of the previous one. And it was, once again, under the slogan of hope overcoming fear that President Lula was elected.

The hopes, which had before formed part of the same project of the same managerial elite, had not taken into consideration the possibility that someday a new government would come into office with a new hope. This would be a government with an alternative way of thinking, one headed by someone of another origin, with another biography, someone with different proposals.

Lula and the Workers Party (PT) represent a radically different hope, the last one in sight, it seems. For this reason we have a much greater responsibility towards this hope than towards all the previous ones.

One year after Lula's inauguration, the majority of the country has the impression that hope is imprisoned. Those who know Lula know of his dedication to poor Brazilians and of his responsibility to change the country, and they still believe that he is hope incarnate. When his proposals are analyzed, nevertheless, they are found to be traditional and limited, part of the same complex of ideas and beneficiaries of the hopes of yesterday.

One therefore has to confirm that hope is imprisoned. If in the next months we do not succeed in making the necessary gestures, in taking the necessary actions to take back hope, Brazil will for the first time be nostalgic for hope, a feeling that comes from the lack of any alternative dream whatsoever.

Lula and our government represent the reserve of hope left after the failed proposals and experiences of the past. Its failure would leave us completely nostalgic, trapped in absolute nostalgia.

For this reason, on top of all the other reasons associated with a sad state of affairs that calls for change, we cannot allow our government to fail in its capacity to inspire hope, the slogan under which it was elected.

We do not need a revolution to have hope. Brazil needs a few signposts marking a different course.

The first retaking of hope is in the President's very discourse. He should stop repeating partial projects and embody an alternative discourse. Lula needs to be the spokesperson for a change of mentality, as was President Juscelino Kubitschek in the 1950s when he changed the country's mentality from agricultural to industrial.

Now is the time to pass from an industrial growth mentality to one of development with abolition of poverty, and not merely of hunger, with respect for ecology within democracy, and with monetary stability.

If that new mentality should take hold in Brazil, it will be perfectly possible to reorient the necessary resources to fulfill the project of a new nation. But, unfortunately, this is not what we are seeing. The discourse of hope has remained imprisoned, limited to the same vocabulary of past failures.

The second retaking of hope consists of defining ambitious goals from the point of view of the new Brazil under construction, although they may be modest from the point of view of expectations born of the comparison with other countries.

This retaking of hope would signify Lula's adoption of concrete goals for a new course, different from the false promise of growth that, if it should come, will depend upon the impresarios and upon the rest of the world and will not benefit poor Brazilians or construct a different Brazil.

Lula should define goals and each day hold his ministers responsible for abolishing illiteracy in four years. He should guarantee that each child shall be in school next year, even if the schools may not be satisfactory.

Starting now, he should send to the Congress the FUNDEB bill that creates the Fund for the Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and Valorization of the Teaching Profession, changing the way we treat Basic Education teachers in Brazil.

He should determine that on his or her fourth birthday every child shall have the right to a place in school, he himself going on television to ask parents to take their children to school on that day.

And he should determine that from now on the government of every state will be obliged to assure a place in the public high schools for every young person and tell each young person that he or she should use that right.

Cristovam Buarque - mensagem@cristovam.com.br - is a professor at the University of Brasília and a Workers Party (PT) senator for the Federal District. He was also Brazil's Education Minister during the first year of the Lula administration.
Translated by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.

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