Six months ago, who would be deranged enough to predict that
public servants would be rallying
in the streets, that the Judiciary
would rise up against the Executive? Or anyone daring to imagine
Lula’s party trying to expel legislators for remaining faithful to the party’s
agenda? Public works
stopped? Social programs immobilized?
Someone wrote somewhere that the past is our most precious treasure, not because it tells us what to do, but because
it tells us what to avoid. History repeated is, of course, only a farce. Times are different and the world is never the same.
Brazil has changed and so have the Brazilian people. Still, it pays to pay attention. At each day President Lula reminds us more
and more of former President Jânio da Silva Quadros, who was inaugurated president in January 1961. First, for having
brought the provincialism of São Paulo to Brasília. Second, because he promised everything to everyone during the campaign
and now, in power, realizing that he can’t keep those promises, displeases instead everyone.
Judiciary vs. Executive
Six months ago, we would have arrested anyone deranged enough to predict that public servants would now be
rallying in the streets against the workers’ government, the one they helped elect. Or anyone predicting that the Judiciary Branch
would ever rise up against the Executive. Worse still, anyone daring to imagine the PT (Workers’ Party, Lula’s own party)
trying to expel legislators for remaining faithful to the party’s agenda. Or the landless infringing on the authority of the
President by declaring, in his presence, that land invasions are going to go on.
Ruralists refusing an invitation for a meeting and increasingly arming themselves? The country’s entrepreneurs
protesting and criticizing economic policies? The middle class hurt in their buying power? Public works stopped? Social
President Lula would be well advised to be aware. Jânio Quadros was not a
Pernambucano, but a
Mato-Grossense by birth, albeit a Paulista
by training and concepts. He started by fooling the vast majority who voted for him by gathering
a passable cabinet composed of Paulistas unknown even in São Paulo, although his Justice Minister, Pedroso Horta,
was exceptional, never mind the coincidences.
Saying One Thing Doing Another
During the campaign, Jânio Quadro talked to all kinds of workers, promising new labor laws and more social rights,
but he refused to allow for wage increases. At the universities, he sounded like Lenin’s younger brother, but did not hesitate
in sending the Army to the streets of Recife to suffocate a student rally. In meetings with businesspeople, he defended
absolute prerogatives for the capital, which his Treasury Secretary followed through.
He handed down Instruction 204 of the defunct SUMOC (Superintendência de Moeda e CréditoCurrency and
Credit Superintendency), which benefited speculators. He declared Brazil bankrupt and was only concerned with the foreign
debt. He advanced with sharp claws and open fangs over the public servant sector, demanding
dupla jornada (double working hours) and slashing benefits, ironically committing himself to pitiful back-ups. With his inaction on agrarian reform,
he encouraged the illegal work done by Francisco Julião’s Peasant Leagues. He scorned UDN (União Democrática
NacionalNational Democratic Union), the party who had supported him, and ended up losing his support base in Congress.
Seven months into his office, Jânio exploded. He resigned. Some even say that he did it in order to return later, with
no Congress and no Constitution, attempt thwarted.
Of course no similarities will be found between the state of mind of the President who inaugurated the 1960s and the
President inaugurating this new century. It is, however, opportune to record similar situationssome even identical.
In the midst of all this march-and-reverse discussion around
reforma previdenciária (welfare reform), a seriously
bruising accusation was made by Senator Paulo Paim: last November, R$ 6 billion (2 billion dollars) disappeared from the
chest of Previdência Social. The destination of such monies was unrelated to their mandatory purpose. It was probably used
to pay for some of the interest on the foreign debt.
The legislator from Rio Grande do Sul is holding firm in the first line of defense of public servants and does not
avoid criticizing the government and even his own party, the PT, although the language he uses is definitely more affable than
the one used, for example, by Senator Heloísa Helena.
One of the reasons leading to the backing up by the administration on the issue of welfare reform may be witnessed
in the position taken by PT legislators who, like Paim, neither squawk or attack, but demonstrate willingness to vote
against the proposals that can make the lives of Brazilian public servant even worse than they already are.
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
This article appeared originally in Tribuna da
Imprensa – http://www.tribuna.inf.br
Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of
the American Translators Association. Contact: