There is no discussion in which Brazil’s Chief of Staff José Dirceu
does not give the final word.
It seems like he is the one in power.
Unlike in England, though, he exercises it on behalf of the
kingsorry, Lula. His attitude increasingly resembles that of Cromwell,
as he ties together the political
and administrative controls of the State.
For details, go to the History books, because this is only a summary. From 1649 to 1660 England became a republic.
King Charles I had closed the Parliament, but was forced to reopen it and soon enough the shock came. Its members, who
represented not the real people but the emerging bourgeoisie and small rural nobility, refused to approve the budget for the
war with Scotland.
After rejecting another threat to close down and under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, the Parliament regimented
an army, confronted the royal troops and won. King Charles I ended up decapitated and Cromwell became the ruler, with
the title of Lord Protector. He was actually a dictatora Puritan, competent and inflexible. Two years after his death, the
monarchy was back.
Chief of Staff Controls Ministérios
Why on earth has Chief of Staff José Dirceu been called our Lord Protector? It’s not that he plans to decapitate
President Lula. After all, we have been a Republic for quite a while. He is not one to even represent the demands of Congress;
quite the contrary. Increasingly, though, he is undergoing this transformation into a Lord Protector. We just don’t know
exactly what it is that he’s protecting.
There is no discussion in which he does not participate, decide and give the final word. I don’t mean to build
large comparisons, but it seems like he is the one in power. Unlike in England, though, he exercises it on behalf of the
kingsorry, Lula. The two are not going to collide head on, we hope, but the attitude of the Chief of Staff increasingly resembles
that of Cromwell, as he ties together the political and administrative controls of the State. For the Englishman of the 17th
century, there could be no obstacles for the achievement of his major purpose, which was the end of absolutism, the grandeur of
England and the purity of religious faith. And for Dirceu?
There are people comparing him to Richelieu or Mazzarino. Others prefer to remember the Marquis of Pombal, in
Portugal. And there are those who favor Golbery do Couto e Silva or Leitão de Abreu, in a concentration of all images of
recognition of strength behind the throne. No similarity, however, could be more appropriate than that of Lord Protector.
For that same reason there are those who rebel, even if they lack the courage to make their rebellion public. Could
today’s José Dirceu be the same man from the times of the student leaderships in São Paulo, the urban uprising, the exile, the
guerilla training in Cuba and, later, the clandestine return to Brazil? Or could those characters already have been the José Dirceu
of today? The man knows what he wants, demonstrates the same old steadfastness and often turns merciless. The devil is
that he looks like an actor working in the wrong play.
Dirceu Denounces the Cardoso Administration
It boggles the mind of many of his comrades how he sustains the current economic and political situation, approved
the shocking budgets cuts for the social
ministérios, demands the squaring in and punishment of those who rise against the
neoliberal model, negotiates support from historically unreliable blocs of Congress and, above all, demonstrates an apparent scorn
for any type of ideology.
He proved it by conforming to the patterns of the last eight years to a tee, even traveling to the United States to put
the State Department and the speculators at ease, only to later label as damned inheritance the commitments inherited by the
current government. And he has just formulated an extremely serious accusation against the Cardoso administration.
He said that corruption prevailed on those days, referring to certain privatizations. Could he have had information
about the illicit tactics of Banestado? One thing is certain: he will pursue the accusation with the same inflexibility he used to
propose the reform of Previdência (social welfare system).
In the cabinet itself, Lord Protector is no longer simply respected. He is feared. When it’s time to admonish some
recalcitrant minister, the initiative comes from him. Also from him come the information about a possible reorganization of
the team advising the president. If the telephone rings and the call is from the office of the Chief of Staff, everyone shudders.
Conclusion: it’s a profile that tends to be rare, if not unprecedented, in our history. Where this will lead, no one can
tell. It could even end at the Planalto Palace, seven years from now, in case Lula wins reelection in 2006. Or even before. It
would be the union of formal power with actual power. To protect whom? The image of the president? The liturgy of power?
The government? The nation? The party? The workers and the less favored? The economic agents?
England knew, from the beginning, what their Lord Protector protected. We will need to wait on.
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: