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Laughing Stock

Laughing Stock

"Now we find out that all the recent American elections,
done with the same confusing methods and obsolete mechanisms
as this last one are under suspicion—and that the suffrage,
after all, was never direct. Nothing is serious anymore,
there’s nothing we can trust."
By Alessandra Dalevi

Like the rest of the world, Brazilians had a raucous and a mirthful time following the
post-election fiasco conducted by its northern neighbors in the United States of America.
Besides repeating jokes told around the world Brazilians had a chance to deal with their
own inferiority complex and for a change felt superior to the Americans.

TSE’s (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral—Electoral Supreme Tribunal) Information
Secretary, Paulo César Camarão, called the American model for voting archaic. "The
U.S. electronic ballot box is the size of a refrigerator," he said, amused. "Our
system, besides being uniform across the country, is also inviolable, fraud proof, and we
are able to announce the results faster." We can almost see him laughing while saying
this. After all, Brazil has just had national elections in which every vote—around
110 million of them—was cast electronically in a computer terminal a little bigger
than a shoebox, which showed the pictures of the candidates so voters could confirm he or
she was the correct person before casting their votes. In less than six hours (5 hours and
42 minutes to be precise) after the end of the elections the TSE already had the official
results from 325,000 ballot boxes throughout the nation. For the president of TSE,
minister Néri da Silveira, it’s amazing that the U.S. doesn’t have a national roster of
voters and its system has no antifraud security.

Forums on the Internet opened their pages so people could talk about the U.S. election.
Hundreds of messages were posted at the Globo portal. "Do you see what happens when
you are outdated technologically?," asked Celso Poletto (veneza@naves.com.br).
"Not only in elections but also in their banking system Americans are behind compared
to Brazilians. Contrary to what happens in the U.S., the Finance Ministry, for example,
accepts tax returns via the Internet." Lúcia Maria de Lima (lucialima8@ig.com.br)
wrote that Brazilians could teach something to Americans regarding voting: "When the
subject is elections the U.S. is a Third World country. It’s unacceptable that a country
that exercises its power over the world, that goes to space, that keeps secrets, bungles
it so terribly when it’s time to elect the planet’s ‘most powerful’ man."

Some people were mad to see their fellow Brazilians so worried with what was happening
up north. "I think this discussion is a total waste of time," wrote Eric Souza
dos Santos (orubronegro@bol.com.br). "I’d like to know if these two American citizens
are going to be elected president of the world or of a single country? I can’t understand
why Brazilians are so worried with an election in which whoever wins will not change at
all the imperialistic relation of the U.S. towards the rest of the underdeveloped world.
Do you think they discuss the fights between our Rio Governor Garotinho with mayor César
Maia? Or the fights between senator Antônio Carlos Magalhães and President Fernando
Henrique Cardoso? They don’t even know what the capital of Brazil is. Stop this buffoonery
and come back to reality. Beware Uncle Sam."

Elói Teixeira (eloi_vicente@hotmail.com) says that Brazilians should pity the American
people for having such an outdated way of voting and invites Brazilians to be solidarity:
"Besides the huge fiasco of showing the rest of the world an election in which the
results came so late and which was subject to mistakes and fraud, there is something even
worse: the indirect election, which can elevate to the presidency a candidate who the
majority has not elected. In face of all of this, we Brazilians, who recently got rid of a
regime of oppression, have to offer our solidarity to the American people. Let’s lend them
our slogans: "The people united, will never be defeated! Democracy in the USA! Direct
(elections) now!""

For Christiana Bueno (christianabueno@ig.com.br) the American embarrassment and
humiliation is a good lesson for the country: "They are finally tasting what it is to
be underdeveloped with their primitive system of elections. We should send a committee of
observers and share with them our technology in electronic ballot boxes, which is perfect
for the exercise of a true and fair popular election by direct vote." And Ismenia
Albuquerque (ismenia_albuquerque@hotmail.com) went a little further: "The mask has
fallen. The U.S. has shown what in fact it is: a fraud." "The problem is that
Americans are too dumb," concluded Ronaldo Fontoura (fontoura.voy@terra.com.br).

Echoing the feeling of other quarters, Mauro Simões (divcil@rffsa.gov.br) made fun of
the U.S.: "Due do our interests in that country, I think Brazil should send observers
to follow the ballot counting. Is this a new idea or have I heard it before in a reversed
way?" To which Wilmor Henrique (whenriqu@brasilnet.net) added: "The U.S. is
having the election it deserves. This way Americans will learn they are not superior to
anything or anyone. They are always interfering in questions of other countries but are
unable to hold an election with openness and competence. Don’t you think there ought to be
an international intervention in the American elections? Didn’t it happen in Peru,
Venezuela…?"

Concurring with many of these opinions and pointing to the good example of Brazil, The
New York Times wrote in its op-ed page on November 24: "One very important lesson
of the 2000 presidential election, regardless of its outcome, is already clear—you
get what you pay for when it comes to tabulating ballots. America’s unwillingness to
invest in a reliable, up-to-date system for casting and counting votes has helped produce
the chaos that now clouds the outcome of the presidential election.

"Brazil, a country larger than the continental United States, held the first
national election conducted entirely on an A.T.M. system, with resounding success. More
than 100 million people voted on 186,000 machines. Alas, in America, the land of rapid
technological change, the act of voting remains a nostalgic one. In New York, we use the
same machines our grandparents did, and a third of Americans attempt to punch out chads
that were state of the art the year the Beatles appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’"

Disenchantment

Luís Fernando Veríssimo, who lived and studied in the United States and is one of the
most respected writers in Brazil, couldn’t resist going back again and again to the
American fiasco in his daily column in the dailies O Globo (from Rio) and O
Estado de S. Paulo. In one of them, after explaining the reason for the electoral
college (it was created to maintain the balance between the agrarian Southern states and
the North that was growing demographically) he concluded: "With the present mix-up it
is even possible that the Americans may reform the Constitution and put an end to the
electoral college, and the popular vote—preferably registered on trustworthy
machines, as it happens in developed places like Caruaru (a little town in the
backlands)—becomes decisive. And, more than 200 years afterwards, the spirit of the
admirable document in which for the first time it was put on paper that common men are
equal to kings, will prevail over their hypocrisies."

Veríssimo returned again to the same topic on November 15 in a piece called
"Disillusion, Disillusion": "Nothing else was serious; we couldn’t trust
anything else but the American democracy. There it was a society that, say what they
might, could give the world lessons of how an electoral system of free choice by direct
suffrage works, and frequently gave. Now we find out that all the recent American
elections, done with the same confusing methods and obsolete mechanisms as this last one
are under suspicion—and that the suffrage, after all, was never direct. Nothing is
serious anymore, there’s nothing we can trust."

And when Florida had already certified the victory of Bush, Veríssimo came once again
to the theme writing: "The United States should propose a UN emergency meeting to
discuss sanctions against Florida, that weird place in the shape of an appendix in which
the presidential elections were defrauded more shamefully than in Yugoslavia. An armed
intervention by the NATO forces to end the ethnic cleansing of votes for Gore wouldn’t be
advisable, since there would always be the possibility of the bombs missing their target
and killing Mickey Mouse, with international repercussions, but an economic blockade like
the one they have against Cuba and Iraq would be justifiable. In the recent unacceptable
elections in Yugoslavia the fraud was more discreet. At least the authority in charge of
saying if the votes could be counted or not had not participated actively in Milosevic’s
campaign, as the State secretary of Florida did in Bush’s campaign."

Writing at Folha de São Paulo, Ricardo Freire had a good time making fun of the
U.S. in an article entitled, ‘America Doesn’t Know how to Vote.’ "The United States
might have asked for help from their technologically advanced neighbors like Brazil. We
would send immediately a load of electronic ballot boxes—used ones for sure but in
perfect working condition. The Quixeramobim (a funny-named village in the interior of
backward Ceará state) ballot boxes for example. Our election ended and they are there,
inactive, waiting for the next. This way the Palm Beach folks could vote without any
mistakes. Because all they had to do was to punch a number, wait for the picture of George
W. Bush or Al Gore to appear and then press the CONFIRMA key.

"To make things easier, instead of the candidates’ pictures, the electronic ballot
boxes loaned to the Americans could show little drawings of the running parties’ symbols.
If the Palm Beach voter punched the Republican candidate’s number, the image of an
elephant would appear. If the Palm Beach voter punched the Democrat candidate’s number,
the image of a little donkey would appear. I know that by now you don’t believe anything I
write, but I SWEAR the Republican Party symbol is an elephant, and that the Democrat Party
symbol is a little donkey. A little don-key!!!!! It is obvious that a country that allows
the alternating of power between little elephants and little donkeys can’t really go far
in life…

"How long will our brothers from the North put up with being at the technological
rear end of the continent? How long will they allow their elites to shroud themselves in
their own backwardness, boycotting high-end technology developed overseas? The United
States cannot insist anymore in its provincialism, in the illusion that they will be able
to continue immune to globalization. Fat chance. Sooner or later the free market will take
care of bringing to the Americans technological innovations from the outside world. Things
like direct elections, the metric system, football (soccer), sunga (short swim
trunks), avocado with sugar."

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