By Killing Probe on Air Traffic, Brazil Misses Chance to Show Public Spirit

Frequent trouble with air traffic in Brazil has caused delays and long linesDespite the surprises and resentments related to the Brazilian cabinet reform, the subject in  Congress, yesterday, was president Lula’s meeting with the economic team to celebrate the IBGE’s (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) "new methodology," a little odd miracle that put Brazil in the position of world’s tenth largest economy thanks to a magic trick that took out of the government’s hat a boost for last year’s Gross Domestic Product plus a supposed increase for this year’s GDP.

Mandrake the Magician wouldn’t have done it better because, in terms of changes, nothing has changed. Only the numbers celebrated with euphoria by Finance Minister, Guido Mantega. Some questions were left without an answer:  why wasn’t this "new methodology" applied last year? Will the IBGE brass be punished for making such elephantine  booboo?

Will the international organisms that care for the world economy accept our manipulation? Has the life of the businessman, worker, store clerk, feel any different this morning, with more money in their bank accounts, or additional profit?

Challenging official numbers is an art few people can exercise, but you can’t just swallow when the government itself mix up numbers in its own favor, in a marketing operation presented as if it cannot be challenged.

With all due respect, the situation seems like the team that was downgraded to the second division, and then suddenly is classified through legal maneuvers and then celebrates,  in its headquarters, victories that in fact were defeats on the field. One of these things you’ll only find in Brazilian politics.

Pleasing Surprises

Finally, among Geddéis, Martas, Balbinottis and Walfridos, we get two pleasing surprises in the cabinet’s  rearrangement. Reinhold Stephanes and Miguel Jorge, one in the Agriculture, the other in the Industrial Development ministry, fulfill although partially Lula’s aim of choosing the most capable to the federal administration’s several sectors.

Stephanes demonstrated excellent performance as Social Welfare minister in the Fernando Collor and Fernando Henrique’s administrations. He has also been an Agriculture Minister previously and he represents Paraná, an essentially agricultural state.

He doesn’t have just a résumé, he has a biography, which includes his time in the Lower House, in two Legislatures. The only ones who are not happy with the choice are the pork-barrel politicians and the agribusiness crooks, if there any left after they were turned into heroes by president Lula.

As for Miguel Jorge, half of his life was dedicated to serious and efficient journalism. As the managing director for daily O Estado de S. Paulo, the "Estadão", he was responsible for a fundamental reform in that traditional newspaper.

He showed lucidity in realizing that, in some companies, the professionals’ capacity matters less than the cradle in which they were born. He left journalism to embrace entrepreneurial life, to be human resources director and vice president, skilled in the defense of corporative interests, but attentive to the workers’ needs as well. Why hasn’t president Lula used these same criteria to fill the other cabinet posts?

Ethics

We are not arguing here the right the government has to get a majority in Congress, especially if it can manage to achieve it without bribes, mensalão (big monthly allowance) or sanguessugas (bloodsuckers).

The work of rearranging the cabinet goes on, but the congressional support to the executive is already guaranteed as have shown the Constitution and Justice Commission meetings in the Lower House confirmed by the whole House encounter. And in case the Supreme doesn’t bring any surprise they have already buried the congressional inquiry (CPI) on Brazil’s chaotic air traffic.

This is not a matter of majority, but of ethics. Why has Lula made such an effort to block the CPI? After all, investigating the causes of Brazil’s airports chaos and searching the reasons behind the Gol Boeing’s September disaster would only do good to the institutions.

It is not, for certain, a vanity matter, based in "I command and you obey". There are those who think the government is trying to prevent probes into the Infraero, the Brazilian airport authority, due to overbilling that occurred during the work to improve airports, something that the government’s Audit Court is looking into, right now.

Others suggest that the president doesn’t wish to open wounds at the Air Force, which is, after all, the Force in charge of Brazil’s militarized air control.

It doesn’t matter the reason behind the dodging. The administration has missed an excellent chance to contribute to the institutional betterment.

And if the government has a majority in the Constitution and Justice Commission as well as the whole House, it wouldn’t run the risk of being defeated in the investigations. It was a missed excellent opportunity to demonstrate impartiality, greatness and public spirit.

Carlos Chagas is a veteran Brazilian journalist who writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da Imprensa. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.

Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.

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