Tragedy and Poverty Are Irrelevant in Brazil as Long as Lula Keeps High in Polls

Marco Aurélio Garcia's obscene gesture

All of Brazil was shocked to witness two advisors to the Presidency of the
Republic commemorating a possible mechanical defect in the airplane that crashed
at Congonhas Airport. It is unfortunate that direct associates of the President
behaved in that manner, both in terms of the commemorating as well as the
obscenity of the gesture itself.

Especially because they did it in the center of national politics, within the sacred symbol of republican power.


Worst of all, that gesture was not an isolated one. It is a style of generalized behavior and not unique to the Lula administration. Behind those gestures is a posture common in Brazilian politics: taking care of the problems of the administration, protecting the political party and the next elections and not the country and its future.


Governing to remain high in public opinion and not so that future historians will say that the country was doing well. Governing with an eye to the party and not the nation. These are the greatest tragedies that those gestures portray: indifference to the tragic reality of the Brazilian people and proof that the governance is not for the people and the nation but for the party and the figure of the President.


Beyond the extremely bad esthetic taste, the obscene immorality and the absurd ethic of indifference to the tragedy, the gestures show a political preference for the lack of commitment in the exercise of power. And not only of the Lula administration.


Even if there had not been a loss of composure, if the gestures had not been caught on film, or even if they had not been made, we would continue to have, with the Lula administration, the sort of palatial behavior that demonstrates the same preferences as those shown by the previous administrations: for private, and not public, commitment; for interests confused with those of determined segments of society, with the political career of each leader, and with the party.


All throughout our history, few of those governing have demonstrated any degree of suffering over national problems. Showing contempt for the tragic death of 200 people is an absurdity but not an exception.


A short time ago, statistical data for Brazil showed an increase in child labor and in the number of young girls who are sexually exploited, and no one heard a word of sadness coming from the presidential palace.


And, had the newspapers also given this fact ample coverage, the advisors would have certainly made the same gestures if the news had insinuated that it was the fault of the parents and not of the government.


The fact in itself, the tragedy, is not important. All that is important is the decrease in popularity. The people, the reality of the violence, the tragedy of the poverty, of the unemployment, and of the lack of education and healthcare all become irrelevant if the administration’s image is good.


That is how Brazil is governed. That is the old, traditional posture of the Brazilian “republic.” A change was expected of Lula, of the Workers Party and of the political parties that support his administration: less commitment to the party and to people’s individual careers and more commitment to the country and to the population.


But this is not what is seen. In truth, all that changed was that, perhaps due to carelessness, the window was left open; the press was criticized for the invasion of privacy (privacy, by the way, that should not even exist within the seat of the federal government); and maybe the degree of obscenity. At the most, the spirit is the same: one of indifference.


The dance of the advisor of the Presidency, very similar to the dance of “pizza” exhibited two years ago in the Chamber of Deputies, can be a modern style, but the truth is that it is an ancient preference, one with permanency.


Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PDT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). He is the current president of the Senate Education Commission. Last year he was a presidential candidate. You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at mensagem-cristovam@senado.gov.br


Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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