Perhaps no other Latin American political leader has received as much
attention from Brazilian journalists and politicians as President Hugo Chávez of
Venezuela. The analyzes and critiques always focus upon “What’s going on?” and
“How is Chávez acting?” No one is asking, “Why Chávez?”
After 50 years of democracy, what led Venezuela to opt, by means of the ballot, election after election, for a government with autocratic characteristics? The answer is simple: Chávez is the product of the insensibility of the elite and the demoralization of politics.
During its 50 years of democracy, Venezuela had two parties that succeeded each other. Except for the President’s name, nothing changed. A false trade-off of power. For all that time, the country exported petroleum and had resources to finance a wealthy minority’s consumption of luxurious, sophisticated products.
Very few resources went into meeting the needs of the poor population or investing in a strategic development project. The result was a country divided by a social apartition, the total estrangement between the included and the excluded, who view each other as if they were separate parts of the same country and not as components of the same nation.
The Brazil of today is acting like the Venezuela of years past. Lula’s election was the result of the elite’s historic insensitivity and of the demoralization of politics. He represented the new; he said that the Congress was composed of 300 con artists; he led a party that symbolized the struggle against corruption and the hope for new national politics that would transform the society to benefit the emancipation of the poor.
It is true that, in power, Lula did not act like Chávez: instead of dividing the country, he made cohesive politics between the poor and the rich. But he did not create the conditions for social unity, for the formation of a nation.
Instead of changing society, he took steps to accommodate the people and the political parties. He adopted a form of conducting politics identical to that which he had previously criticized. The political cohesion came from the commitment to maintain the status quo in all areas and from the concession of assistance programs for the poor.
As a result, the Brazil of today is the pre-Chávez Venezuela, with the loss of hope in the Lula government as an aggravating factor. Little by little, the democracy is being corroded by the demoralization of the politicians, by the insensibility of the management elites, by the cynicism of commemorating small advances, by the acceptance of the corruption as natural and generalized. The country is a caldron of frustrations manufacturing an alternative autocracy.
Despite criticizing Chávez, the Brazilian Congress is systematically collaborating to manufacture Chavismo in Brazil. With the raise in congressional salaries, the accords to save colleagues condemned by public opinion, the politicians’ change of positions depending upon whether they are in the government or in the opposition, the tax increase repudiated by the taxpayers, the insubstantial results in confronting the population’s problems. Not even those who criticize Chávez miss the political parties and the politics of days gone by.
The judges are conveying the idea that they are more concerned with increasing their salaries than with bringing about justice, and they permit the shameful impunity of the wealthy. They collaborate in forming people’s desire for an authoritarian leader. In Venezuela, even those who are horrified by the control of the judicial system affirm that the previous one did not deserve to survive.
Despite continually denouncing the corruption, the press concentrates upon superficial debate; it generalizes the criticism of every politician; it demoralizes the political class – and along with it, the democracy – and it ignores alternative proposals for a Brazil without apartition. It criticizes the errors but does not denounce the causes.
It is like a Greek tragedy. No one wants the tragic result of authoritarianism. But like actors, we are all – the Congress, the justice system, the press – doing our part so that Brazil will be a factory of autocrats, products of the insensitivity of the elite and of the demoralization of politics.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.