The Time Has Come to End Lula’s Monarchy in Brazil

Lula and CardosoThe downpour of odd government decisions,  apparently meaningless presidential phrases and so much propaganda perhaps will lead people with common-sense to ask themselves: After all, where are we going? I use the adverb “perhaps” because some are in such a way intoxicated with “the biggest show on earth,” of easy money that benefits a few, that I have my doubts.

It seems more comfortable to pretend that everything is going well and forget about the everyday transgressions, the discretionarism of the decisions, the disrespect, if not of the law, of the good moral values. It’s become customary to say that the Lula government gave continuity to the good things that were achieved by the preceding government and in addition improved many things. So, why and what for question the little conduct deviations or small scratches in the law?

It happens that each small transgression, each deviation keeps on accumulating until it disfigures the original. As the renowned deranged prince used to say, there is no method to this madness.  Method that probably does not come from our prince, only a victim, who knows, of verbal apotheosis. But everything that surrounds him has a DNA that, even without any conspiracy, can lead the country, nice and slowly, almost without one realizing it, to mould itself to a politics style and to a relationship manner between state, economy and society that keeps little resemblance to our democratic ideals.

It is possible to choose at random the examples of “small murders.” Why make Congress swallow, without time to breathe, an ill-explained, scruffy change to the oil legislation? A change that can’t even be presented as a “nationalistic” banner, because, if the current system, of concessions were a “sell out,” it should have been banished, and it wasn’t. It only had added to it the share system, subject to three or four political-bureaucratic instances to complicate businessmen’s life and to fatten business facilitators from the public machine.

Why announce who won the competition to purchase military planes, if the selection process hasn’t finished yet? Why so much noise and so much government interference in a company (Vale) that, if  not totally private, has mixed capital and is governed by the statute of private companies? Why anticipate the electoral campaign and, without any embarrassment, stroll throughout Brazil at the expense of the Treasury (taking money from your, my, our pocket…) parading a claudicating candidate? Why, in foreign policy, forget that there are democratic forces in Iran, even Muslim ones, who fight against Ahmadinejad and instead bow to those who are not concerned with peace or human rights?

Little by little, behind what can seem isolated and not-so-serious gestures, the DNA of the “popular authoritarianism” keeps undermining the spirit of the constitutional democracy. This supposes rules, information, participation, representation and conscious deliberation. In the countercurrent of all this, we are getting back to political forms from the military authoritarianism time, when the “impact projects” (some of which became “skeletons”, which were put on tick in the Treasury unpayable debts) livened up contractors and inflated the hearts of those deceived: “Brazil, love it or leave it.”

At issue we have the Transnordestina (Transnortheastern road), the bullet train, the North-South, the San Francisco river’s transposition and the hundreds of PAC’s (Growth Acceleration Program) small projects, which, some good, others not so much, gush out in the budget and dwindle away for lack of operational capacity or for misappropriations barred by the Union’s Audit Court. It doesn’t matter, in the advertising outcry, it is as if the people were already enjoying the benefits: “My House, My Life”; castor bean biodiesel, family agriculture redemption; ethanol for the world and, in the new slogans maelstrom, pre-salt for all.

Unlike what occurred with the military authoritarianism, the current one does not send anyone to jail. But from the presidential mouth itself we can hear insults to morally kill businessmen, politicians, journalists or whoever dares to disagree with the “Brazil power” style.

Even the atomic bomb defense as instrument for us to get to the UN’s Security Council – against the clear text of the Constitution – once in a while is supported by top executives, without asking the citizenry what is the best course for Brazil. And we should be reminded that the president has already declared that when it comes to strategic objective matters (as the fighter planes’ purchase) he decides all by himself. It’s a shame that he forgot to add: “L’État c’est moi.” But he didn’t forget to mention the reasons that led him to such strategic decision: he saw there were pirates in Somalia and, therefore, we need fighter planes to defend “our pre-salt”. That’s OK, everything’s pretty logical.

It can be serious, but, realists will say, time goes by and what is left are the results. Among these, however, there are some worrisome ones. If there is logic in the foolishnesses, it’s only one: the one of power without limits. Presidential power with popular applause, as in all good authoritarian situation, and bureaucratic-corporative power, that’s not funny it all for the people. This last one has method. State and unions, State and social movements are more and more smelted in the Treasury’s high-temperature ovens.

The parties are demoralized. It was by the “dedaço” (big finger) that Lula chose the PT candidate to succeed him, as the Mexican presidents used to do when the PRI controlled. With the parties devastated, if Dilma wins the elections will be left only  a subPeronism (Lulism) infecting the docile party fragments, a union bureaucracy nested in the State and, as foundation for the block of power, the might of the pension funds. These are “nova stars,” They came up in the firmament, changed their trajectory and our voracious, but naive capitalists get from them the death embrace. With a little help from the BNDES (National Bank of Economic and Social Development) everything becomes perfect: we have the alliance between state, the unions, the pension funds and the lucky fellows from big companies that join them.

Now, they will say (since I’ve talked about stars), the pension funds represent the spur of the modern economy. That’s right. It happens that our funds belong to public companies’ workers. Now, in these places, the PT, that was already controlling the employees’ representation, now also controls the employers’ one (the government). With that the funds have become instruments of political power, not exactly of a party, but of the union-corporative segment that controls it.

In Brazil the pension funds are not only stockholders – with the freedom of selling and buying in the stock markets -, but managers: they take part in the oversight blocks or in the private or “privatized companies” committees. Weak parties, strong unions, pension funds converging with the interests of a party in the government and drawing to them privileged private partners, there is the block from which the Lulist subPeronism will get its sustenance in the future, if it wins the elections. I started with where are we going? I will close saying that time is ripe  to put a brake to perpetuation in power, before it’s too late.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, sociologist, was President of Brazil from January 1st, 1995 to January 1st, 2003.

Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.



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