By Leaving Congress Cardozo Makes Himself Greater But Diminishes Brazil

José Cardozo José Eduardo Cardozo is one of this generation’s most respected, successful politicians. Serving his second term as a federal deputy representing São Paulo, he is also the Secretary General of the Workers Party (PT).

Despite his success and his power as the government party’s Secretary General, despite the good possibility of his reelection in October and of his party winning the next presidential election, Deputy José Eduardo Cardozo surprised the public by announcing that he will not seek another term.

Despite his opportunity to pursue higher offices and to participate in the political power structure of a country the size of Brazil, he is giving up his political career.

Through a letter and interviews, he has explained his unhappiness in occupying an office that public opinion regards with disdain and suspicion. According to him, he no longer wants to be seen as someone who was elected for his own personal advantage, despite all his dedicated fulfillment of his responsibilities.

He feels frustrated by the population’s negative opinion of politicians, although, in his case and that of others, holding public office represents personal and financial sacrifices.

As a Brazilian, I regret the loss of a congressperson who would still have much to contribute in leading the country. I feel that, by this gesture, José Eduardo makes himself greater, while diminishing Brazil. When I heard of his decision, however, I remembered others who think the same way today but have not yet taken the same position.

I understood perfectly and sympathized with his decision. When I began my public life in the 1960s in Recife, my associates and I were afraid of dirtying ourselves with blood; today the blood has been replaced by mud, through carelessness, through error, or even simply through public defamation.

I therefore decided to find out what those who follow me daily on my Twitter account ( think about this. Of the dozens of messages I immediately received commenting upon the matter, some of them expressed sympathy for the deputy.

“If good people step down, this favors those who want to fight.”

“I think it’s interesting. It shows his character.”

“A dignified decision; counterproductive, however, in the struggle for more morality.”

“He will be greatly missed. It’s sad when good men leave politics.”

But the greatest number of respondents expressed their suspicions instead of their sympathy.

“Isn’t it through fear that the Bancoop [scandal] will reach him?”

“I understand, but, given the frequency [of corruption], it’s difficult to believe in honesty [in politics].”

“He’s going to be Dirceu’s assistant.”

“I think that he wants to do it for appearances.”

“Generalization don’t work but ‘almost’ all the politicians are thieves.”

“He could undermine the stereotype if he did something in politics, if he showed himself to be different.”

“The problem is not the fact that, in Brazil, the politicians are treated like thieves; the problem is that that’s how they behave.”

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

“People are disillusioned when TV shows how our representatives are behaving.”

“I don’t believe that, after all these years, Deputy Cardozo is just now thinking of this.”

It can be seen how few people are lamenting the loss of a great politician, someone who is giving of himself to make Brazil a better place.

In the past someone said, “To the King, everything, save my honor.”(1)

Today we say, “To the people and the country, everything, save my honor.” Because of this, we will have increasingly fewer persons who are disposed to continue in public life. Now they run the risk, not of dying, but of losing their honor.

It is with pride that I see a Brazilian politician making this gesture. It is with fear also because, if everyone were to do the same, the situation would worsen.

Hopefully, this gesture may awaken the voter.

(1) In 1968, Brazilian Deputy Djalma Marinho used this phrase on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies to protest the actions of the military government. He was citing the 17th-century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website – – and write to him at

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome


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