During the military regime, some Brazilians abroad dared to denounce the torture occurring in Brazil. For this action, even some democrats accused them of an offense against the country. Archbishop Hélder Câmara was one of those accused. “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public,” some said, deeming it a lack of patriotism to denounce Brazilian torture while living outside the country.
Now, some people are accusing a Spanish journalist – who lives in Brazil, has a Brazilian family, and who himself feels Brazilian – of wanting to offend Brazil by publishing an article in the Madrid newspaper El País* in which he expressed his surprise at the lack of national indignation about the corruption.
Until 2002, some of his critics were heralds of morality. Now they are indignant when anyone speaks out against the corruption. They should themselves be indignant about the country’s lack of indignation. Instead of indignation against the corruption, they direct their indignation against the journalist.
No one could claim that the number of corrupt politicians in power increased when a political party of the left took office. One could observe, however, that this diminished – almost eliminated – the number of indignant persons, increasing tolerance of corruption, even among those who earlier radically opposed it.
Impunity is the father of corruption; its mother is the loss of moral values, of the politically engaged’s banners of struggle. Above all, corruption is the fruit of the tolerance towards it and its practitioners and also of the acceptance of the immoral abyss, such as how unfairly, throughout Brazilian history, healthcare and education have been distributed.
Whether the parties of the left lost their banners because they came to power or whether they came to power because they lacked banners cannot be determined. The fact is that without banners, the parties view power as an end in itself.
Even if they themselves to do not employ it, the uncorrupt inevitably accept the corruption as normal. The politicians are divided into the toll payers – those who accept corruption as the price for being in power – and the toll takers – those who receive the toll to remain in power. Both groups accept the toll of the corruption as business as usual.
Juan Arias’s article is a landmark in denunciation, but it will not be transformed into a political landmark if it does not awaken us to act against the corruption the way we did against the dictatorship, thanks to the courageous denunciations, like those of Archbishop Hélder Câmara.
In the streets everything will continue as normal without demonstrations, without indignant Brazilians shouting their dissatisfaction, without courageous gestures like those of President Dilma when she carried out her housecleaning.
This gesture, it must be said, has not received strong expressions of solidarity from the political parties constituting her base. Some fear the lost of governability; others fear the lost of the key to the vault.
The scenario is worse than that of the military regime, when at least some were shouting, fighting and dying in the war against torture, in defense of a new constitution and of democracy.
Dilma appears to be acting almost alone. Now is the time for Brazil to support her, as, by the way, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has recently done, along with Arias himself, by differentiating her from the general landscape of tolerance, acceptance and lack of indignation about the “corruption in political behavior.”
Not to mention the lack of perception of the “corruption in the political priorities,” i.e., the tolerance of the inequality and social backwardness in a country where 41% of the population goes without potable water and sewerage connections, with schools operating in hovels, projects halted at 53 universities and the sports stadiums under construction in round-the-clock shifts.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM in Portuguese and http://twitter.com/cbbrazilianview in English and write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).