Why Don’t the Brazilians React Against Their Politicians’ Corruption?

Corruption in Brazil After only six months of her administration, President Dilma Rousseff had to call for the dismissal of two of her upper-level ministers, both inherited from the cabinet of her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Antonio Palocci, who was the minister of the Casa Civil, a sort of Prime Minister, and Alfredo Nascimento, the transport minister, fell under the rubble of the political corruption.

This has led sociologists to ask themselves why in this country, where the corrupt politicians’ impunity has created a veritable culture of “They’re all thieves” and “Nobody goes to jail,” the worldwide phenomenon of the movement of the indignant so in vogue today is inexistent.

“Could the Brazilians not know how to react against the hypocrisy and lack of ethics of many of those who govern them? Could they possibly not care that so many politicians who represent them in the administration, the Congress, the states and the cities are brazenly taking public money?” more than a few political analysts and bloggers are asking themselves.

Not even the young people, workers or students have yet shown the slightest reaction against the corruption of those who govern them. Curiously, the person most irritated about the theft from the public coffers of the State appears to be President Rousseff herself.

She has publicly shown her disgust over the present “lack of control” in areas of her administration and has literally expelled two of her key ministers from the executive branch – and it is said that she has not yet finished the purge – with the aggravating circumstance that they were inherited from her predecessor, the popular Ex-President Lula da Silva, who had requested that she keep them in her administration.

The Brazilian press alluded to the fact that Rousseff has begun – and she will have to pay a high price – to undo the curse of a certain habitual corruption inherited from the past. And why is there no echo here of the movement of the indignant from the people on the street? Why are the social media not mobilizing?

With the cause called the “Diretas Já” march (a political campaign carried out in Brazil during the years 1984 and 1985 through which Brazilians called for the right to elect the country’s president by direct vote), Brazil took to the streets asking the military dictatorship for elections, the symbol of democracy.

The country again hit streets to oblige Ex-President Fernando Collor de Mello (1990-1992) to leave the Presidency of the Republic when confronted with the accusations of corruption that weighed upon him. Why then, is the country today silent about the corruption?

The only causes capable of drawing millions of people into the streets are those of the gays, the followers of the evangelical churches on the festival of Jesus and those calling for the liberalization of marijuana.

Could it be that the young people, especially, have no motives to demand a Brazil that is not only richer every day, or at least less poor, more developed, with greater international strength, but also a Brazil that is less corrupt in its political sphere, more just, less unequal, where a city council member does not earn up to 10 times more than a teacher and a member of the Chamber of Deputies, 100 times more, or where a common citizen who has worked for 30 years retires on 650 reais (400 euros) and a government bureaucrat retires on up to 30,000 reais (13,000 euros)?

Brazil will soon be the world’s sixth strongest economy but it trails in social inequality, in the defense of human rights. It is a place where women still do not have the right to abortion, where people of color have an unemployment rate of up to 20%, as compared to the 6% rate for whites, and where the police force is one of those causing the most deaths in the world.

Some attribute the young people’s apathy towards serving as protagonists in the country’s ethical renovation to the fact that well-designed propaganda has convinced them that Brazil is envied today by half the world, and, in other aspects, it is. And, moreover, 30 million citizens’ exit from poverty may have made them believe that everything is going well, without their understanding that a middle-class European citizen is the equivalent today of a rich person here.

Others attribute it to the fact that Brazilians are a peaceful people, little given to protests, people who enjoy living happily with however much or little that they have and who work to live instead of living to work. All that is also true.

It does not explain, however, why in a globalized world, where everything occurring on the planet is instantly reported, beginning with the protest movements by millions of young people demanding democracy or accusing their democracies of having degenerated, the Brazilians are not fighting so that the country, besides being richer, might also be more just, less corrupt, more egalitarian and less violent at all levels.

The Brazil that honest people dream their children will someday inherit and that – this is also certain – is still a country where its people have not lost the pleasure of enjoying what they have, would be an even better place if a movement of the indignant should arise, one capable of cleansing the country of the dregs of corruption that today engulf all spheres of power.

Juan Arias writes for the Madrid newspaper El País. He lives in Rio de Janeiro.

Translated from the Spanish by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).

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