On June 19, the national directorate of the Workers Party (PT) of Brazil called on its members to organize public actions and other events to denounce “the unscrupulous campaign of false accusations and lies” being waged by “sectors of the opposition and the right” to destabilize the government of PT President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Lula’s 2002 election resulted from a widespread rejection by many of Brazil’s poor of the neoliberal policies of previous governments.
The scandal began in May, with a video allegedly showing a top executive of the postal service, a member of the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), pocketing a US$ 1600 payoff.
The executive could be heard on tape saying that he had the support of PTB president Roberto Jefferson. The PTB is part of the coalition supporting Lula.
In turn, on June 6, Jefferson alleged that deputies of the other coalition parties had been paid by the PT to support the government, claiming that Lula ally and Chief of Cabinet, José Dirceu, had organized the bribes.
This claim has led to the resignation of Dirceu as Lula’s chief of staff, and sparked a June 22 screaming match that halted parliament. Dirceu was replaced on June 21 by Dilma Rousseff, an economist and former leftist guerrilla.
According to a PT senator quoted in the June 19 Financial Times, although polls continue to show a high level of support for Lula, the PT’s popularity has not held up as strongly.
“If Mr Lula da Silva is re-elected, it will be with fewer PT congressmen” said Cristovam Buarque, “the PT now looks like any other party”.
According to polling company DataFolha, Lula’s approval rating shifted in the period from March to June, with those viewing his performance as “very good or good” falling from 60% to 49%. DataFolha points out that Lula is still the favorite to win the October 2006 elections.
However disapproval of the National Congress had grown, with those viewing it as “bad or very bad” jumping from 36% to 42% in the first 15 days of June, whilst those who viewed it as “regular” dropped 42% to 38%, with “good or very good” steady at 15%.
Almost all the polls are showing that in the next elections the number of blank or null votes will rise, which according to DataFolha director Mauro Paulino, “could be a reflection of the general discrediting of politicians”.
According to a June 19 Prensa Latina report, the discussion at the June 18 National Directorate meeting indicated continuing tension within the PT.
Although the majority camp’s proposed call was adopted, 20 of the 59 present voted against, instead supporting more radical action. The only minority proposal accepted was to create more space for minority currents on the ND.
Those rejected included the need to change the government’s economic policy and to sack social security minister Romero Jucá and Central Bank president Henrique Meirelles.
Jucá and Meirelles are facing an investigation for alleged illegal activities prior to assuming office.
A similar sentiment was expressed in the “Letter to the Brazilian People” signed by 40 organizations and groups that are part of the Coordination of Social Movements (CMS), including the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and the trade union confederation CUT.
The letter stated opposition “against any attempts at destabilization of the legitimately elected government, carried out by conservative and anti-democratic sectors.”
It notes that the people voted for Lula “with the expectation of seeing changes in the neoliberal policies that were being practiced since 1990”, although not much has changed because of the PT’s “conservative alliances”.
The letter argues for large and continuous mobilizations for real changes in economic policy and for priority to be given to social rights and democratic political reforms.
“Faced with this crisis, the Lula government has the option of retaking the project which it was elected for and which mobilized the hope of millions of Brazilians”, the letter stated.
The document argued that it is necessary to exclude conservative sectors from the government and rebuild its support base with “a new political and social majority based on an anti-neoliberal platform”.
This article appeared originally in the Green Left Weekly – www.greenleft.org.au