Brazil’s Lula Confesses Venial Sins and Hides Mortal Ones

Brazilian peopleAt his first press conference since becoming president, Brazilian President Lula admitted that his government had made three errors: permitting the maintenance of tax rate so high that it would become the principal policy of combating inflation; not investing in federal highway system restoration; and participating so little in the vote for the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies that Deputy Severino Cavalcanti was elected.

The choice of these three points, in response to a journalist’s question, is a sort of psychoanalysis of the government. Lula freed his subconscious, giving an insight into what is occurring within his government.

Upon acknowledging these three errors, he ultimately made another, serious one: that of ignoring the other errors committed.

He confessed to three mistakes that could have been made and confessed to by any former president, elected through any political coalition whatsoever. He admitted to errors that did not demonstrate a firm determination to change Brazil.

The President did not admit to maintaining the old style of politics by means of accords very similar to those of the past. He continued to ignore the fact that he did not implement public policies to reorient the tragic Brazilian social picture, as everyone was hoping.

Nor did he confess that he made a mistake in not combining a responsible economic policy with absolutely essential social investments in, for example, water and sewerage, housing and public health.

His mea culpa can be summed up as three points relative to the economy, infrastructure and political coordination with no mention of the grave mistake of not, in his nearly three years in office, clearly delineating a new face for the government.

He could have acknowledged that worse than the lack of coordination – which led to Severino’s election – was the absence of a unifying banner, one that would bring Brazil together in the search for a new direction.

That would unify the Brazilian people in the certainty that, after the 1985 leap of democracy and 1994 leap of stability, the country would finally make the long-expected leap in social justice.

The absence of this banner is the principal cause of all the other little mistakes, such as the three that he chose to acknowledge.

In 2003, the government presented two reform proposals: those of the social security and the court systems. This was the time to present his proposal for social reform. Nevertheless, that did not happen. When he did not recognize this, the President committed an even graver error.

President Lula’s election reflected the national anxiety for profound changes, the hope for a government that would initiate a new cycle in Brazilian history by eliminating poverty, overcoming the brutal concentration of wealth, reducing social and regional inequalities, initiating a revolution in the education and healthcare of the Brazilian people, in the daily exercise of politics. Unfortunately, in these two and a half years, that new face has not yet been presented.

That was the greatest error committed heretofore. An error that will be overcome only with difficulty in the few remaining months of the first Lula administration. And that will have even fewer chances for correction in a second administration.

Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at cristovam@senador.gov-br.

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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