Brazil: Dear President, Can You Spare a Job?

Brazil: Dear President, Can You Spare a Job?

    Mr. President, how about a popular vote to find out from Brazilians
    themselves what is our
    biggest aspiration? It will not be the
    detouring of the São Francisco or the atomic bomb of minister

    Roberto Amaral. Whoever guesses ten million jobs will not err by
    much, and that’s a less visible project
    than refineries.


    Carlos Chagas


    Dear Mr. President, here we go again. I’m so glad your bursitis gave you a break. Even better was the knee
    contusion gone, allowing you to go right back in the field for the
    "peladas" in Torto (*). Your administration is not doing badly,
    either. Or, I should say, it’s not doing as badly as it was. After all, last week you were able to announce the first investments in
    national infrastructure. Better be careful with this business of detouring the São Francisco River, which could fire up the
    Northeastern states, but if it can create a few thousands of jobs, it will be worth it.

    Your administration is slowly trying to take its first steps to get back in tune with the voters. It will take a while, but
    some instruments in this orchestra are starting to play in tune. I’m not talking about the violins of your economic team, of
    course, because those strings keep hurting our ears. One recent address in particular was noteworthy. It was last Friday, at the
    delivery of the proposals for the Pluriannual Development Plan. At the opening, you lavished praise on one of your predecessors,
    senator José Sarney.

    The man deserves it. He has been the true leader of the government in the Senate, more than Amir Lando, in front of
    whom, by the way, sir, you slipped. His name is Amir Lando and not Almir Lander. But it would be good to take a step back in
    dealing with Sarney. He will never row against the tide of the PMDB and that party, sir, between you and me, is ready to start
    asking for more. If the promised new cabinet is not announced soon, the
    peemedebistas can torpedo welfare reform.

    There was a lapse on your part, Mr. President: you mentioned all the ministers who were there and forgot José
    Dirceu. The Lord Protector was there, and it’s true that he has an office inside the palace itself. He’s like family. But the general
    is, too, and so are Luiz Dulci and Tarso Genro, all of whom you mentioned affectionately and by name.

    You scored when you stated your willingness to resume works interrupted `for 15, 18 and 21 years’. The message fit
    like a glove with Figueiredo, Sarney, Collor, Itamar and FHC, all guilty of failing to resume initiatives of their predecessors.
    Since the sociologist never started any works, this helps the image of the PT government. Also noteworthy was your vision
    concerning the Pluriannual Plan, a previous `piece of fiction’ which will now gain true popular support from the people.

    Let’s hope that minister Palocci doesn’t forget this and that he doesn’t remember the fact that D. Marisa, every
    Friday, leaves her children frustrated because they didn’t get what they wanted. You don’t believe in the First Lady the same
    way you believe in the Minister of Finance, because billions of dollars leave Brazil to go overseas every year to pay interest
    on the debt. If D. Marisa renegotiates with her children a minor offering of some cocoa beans for the weekend, why
    couldn’t Brazil renegotiate with its creditors the reduction of part of the fruit of our labor sent abroad?

    Who could be this mayor who said that the people are not prepared to participate in large public works, but only in
    small? Probably the one who ended up detained in Paris while trying to withdraw over a million dollars from his account, it
    seems. For you, sir, the people need, yes, to give their input in defining great works: how about a popular vote to find out from
    Brazilians themselves what is our biggest aspiration? It will not be the detouring of the São Francisco or the atomic bomb of
    minister Roberto Amaral. Whoever guesses ten million jobs will not err by much, and that’s a much less visible project than the
    refineries promised to governors.

    You were sharp, Mr. President. Not only you were in Curitiba, attending a celebration at a huge multinational which
    is food producer, but you still recommended to Roberto Requião to keep his speech under three minutes. The governor
    took it hard. To ask a politician to limit his talking is like asking the fox not to look towards the chicken coop. Barbs were
    returned. Requião acquiesced, but used his time to criticize smokers. He knew that you had your traditional
    cigarrilha in the pocket of your jacket…

    We heard the statement that the worst is behind us and everything will be all right. We don’t doubt that everything
    will be all right. As to the worst being behind us, I’m in the middle here. We have not heard anyone deny yet that a strange
    labor reform will follow the anxiety of the welfare reform. Government employees had their pensions decreased and their
    retirement checks reduced. Citizens are being warned about an increase in the tax load. After that, if the government goes on
    to attack the décimo-terceiro salário
    (**) and vacation money, it will be for sure that the worst is not behind us; it’s
    actually coming closer…

    Greetings, good health and success to you, sir.

    Translator’s notes:

    (*) "peladas" in Torto _ friendly soccer matches at Granja do Torto, the presidential weekend retreat, near Brasília.

    (**) décimo-terceiro
    salário _ thirteenth monthly installment in workers’ wages given out every year according to
    Brazilian labor laws.


    Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da
    Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian
    Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at

    This article appeared originally in Tribuna da
    Imprensa – 

    Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of
    the American Translators Association. Contact:

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