Brazil: Punishing Thieves and Public

Brazil: Punishing Thieves and Public

    Public works that are needed by the population cannot stop
    every time an irregularity is found. To
    stop them is a stupid idea.
    It will only harm those for whom they were created in the first
    place. The law
    is the one demanding the interruption.
    It is the law, therefore, that must be changed.


    Carlos Chagas


    Some things are hard to understand. The TCU (Tribunal de Contas da
    União— Federal Accounting Court) has
    prepared a detailed list of public works showing unmistakable irregularities, meaning signs that favors have been exchanged
    "under the table". These are big projects created by the federal government or carried out in partnerships with the
    states—hundreds of them, involving the construction of electrical plants, roads, railways, subways, popular housing and courts’ seats. The
    list was forwarded to the Senate and, according to the law, all projects must be stopped until the parties responsible for
    the malfeasance are identified.

    If we have thieves with their hands on public funds, let’s punish them. Demotions, hearings, indictments and arrests
    are part of our institutional framework. It is to be expected that, once the shady deals are made public, the government will
    persecute all crooks feeding off them, whether they are government employees or not.

    To stop public works, however, is a stupid idea. It will only harm those for whom they were created in the first
    place, which are the Brazilian people. In a direct way, the
    Tribunal de Contas has nothing to do with the frustration. The law is
    the one demanding the interruption. It is the law, therefore, that must be changed because, with the exception of the
    economic team, no one else in the country will applaud the necessary cuts in the budget…

    The so-called "spectacle of development" will only happen when public works start to multiply faster than private
    companies. The law calling for the halt of those projects showing irregularities is part of the
    herança maldita (‘damned inheritance’), which means that it was approved during the eight years of the Fernando Henrique consulship. It was integrated
    to other devices which have accomplished nothing but harm to the economy and a stain to national sovereignty. The
    Lula administration was the one supposed to find ways out for this type of impasse. However, with all due respect, the
    President, his cabinet and his leaders in Congress are now debtors of this one more debt.

    Flagrant injustice

    They come in waves, like the sea—the suggestions for using our Armed Forces to combat organized crime. The
    Lula administration itself has managed to assign soldiers from the Army, Navy and Air Force to the streets when the situation
    in Rio de Janeiro became unbearable. And they went, even without the necessary preparation for patrolling avenues or
    standing at the entrance to city slums. After all, the Armed Forces are not trained for urban war. Faced with a lamentable mistake
    when they shot down an innocent bystander in Avenida Brasil, what did the
    castrense authorities do?

    They started to prepare for new incursions, orders which they will comply to the letter, if told to do so—whether
    they want it or not. This is the way the hierarchy works. Faced with reality, the Army has drafted a kind of preliminary
    manual for soldiers to read. What to do when faced with a blitz in the streets, the closing of a freeway or the blocking of a
    public square?

    But we saw what part of the press has done—they rebelled against the fact that such instructions exist. They suggest
    undue interference and divulge details about the document as if it were an offense to the civilian population.

    Well, it is the civilian power who determines the exodus of the military from their barracks in emergency situations.
    If they could, soldiers would no doubt stay right where they are. But to risk in order to obey and still suffer restrictions on
    top of that, is too much. It causes indignation. When mistakes and tragedies do happen at the moment of truth, the
    ultimate responsibility is the bosses’.

    Having left the government and with no record of any gesture of sympathy for having been in power illegitimately, it
    is fair to admit that the Armed Forces have been having to swallow hard while standing on alert. They don’t protest but,
    between you and me, they should. After all, are they or aren’t they called upon to fight crime?

    Escape to New York

    It must have been a coincidence, but we have to admit it was interesting to notice during the last few weeks former
    President Fernando Henrique insulating himself in the United States. As advisor to the secretary general of the United Nations, he
    is also teaching in universities and is even involved in the task of writing the memoirs of his eight years in the government.

    Everything has a motive: in this case, the only
    name in the party who can face ‘madame Favre’ (the mayor of São
    Paulo, who is from the Workers’ Party) in a campaign needs to exit the stage and let all the attempts by the São Paulo PSDB to
    make him a candidate for mayor die out. There are those claiming to see the hand of José Serra in the setting of this scenario.

    The candidate defeated by Lula has bones to pick with the former President, whom he intimately blames for not having tried
    hard enough to help his election. To throw Fernando Henrique in the pot of boiling water, even knowing that he won’t fall in
    it, may be a way for Serra to avenge the past.


    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 –

    Translated by Carlos Harrison.

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