In Brazil, All Is Allowed… After the Elections

     In Brazil, All Is Allowed… 
After the Elections

    There are those in
    Brazil who believe that the government will propose
    in November, after the elections, the infamous labor reform, extinguishing
    all remaining rights after the Cardoso sociological hurricane blew by.
    It seems the scale will tilt toward the economic team’s side, which
    will certainly be kept in place if Cardoso ever returns to power.
    By Carlos Chagas

    The last concentrated effort in Congress before municipal elections could
    not have come to a more bitter end. The expression of discouragement in some
    and of irritation in others was evident, among Representatives and Senators
    who had come to Brasília and later left for their home states.

    The confusion was pervasive.
    For example, how did the Workers Party’s congressmen leave for their home
    bases bringing along the 0.25% interest rate hike, in a rehearsal of future
    increases to come until the year’s end?

    Because the Central Bank
    was perverse: it announced in a written statement that the rate hike this
    week is the beginning of a process. Other increments will follow; the official
    minutes ought to be mandatory reading, bound to generate protests from the
    industrial, commerce, and service sectors.

    By the same token, how
    can Cabinet Chief José Dirceu be called upon to go on the stump for
    the Workers Party after being disavowed by the economic team, as a result
    of his protest against the rate increase?

    What about the good scolding
    given to the President by the House Speaker? João Paulo, the Speaker,
    told in clear words to President Lula not to meddle with the elections. If
    he can…

    Add to it the mess that
    came out of the PFL (Liberal Front Party) Senators dinner, wherein the highlight
    was the President’s photo hobnobbing with César Borges, Salvador mayoral
    candidate Nelson Pelegrino’s formidable opponent, and there you have the recipe
    for the outcome of the elections awaiting the Workers Party.

    The effort to amend only
    made matters worse, when, two days later, as a consolation prize, President
    Lula indulged in a photo op with the repudiated candidate.

    Liberal Front Party members
    returned to their bases with their heads hanging low as well, like party president
    Jorge Bornhausen, threatening to step down, and Senator Antônio Carlos
    Magalhães, facing an expulsion procedure.

    PFL’s opposing ideals
    have been shredded to pieces. Not much different was the scenario at the PMDB
    (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), split over the match up between Senators
    José Sarney and Renan Calheiros. How could we, then, expect Congress
    to pass something useful?

    Angel Amidst Devils

    Let’s not go to the extreme
    reached by Carlos Lacerda (the late journalist and House Representative),
    when he engaged in a battle with then President Castelo Branco (64-66), calling
    him the "angel of Conde Lage Street", reference to the religious
    prints that Lapa’s (a Rio neighborhood) cheery young ladies exhibited on the
    walls of the bordellos.

    Nonetheless, there’s no
    denying that, within the administration, Patrus Ananias, minister for Social
    Development and Hunger Combat, roams with his wings and aureole amongst a
    bunch of long-tail little devils.

    In charge of Social Development,
    Belo Horizonte’s former mayor spoke the obvious: the Family-Scholarship Program
    (the program that encourages parents to keep children in school by way of
    a small salary for each child attending classes) is important in bringing
    food to the table of the hungry, lessening the bitterness of those without
    salary and will to make a decent living.

    Naturally, as a by-product,
    aid recipients are obligated to send their kids to school. But there are innumerous
    situations where attendance is not properly enforced.

    First, because there aren’t
    enough schools. Then, because not all children are so privileged as to attend
    school only, instead of working – even if the job consists in merely staying
    in the shack where they live, looking after their siblings, while their mother
    is out, washing clothes for a living.

    In summary, due to centuries
    of a subservient culture, to change the mass’ thinking overnight is not an
    easy task. Nor the bitterness.

    It just so happens that
    now, as a result of supervision failure—a job for the Education Ministry—,
    the little devils are suggesting cutting back the Family-Scholarship to the
    neediest, precisely those who weren’t capable of following the rules?

    Patrus Ananias rushed
    to their defense. And for that he was gored with forks by those looking for
    a pretext to justify the failings. The President had better watch out. Any
    day now the last of the angels may flap his wings…

    What Will Tomorrow

    Always, when an election
    season is over the government tightens all the screws. They do after the elections
    what they dare not do before, fearing the loss of votes.

    In former President Sarney’s
    days, it was only after the PMDB elected all state governors—minus one—that
    the general price-freeze was revoked. Lula’s predecessor, Fernando Henrique
    Cardoso (FHC), waited for his re-election to devalue the real.

    There are those who believe
    that the government will propose in November the infamous labor reform, extinguishing
    all remaining rights after the Cardoso sociological hurricane blew by.

    Despite Labor Minister
    Berzoini’s opposition, it seems the scale will tilt victoriously toward the
    economic team’s side, which will certainly be kept in place if FHC returns
    to power.

    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

    from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is
    a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of
    experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and
    political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email:

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