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They Own 90% of the Media in Maranhão, Brazil, and Still Accuse Me of Abuse of Power

Governor Jackson Lago of Maranhão state, Brazil A coup is being planned in the state of Maranhão: a behind-the-scenes attack on democracy, whose aim is the reinstallation of feudal politics, with its right to hereditary use and possession. It would be better to declare the state our political Galapagos, where the alternation of power has been revoked.  

We may as well prohibit Brazil’s national press from investigating our history. In our Galapagos, we are visited only by political scientists, eager to study some rare species which are already extinct elsewhere in the country, but which still flourish in Maranhão.

The old oligarch, the son of the oligarch, the daughter of the oligarch? Where else in our country, if not in our Galapagos, could we, with Darwinian curiosity, study such rare examples of Brazilian political evolution?

A coup is being planned in Maranhão, as if there were no judges in Brasília. There are allegations of irregularities in my election, with respect to legally-signed contracts between the state government and municipalities. How could I, a candidate with no mandate, no public office and no access to free political party TV time, be responsible for these irregularities?.

But, in our Galapagos, it is not irregular that the family of a candidate be the owners of 90% of the state’s media. It is not an irregularity in the legal action launched against me that the courthouse in our state capital is named after the father, and that our state Court of Audit bears the name of his daughter.  In the name of the father and of the daughter of the Holy Spirit, nothing disturbs our Galapagos.

They have bestowed their name on hospitals, schools, bridges, administrative centers, sports facilities, hamlets and even towns.  They have even created the label “Sarneyense” for those born in President Sarney’s hometown. Against the law, against morality, against everything.

There is even a chilling effect on the President of the Republic, who, in six years in office has never set foot in our state capital or inaugurated any public works in Maranhão. No, this does not create irregularities in an election. That’s just the way it is in our Galapagos.

I have dedicated 40 years of struggle to confronting the most formidable disinformation machine. I founded a party, the PDT (Democratic Labor Party), in which I am active to this day. I was signatory, at its birth, of the Carta de Lisboa, alongside Leonel Brizola, Darcy Ribeiro, Francisco Julião and Neiva Moreira. I fought against the military coup in defense of democratic freedoms.

I have run for various public positions in both the state and federal legislatures, winning some elections and losing others. I have denounced the miserable conditions of agricultural workers in Maranhão, and longed and struggled for amnesty for those who opposed the military dictatorship.

I was elected as mayor of our capital city, São Luis, three times. I have always left office with the accumulated wealth befitting a doctor and public servant. I have never participated in any business undertaking with the aim of gaining personal advantage. 

In 1994, I ran for state governor and gained 21% of the votes.  In that election, I had the support of 217 mayors. In 2002, still in opposition to the state government, I obtained 42% of the votes. Finally, in 2006, with the slogan of “Work, Health and Education to Free Maranhão”, I gained 34.36% in the first round of voting, which was enough to allow for the uniting of other candidates in the Frente de Libertação do Maranhão (The Maranhão Freedom Front), which finally freed our long-suffering and exhausted state from the oligarchic domination of more than 40 years. 

Maranhão gave its cry of freedom! We have followed our aim of creating better living conditions for our people. In two years we have built 160 public schools, shaming the legacy of three schools which Roseana Sarney built in the seven years and four months of her governorship.

We have paved more than two thousand kilometers of roads. Soon we will open the first hospital with emergency and urgent treatment facilities in the interior of the state. In the recent elections, the state confirmed the demise of the oligarchy, choosing 70% of its mayors from the parties of the Front.

These results express the natural rejection by the people of Maranhão of so many years of backwardness. Despite this, I am accused, in the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE), of abuse of power, both financially and with regard to the media. Imagine, I am accused, by the Sarney clan, of abuse of power both financially and in the media!

They fabricate proofs, corrupt witnesses, instilling a real kind of terrorism in the state, vaunting their influence and anticipating judicial decisions. Quousque tandem? I have one eye on our justice system, in which I have confidence, and the other on the people of Maranhão, guarantor of my destiny. In sorrow, I leave you with the verse of Gonçalves Dias: “Life is a combat in which the weak fail and the brave and strong can only hail”.

———-

The text above is a piece written by Jackson Lago, governor of the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão. Lago was elected in 2006, ending control of the governorship of the state by the Sarney family. He is now facing a legal challenge, emanating from the Sarneys, to the legitimacy of that election.

Given the difficulty of access to the mainstream media in Brazil, Lago has written this article, which has been translated in the hope of divulging the situation internationally.

Earlier this month, the Brazilian Electoral Public Prosecutor’s Office sent the Supreme Electoral Court an opinion favorable to the removal of governor Lago and his lieutenant governor Luiz Carlos Porto. Lago is accused of economic power abuse and buying votes.

The election authority of the state of Maranhão calls for Roseana Sarney, the candidate who came in second in the 2006 election, to be made governor. Sarney is a former governor of Maranhão and the daughter of José Sarney, former president of Brazil and current senator.

———-

Jackson Lago is the governor of the state of Maranhão, Brazil.

Translated from the Portuguese by Mike Allan. Based in Vancouver, Allan is a former resident of Rio de Janeiro, who recently visited Maranhão for the first time.

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