Help Brazil Save the World, Colltalers
Eight Brazilian cabinet ministers and a dozen politicians, mostly from the multiparty base of President Michel Temer, have been named last week in a giant government corruption probe. But most major media outlets are covering it as if involving Workers’ Party members only.
PT, the party of former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, impeached by Congress last year, is indeed among the 108 listed, but the majority belongs to the president’s PMDB, and PSDB, the party of another past leader and ally, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Brazil’s biggest political scandal has reached such a significant pitch in part due to the way the investigation, Lava Jato (Car Wash), as it’s known, is being conducted. In this stage, for instance, bosses and employees of once powerful Odebrecht Organization have been providing the Supreme Court names, in exchange for lesser penalties or no prosecution, in a process that, critics say, has become itself tainted.
It’s hard to bring down to a few, essential points, this dizzying array of conflicting views and possible bias, wrapped up into a multi year investigation that started at state-run oil giant Petrobras, and, one wouldn’t know it by the coverage, was encouraged by Lula and Dilma.
The first startling point is that Temer, so often associated with corruption, embezzlement, and secret Swiss bank accounts, is not on the list. That he successfully warded off all efforts to include him show how skilled a politician the former #2 on Dilma’s ticket has become.
The second point is how the Brazilian media, which is controlled by half a dozen powerful families and politicians of the religious right, remain king makers of the country’s politics. Pretty much every major news outlet was behind the public pressure and political manipulation that led to the impeachment of Brazil’s first female president, even as they failed to build a strong and independent legal case against her.
Similarly to what happens in Trump’s country, most of those who took the streets and banged kitchen pots against Dilma, for two straight years, starting by her 54 million-vote reelection, in 2014, remain unaware that the 24/7 negative media coverage against her was crucial to drive them into angry rallies. We may dedicate a future column to this and other similarities of the U.S. and Brazil’s political momentum.
Over the weekend, Estadão, one of Brazil’s biggest communications group, which along the O Globo organization was crucial in the movement to depose Dilma, found an unarguable way to defuse the aforementioned majority, and still keep its focus on demonizing PT.
It diluted the breaking Justice Luiz Edson Fachin’s list by headlining instead its own research, on the total number of Lava Jato interviewees. On that list, yes, PT has the majority. But the fact that’s not what’ll move the process along, but the Justice’s list, is another of Estadão’s trickery Brazilians have grown used to. And the week is likely to be dominated by the paper’s own report over the official document.
The third important point to be made about just such a momentum is, obviously, the economy. Even critics of PT recognize that during its 13 years in power, Brazil became the seventh-largest
economy in the world, lifted some 29 million from extreme poverty into the workforce, foreign investment and reserves, as well as consumer confidence, reached all-time highs, while federal debt was at a record low.
Eight months since the impeachment, however, the economy dropped to ninth, GDP is stagnant, trade shrunk, the unemployment rate spiked, and banks and corporations, drivers of the country’s unprecedented growth during the Lula years, have called off expansion plans.
Some accused the probe of having also eroded investor confidence, besides crippling domestic giants, such as Odebrecht and Petrobras, and BNDES, Brazil’s development bank. It goes without saying, the country’s once budding global influence has been severely reduced too.
Much worse, though, is the so-called reforms proposed by the Temer administration. Besides freezing investments in education and public health, the government is now engaged in revamping social security, with predictable cuts in pensions and social welfare programs.
But the naming of key administration members, accused in a laundry list of impropriety and downright theft of public funds, may not be enough, or come in time, to impair the government’s ability to approve its reforms. The Supreme Court, which has been itself charged with political bias, is still in the initial stages of building its case. There’s likely enough time for Temer to act, before a decision is handed down.
If the case against Dilma was weak, but she was still penalized by a draconian judgment issued by proven corrupted cronies, the one against Lula, which has always been the main target of the political right, is flimsy at the most. And there are differences between the two.
While Dilma lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Brazilians due mostly to her lack of charisma and skills as a leader, Lula remains as popular as ever. He’s still leading in most polls for the 2018 presidential election, and unless a major fact is presented in court against him, an untimely event, and of course, increased media manipulation of public opinion, he’s slated to become Brazil’s next president. Again.
The media, and a poorly informed electorate, are but two of those similarities mentioned above about the U.S. and Brazil. There are others. But while many American news organizations have since woken up to fulfill their professional duty, the Brazilian press remains stunted by the monopoly of a few conglomerates, and in consequence, most Brazilians are still in the dark about what’s happening with their country.
Perhaps, a well-known malaise affecting the population is back exercising its ill sway. After all, the period of optimism, progressive laws, engagement of all segments of society, and economic growth, experienced in the early 2000s, was actually an exception in Brazil’s history.
The continuum, that comes from as far back as the colonial era of dependence of Portugal, is that of a nation eternally on the verge of, but never quite actually blossoming. The sad reality is that there’s a risk that such a great country, full of promise and potential, may be always short of fulfilling its destiny, and that which is already ingrained in its fabric, has also contaminated the spirit and core of its population.
In other words, and contrary to a global perception, Brazilians are in reality a frustrated and unhappy populace, prone to blame others and burst with violence, that at every few decades or so, seems ready to allow unjust and illegitimate leaders to drive it back to the past.
However, Brazil also has unlimited resources, both human and natural, still untapped. And above all, the generation that grew up during that exceptional time of vigor of the early 2000s, that may choose a different dream to pursue, and a new energy to be motivated by.
They desperately need support on their quest to change and take charge of their place of birth. For the many of us rooting for them are also committed to something that exists only in that still unfulfilled vision of a new Brazil: a special dream of a nation, that is vast and still young, multicultural and yet hopeful. A nuke-less nation that may actually save our world from nukes. Brazil, we’re there for you. Have a great one. WC