Curtain Raiser

Back to the Drawing Board, Colltalers

After 34 guilty pleas, of President Trump’s top advisers, Russian spies and hackers, ex-FBI director Robert Mueller delivered his much anticipated, but disappointing report. It had an upside, though: for most of Saturday, the president’s twitter feed was silent.
Americans are unsure about what’s next, but four million signatures, and a million people rally, showed that Brits are not: they want a new referendum on the U.K.’s E.U. exit plan, which ironically may kick Brexit, and PM Teresa May, to history’s dustbin.
Before getting to those two headline-grabbing issues, let’s quickly recap a rather depressing meeting between two world leaders of a combined half a billion population. On Sunday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro finally met his maker, er, mentor, in his first U.S. visit. For arguably the majority of those people, it’s was hard to see them two exchanging niceties, let alone hear them.
For in just over three months, Bolsonaro and his three loose-canon politician sons, have found themselves at the center of a whirlpool of humiliating scandals that all but paralyzed the country. Worse: in at least one case, there are strong indications of their involvement with an unsolved murder, that of Rio councilwoman and LGBT activist, Marielle Franco, shot dead a year ago.
While support among the so-called ‘bull, bullet and bible’ caucus in congress – a coalition of big landowners, gun advocates, and wealthy Evangelicals -, remains steady, but not free of frictions, he’s shown surprising poor judgement in sorting out conflicts his kids have sowed with cabinet members. Now, Globo, the country’s biggest media company, has cynically joined his opposition.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons he’s now the president was the campaign, led by the same company, to depose President Dilma Rousseff on bogus arguments, halfway through her second term, in 2016. And the imprisonment of charismatic two-term president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was leading all polls just a few months before the November presidential election.
The comparison with the American president, and his unpredictable kids, is inevitable, but while Trump is a world

class liar and illusionist, with seemingly many aces up his sleeve, Bolsonaro has to literally watch his back. His VP is a former general with ample military support – the president was ousted from the Army in the 1970s -, just in case they feel like staging a coup again.
To complicate, Michel Temer, previous president, VP of Rousseff, and shady character in her impeachment, was just sent to jail. A very unpopular politician, married to a women several decades his junior, he was arrested in a bribery probe. But while most Brazilians are ready to forget him, the lackadaisical approach to law that sent him to prison is similar to the one applied to Lula.
Bolsonaro’s dwindling chances of passing his signature legislation, social security reform, have been greeted with some cheers by working Brazilians. For if approved, retirement age will be raised, pensions will have significant cuts, and a large segment of the population either won’t be able to retire, or even before they do, will be already living in conditions below the poverty line.
It isn’t hard to trace the trajectory of a disastrous idea, sold to voters on false premises and lots of bells and whistles, with more than a few touches of xenophobia and unfounded fears of immigrants. It also helps when the country’s economy is in tatters.
But it should have been a giveaway that as soon as the group of political adventurers convinced the majority of the British that the U.K. would be better off out of the European Union, out of self preservation, they all quickly abandoned their own cause.
The wreck of Brexit began pretty much as soon as the votes were counted, and the stunt became a nightmarish reality of doubts, risks, and even universal ridicule. Suddenly, a hard won peace agreement with Northern Ireland was at risk, long-standing trade routines got into disarray, and Britons realized the full extent of their vote: chaos and an unprecedented social economic crisis.
That now the realization that Brexit is also unpractical and will cost more than merely financial burden, and that a majority of citizens are firmly opposing it, shouldn’t be taken as a surprise. Like the U.S. and Brazil, England is in bad need of leadership.
Ever since Mueller was appointed, on May 2017, to probe an unheard of but possible collusion between Trump and Russia, – a non-question that is all but answered -, there was excessive expectation about the impact its results would have on the nation.
As it turned out, and as the president didn’t waste a second to commemorate, the entire process may have already run its course, and indicted all suspects it could. Sure, it’s a record number of White House officials found guilty, and they were all picked by the president himself. But it was not up to the report to connect the dots. That job belongs to congress and the American people.
There are many other investigations currently being waged on Trump and his family’s dealings while in power, specially from the NY Southern District office, Attorneys General throughout the country, the House’s expected subpoena hearings, and more.
But there’s no question the president will capitalize on this anti-climatic end for such an intense affair, and despite all shouting and foul language exchanged in forums and social media, he looks particularly strong right now. Pity a majority who didn’t vote for him, who has since only confirmed their worst fears, and now may be contemplating the unthinkable: a two-term Trump.
Not so fast, say seasoned warriors, wary of yet another defeat for progressives, but who’re not about to give it all up. Rallies are already scheduled to press on the many inconclusive points of the investigation – such as, what? no Trump building meeting? for instance. It’s not just fear of 2020, but a quasi consensus that a Trump reelection will mean the planet will quickly burn to a crisp.
Others say, but Pence, Bolton, Pompeo, and the rest of the appalling assortment of corrupted officials, or just plain incompetent hacks, currently sucking dry the White House’s credibility, will still be in power, regardless of what happens to the tweeter-in-chief. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. We still need proof for what we already know: the president did break the law.
While Bolsonaro in Brazil may be considering the possibility that he too, will be put to pasture behind bars, Trump opponents may not be so lucky. The bottom line is, while the judiciary must do its job, and congress has a big role in assuring that it will, our concerns should be picking a candidate that will beat him in the polls, period. There must be someone like that out there.
But the week was not only about gloom and disappointment, just in time for Sunday supper. Jimmy Carter became the longest-living U.S. president, even before his Oct. 1, 95th birthday. And about that, we are indeed lucky. The 39th president was the only one to have not engaged us in war, and since leaving Washington, has set a high humanistic standard for any retired world leader.
It was also a week when a planned, but outrageous U.S. invasion of Venezuela not only did not happen, but also found an old foe poised to prevent it: Russia, which sent troops to support Maduro. Curious that Russia is the one siding with law and order now.
Animal advocates were happy that Spain’s enacted a ban, although partial, on bullfighting. Not underestimating the cultural value ‘toradas’ had for Spaniards, it’s about time to put to rest old bloody sports, whose reason to be is the suffering and death of animals. Also, if you’ve noticed, Spring has sprung in the Northern Hemisphere. Time for love, flowers and picnics. Enjoy. WC

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