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Brazzil - Politics - September 2004

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.

Carlos Chagas

Picture 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 Bring

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
Translated 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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