[Marxism] Ruling Party's Scandals Seem to Fizzle in Brazil

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 25 05:29:59 MST 2005

Lula Contemplates Re-Election

Rio de Janeiro, Nov 24 (Prensa Latina) Brazilian President Luiz
Inacio Lula da Silva said he has not decided whether to run for a
second term.

The statesman lamented to radio stations from Rio and Sao Paulo that
the ongoing campaign from the opposition and media are focussing on
negative aspects and deflecting his achievements.

Questioned if he will run again in the October 2006 elections, he
recalled that he still has 13 months to go, adding that his
"adversaries are the ones to decide; they are stumbling, offensive
and very nervous."

On an inquiry issued Tuesday signalling declining support he wondered
"What President would endure the attacks I have suffered since June?"

Lula also reaffirmed his defense of Finance Minister Palocci, the
latest opposition target, along with persistent rumors of

"Palocci is extremely important for Brazil," and "will no doubt
continue to be my Finance Minister, without speculation", he added.

Lula added that Brazil is on the track of sustainable development and
the current policy leads to expanding exports and the domestic market
all achieved with low inflation rates.

He recalled that this is the best time for employment in the last 25
years with 3.6 billion new jobs in 35 months, and forecasted further
growth in 2006.

Lula also voiced his joy for the social programs his government
boosted along with his awareness of the need to do more, paying
special attention to the youth.

"We will have to adopt tougher, radical measures to give the youth
more hope and security that we will guarantee the opportunities they
need," said President Lula.


Ruling Party's Scandals Seem to Fizzle in Brazil
No major shake-ups are expected despite corruption inquiries. The public
grows weary.
By Henry Chu
Times Staff Writer

November 25, 2005

RIO DE JANEIRO - After five months of shocking revelations and often
riveting testimony, one of the worst government corruption scandals
in Brazilian history may simply end, as the saying here goes, in a

That means that the consequences don't amount to much, and at the end
of the day, everyone slaps one another on the back and gets ready for
a party and a little pie.

Three separate congressional investigations are examining allegations
that the ruling Workers' Party bribed lawmakers to vote its way, that
election campaigns were financed with slush funds and that some
officials received kickbacks from the postal service.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chief of staff has been forced
to step down, his finance minister's fate has been cast into doubt,
and a congressional deputy has been expelled.

A handful of representatives accused of corruption have resigned
rather than face expulsion, but only because by resigning first they
are allowed to run for office again in the next election. Lula's
disgraced right-hand man left the president's side, but returned to
his post as a member of Congress and has successfully used the courts
to block his colleagues' efforts to throw him out.

But no major shake-up or reform is expected in a system whose rules
are routinely exploited by politicians to avoid punishment or loss of
power. Moreover, an electorate that initially followed every fresh
revelation with relish and outrage has apparently reached the
saturation point.

Many Brazilians now feel too exhausted to absorb the allegations that
continue to surface, such as the latest one, in the newsmagazine
Veja, accusing the Workers' Party of accepting covert campaign
donations from Cuba, stashed away in rum and whiskey cartons.

"Everybody is already a little tired of the scandal," said Rogerio
Schmitt, a political analyst with the Tendencias consultancy in Sao
Paulo. "Everybody thinks, 'Well, what will Veja publish this weekend?
What's the next allegation coming?' Even for myself, I have to keep
track of all those allegations professionally, and it's very hard to
keep up to date."

The scandal fatigue among the general public has meant good news for
Lula, Brazil's first working-class president, who won election in
2002 promising clean government.

After plunging to their lowest levels since he took office, Lula's
approval ratings appear to have stabilized. Although his approval
ratings, recently 40% to 45%, are a far cry from the 80% he enjoyed
soon after taking office, analysts believe he still stands a fair
chance of reelection next year.

Lula's position has been bolstered by the continued strong
performance of Brazil's export-driven economy, South America's
largest. This month, the Brazilian currency, the real, climbed to its
highest point against the dollar in more than four years. Within the
last 18 months, the value of the real has increased against the
dollar by nearly 30%.

Muttered threats of impeachment have faded, especially because a Lula
ally recently took over as president of Congress. Lula's
administration has also authorized more spending on infrastructure
and what critics see as pork-barrel projects to mollify opposition
lawmakers intent on dragging out the congressional inquiries.

This month, the Brazilian leader granted his first interview to the
news media since the scandal broke, after months of criticism that he
was ducking the press. On the nationally televised "Roda Viva"
program, Lula declared that his administration was not trying to
influence or hinder the investigations.

"There's no meddling by the government to create any problems for the
[investigations]," he said. "There's a dream I have that . there will
come a day in which we will be able to clean up Brazil."

He condemned the use of a secret fund to finance Workers' Party
campaigns - a practice he had earlier characterized as no big deal -
and dismissed the allegations of a monthly bribe to lawmakers for
their favorable votes in Congress, despite testimony to the contrary.

"I am certain that there was no mensalao," Lula said, referring to
the alleged payment with a Portuguese word meaning the "big monthly
one." "This smells like folklore."

And as he frequently does in public appearances, the president
alluded to his personal background, his childhood experience of
hunger and poverty and his years of toil as a metalworker and union

The emphasis on his inspirational life story proved an effective
campaign strategy in the 2002 election. But not everyone welcomed its
repetition in the interview.

"He knows like nobody else how to get the most out of his origins and
'story' in order to manipulate heavy consciences in search of
redemption," political columnist Dora Kramer wrote in the daily O
Estado de Sao Paulo after the interview was aired.

Whether it was enough to restore his reputation in the eyes of the
public, particularly the middle-class voters who supported him in
hopes that he would bring honest government to Brazil, is open to

"There's a very strong feeling among Brazilians that 'Oh, we've been
duped,' " said Schmitt, the political analyst with the consultancy.
"Everybody believed that Lula was different from traditional
politicians, that his party was different, that he would change
everything and be the best president we ever had. Those kinds of
expectations have already died. Lula will be perceived ... [as]
someone almost like all the others, someone who promised much more
than he was able to deliver."

Schmitt said that the investigations may result in a few more
expulsions or resignations from Congress, but that institutional
reform would probably be left to the next government.

Because of the crisis and Lula's weakened administration, no
substantive legislation or initiatives are expected over the next 12
months. Even officials within the presidential palace privately
acknowledge that the business of setting policy is basically over
until the October election.

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