Monthly Archives: March 2014
Brazil is so democratic 50 years after coup that mainstream politicians were all against the dictators
For about two decades, Brazil has become, by far, the most democratic country in Latin America. We have elected mayors since the eighties, presidents since the early nineties, set up a functioning Judiciary and promoted an active press, which is free to publish whatever it likes. Different parties have held the Presidency and the institutional order, despite a few hiccups, has been reinforced. The military now is back in their headquarters and have no influence on politics.
On March 31st 1964, a movement started by conservatives and a few liberals overthrew the popular administration of center-left president João Goulart. He fled to Uruguay allegedly to avoid bloodshed. That situation is so unlikely now in this country of 200,000,000 people that only 1,000 nutcases cared enough to go to the streets to demand the military came back to power. Condoning with the dictatorship, which lasted till 1985, is seen by the vast majority as approval to torture, unlawful arrests and killings.
(Not that Brazilians are so progressive. Most of them are basically social-conservatives. But they just prefer to carry on instead of going back. That is part of our spirit as a modern nation — sometimes that is for the better, sometimes for the worse.)
Unlike other countries of the region, Brazil hasn’t revoked its amnesty laws for crimes committed during the dictatorship years (1964-1985). The Commission of Truth, installed in 2011, doesn’t have any powers to prosecute any crimes committed by military in those years — it exists basically for Brazilians to know what happened and who did what. The main reason for it to be so fickle is military personnel rejected the premise only they killed and tortured.
It is a sure thing only they did it on behalf of the State, though.
Instead, little by little, Brazilians have given the treatment fans of the dictatorship deserved: they have close to nothing when it comes to elected officials. A few senators, some congressmen, a chunk of City Hall councilors. That is it. No presidents, no governors, no mayor of important cities can get away with “I supported them in those days because it was for the best.” When people like that become candidates for executive mandates, they get less than 5% of the vote every time.
(This Human Development Index below shows why the dictatorship was also bad for the economy. Read more here.)
Brazil could have done more against those who kidnapped the country for 21 years. Some of those committed crimes against humanity. Others have stolen money freely, since press couldn’t go after them. Brazilians just let it slide, which shows a bit of our lack of character to deal with violence — we recognize it exists, but we can’t stand having a proper debate on it.
Instead of a big national debate, we decided to elect three presidents who were in the front lines of that combat. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a scholar who presided from 1995 to 2002, had to be exiled in Chile and then in Europe. His writings and eloquent speeches pissed the regime off — especially because they were in French, English and Spanish.
As an union leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva started a strike that shook the final years of the dictatorship, in the late seventies. He was arrested, followed and harassed constantly because of his role as a working class leader. Lula was then a man that was close to the average Brazilian. By demanding higher pay, he challenged the notion Brazil was in an “economic miracle.”
A former guerrilla, President Dilma Rousseff wasn’t a well-known leader then, but she got the worse treatment. Unlawfully arrested, tortured and imprisoned for three years, she had not only to endure, but also to see fellow inmates be killed or sexually abused. She, Lula and Cardoso might have their disagreements now, but they were mostly on the same side.
In the presidential elections of next October, Rousseff is going to face off with two grandchildren of important allies of those days. Opposition’s Aecio Neves was a secretary when his grandfather Tancredo was about to take the Presidency, in 1985. That man was one of the key politicians to end the dictatorship, since he was seen as moderate by the military.
In mysterious circumstances, Tancredo died before setting foot in the office as the first civilian to do so in 21 years. José Sarney, a key ally of the dictatorship, was put there instead. Although Sarney is still a key senator, his stake in power is much smaller now.
Former minister and opposition wannabe Eduardo Campos is the grandson of Miguel Arraes, a leftist leader that was exiled by the dictatorship due to his charge for land reform. The other candidates in the presidential election are likely to matter very little or nothing at all. Since democracy came back to Brazil, only Fernando Collor (1990-1992) was allies with the dictators.
He is also the only one to be impeached…
Fifty years after the coup, Brazil might not address old grievances and sorrows. But it is definitely moving forward without the terrible legacy of those days.
Just sent this to website Matador after they published that sickening Brazilian tea party article by Marcos Carvalho, saying Brazil should be the last country to host the World Cup because it is on the verge of becoming AN EVIL COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. I know this won’t give me any new friends, but I thought publishing it here would help the few international journalists that read this blog. After all, there are Brazilian journalists who can express themselves in English, there are good sources for all sorts of information and that gentleman, who sees it all from Washington D.C., isn’t one of them.
Here is the content of the email. I have added a few more comments for the sake of clarity:
I wish our first contact were because of something nicer, but I’ve written to talk about this pathetic article you’ve published. It was written by radical right-winger and designer Marcos Carvalho. A man no one knows in Brazil, but still got to be a spokesman for Matador and ESPNFC.
I find no problem with people being in whatever wing they want, but that doesn’t mean they are entitled to their own facts. And this is why I am making this effort in helping you improve your grasp of Brazil. Since not many Brazilian journalists step into the international market, clueless pundits like Carvalho are a real problem for us.
It is important I write a short bio so you know where the criticism comes from and where I stand. I’ve worked for Reuters, Yahoo and local news website UOL over the last 10 years. I’ve covered two presidential elections in Brazil, plus votes in Britain, Uruguay and Chile. I have spent almost two years in Brasilia as UOL’s chief political correspondent.
Since you’re newbies in Brazil, I will be very descriptive in my criticism and use Carvalho’s article as a reference. It will hurt, because I like good copy, not that senseless turd he wrote. Brazil deserves criticism for loads of things, but to do that properly it is important those who write it at least try to be intellectually honest.
“Brazil was led by a pragmatic technocrat called Fernando Henrique Cardoso who stabilized the economy, opened Brazilian markets to the world, and presided over the beginning of what would be Brazil’s latest economic boom.”
Cardoso was never a technocrat. He was a Social Sciences professor at University of São Paulo, a former senator with loads of votes in São Paulo. He didn’t open Brazilian markets to the world, it was actually the only achievement of his corrupted predecessor, Fernando Collor. Cardoso presided over the beginning of the economic boom, but that was in his first term. After he mysteriously changed the Constitution so he could run again, all he got was problems. Russia crisis in 99 spread to Brazil. Cardoso had to give up on the Brazilian currency’s peg to the dollar and the Brazilian economy plunged. It got even worse after an energy crisis. Worse still after Argentina submerged in 2001. Unlike Carvalho says, in very partisan blind fashion, it isn’t that simple.
“Brazilians voted in ex-guerrillas / union leaders into power. The retrograde mindset and poor market for ideas that informed the current party in power would make any serious student of public policy or economist laugh out loud.”
The only ex-guerrilla to be elected president was pro-business technocrat Dilma Rousseff. The only union leader to be elected president was Lula. But that is just a detail. When Carvalho talks about poor market ideas, he sees opposition when there is none. Lula and Dilma basically did the same Cardoso did in the economy. They were just as conservative — raising interest rates, using a budget surplus to pay for internal debt, reinforced inflation targets. It doesn’t seem Carvalho knows these core economic trends in Brazil and just wants to spread his misconception around. Besides, if economists thought there had been a dramatic change, rating agencies wouldn’t have given Brazil investment grade in 2008. Brazil has a bigger share in the IMF now too. We can discuss how important rating agencies and the IMF are, but serious economists are clearly not on Carvalho’s side.
After all, they have to read to make their assumptions.
“These are politicians who are guided by the principle that North Korea and Cuba got it right, and that the greatest tragedy in their lives was the fall of the USSR.”
So Brazil got an investment grade for being influenced by North Korea and Cuba? That is why it is hosting the World Cup and the Olympics, two of the most marketable events on Earth? Lula and Dilma are as much with North Korea and Cuba as Obama is with the terrorists that attacked the US. That sheer perception could only come from someone with a twisted view and willing to make a political point with made up facts — and you gave him a platform to say that. I think Carvalho only says it because he is against social policies, he believes Brazil should be working for people like him. That is not a rare kind of Brazilian. But it is important to say they are just a bunch of wackos.
“Brazil went from being a manufacturing powerhouse to being a raw commodities exporter.”
Brazil was never a manufacturing powerhouse. In the late 19th century, we went to war with Paraguay because they were a manufacturing powerhouse. Until the nineties, all industry was obsolete and commodities were the only focus. The stabilization of the economy fostered a better national industry, but that doesn’t mean commodities aren’t important anymore. By the works of Cardoso, Lula and Dilma, Embraer became a top jet exporter. All three had policies for carmakers. These have been key drivers out of the commodity world, I repeat, since the nineties. None were destroyed. If this is too little, it has been too little for a century, not for 10 years.
“China was buying soy, steel, and sugar at an increasing pace, and the Brazilian government was hiking up taxes and creating the most convoluted bureaucracy possible to keep industrialists and entrepreneurs in the tightest straightjacket possible while agriculture and mining flourished, which is a simple recipe for economic disaster, and shows incredibly poor vision and judgement.”
Ask any foreign correspondent you want. Brazilian bureaucracy has been there since time immemorial. In 1987, Brazil had a Ministry of Deburocratization, which is a joke in itself. About hiking taxes: if Carvalho can name three taxes that were lifted I will write a story now about Brazilian reporters missing it in those days of Lula and Dilma. The main reason being: high interest rates make a large chunk of borrowing costs and growth in the last years was based on CONSUMPTION. More people paying taxes is what makes sense, because there has been a combat to tax evaders. Any respectable news organization that reports on Brazil knows that.
“On top of that, dozens of the ruling party’s members and their political allies were caught stealing billions of reais. The mensalão, the greatest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil, has recently landed several politicians from the ruling party in jail, but this hasn’t stopped their cronies from stealing.”
This would be too long to discuss, but one thing I can say: we impeached a corrupted president before Cardoso took office. How can this be the greatest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil? Only a biased writer can say that.
“Actually, every year the Workers’ Party is in power, Brazil slides further in the index.”
Not true. Just check.
“The current ruling party wants to perpetuate itself in power at all costs, and possibly eternally.”
No basis to say that. Just check how many elections we have, how the Judiciary is more independent than Spain’s, for example, and how press is free. Even idiots like Carvalho can say whatever they want and go unpunished.
“The government also disburses millions in taxpayer money to pay hackers to attack opposition parties’ websites, to fund social activists who sabotage the opposition’s Facebook pages, and to pay for the president’s makeup and lavish travels.”
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA That is just pathetic. Did you guys actually read this before you published it?
“Do you see why people are angry? How can a government that cares so little for its people hold the honor of hosting the greatest, most watched, event on Earth?”
I should probably tell you polls show Dilma Rousseff is the favourite to win reelection. And she had a 81% job approval before the protests kicked off. By the way, the most watched event on Earth is the Summer Olympic Games. Not the World Cup.
“Ms. Rousseff, like Mr. Lula da Silva, worship at the feet of brutal dictators like Castro, and Gaddafi, whom Mr. Lula da Silva called “my friend, my brother, and my leader.”
That is a fact just in Carvalho’s twisted mind. He is probably watching Glenn Beck clips too much and you are spreading his lies as if it were op-ed.
“Meanwhile, censorship has finally returned to the press rooms of Brazilian newspapers and TV stations for the first time since the re-establishment of democracy. And there are laws in the works to further censor the press.”
If there is censorship in Brazilian press, I will write you a check of 1,000 dollars. Talk to journalists before spreading smears that have nothing to do with Brazil. I am not someone who grew up in Brazil and left. I am a journalist here and I can give you 1,000 others who will loathe that piece you published. I was never censored and neither were they.
If Matador wants to be respected here, try looking for better sources. If you just want the attention, even if it is by publishing smears, I should tell you the word hits is an acronym for how idiots track success.