The Brazilian Scene – IX

Image: Cyrus Saurius
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By BENICIO VIEIRO SCHMIDT*

Comments on recent events

The highlight of the next few days will be the CPI on COVID-19. Pressures by the Federal Government to withdraw the signatures of the senators necessary for the establishment of the CPI were in vain. The turmoil increased with the release of the recorded dialogue between President Bolsonaro and Senator Kajuru. Planned as a form of pressure, it worked like a shot in the foot as it revealed, for example, that the Pfizer executive – offering vaccines just last year – waited for ten hours at the Planalto Palace for an audience with the president who never there was.

One never knows how the investigations of a CPI will end, although it is perfectly known how they begin. The investigation of responsibility by the Federal Government is inscribed in the internal regulations of the Senate, whose article 146 explicitly states that a CPI of the Senate contemplates the acts of the Union. Small doctrinal doubts remain regarding the eventual involvement of state and municipal governments; perhaps this will only be possible through the examination of federal transfers to these federative units.

The CPI can result in quite drastic decisions, as was the case of the CPI of the Judiciary that ended up instructing the impeachment of the then senator Luiz Estevão (DF) due to his involvement in the construction of the Palace of Labor Justice in São Paulo, presided over by the famous Judge Nicholas. It may also lead to the impeachment of mandates, as happened to Roberto Jefferson and Zé Dirceu in the CPI of the Post Office and the monthly allowance. All this can happen, as nothing can happen.

The main immediate target of the CPI will be the administration of health by former Minister Eduardo Pazuello, who tends to become the center of attraction.

In any case, one conclusion is drawn: the intemperance of the authorities involved in the CPI procedures could cause unexpected results, as the recording of the president's conversation with Senator Kajuru anticipates. Incidentally, the Citizenship Party's reaction was immediate and Kajuru has already been dismissed from that party.

Political reform, in turn, is being discussed in the Chamber based on several projects. The body's president, Deputy Arthur Lira, constituted a commission of scholars on the issue with the participation of more than one hundred specialists. Apparently, there is a consensus that the “district” will not be approved, that is, only the most voted will not be elected regardless of the party's votes. The current criteria for proportional election will continue to apply. The hypothesis of the return of financing of electoral campaigns by companies and banks appears with force. What is considered there is a limitation of BRL 200.000 per CNPJ. In any case, it is a regression in relation to current legislation. Today, the financing of foundations, the operation of political parties and electoral expenses is mostly from public funds.

Last week, the government reactivated the privatization policy. 22 airports and roads were privatized with the grant of a few billion reais. At this time of the height of the health crisis, a rather controversial agenda is resumed. On the other hand, the continued disinvestment of Petrobrás stands out, which, also last week, sold its stake in another wind farm for a few thousand reais.

Meanwhile, the 2021 budget remains deadlocked. It is not known how and where to accommodate the 16 billion reais of parliamentary amendments. The confusion stems from the fact that some cuts were made preliminarily in mandatory expenditures, mainly social security, health and education. This predicament will have to be resolved by the government and the legislature by the April 22 deadline.

Lastly, minister Rosa Weber's preliminary injunction refuting some decrees on gun control enacted by President Jair Bolsonaro stands out. The decision still depends on the manifestation of the plenary of the STF.

*Benicio Viero Schmidt is a retired professor of sociology at UnB. Author, among other books, of The State and urban policy in Brazil (LP&M).

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