The Brazilian Scene – XXXI

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By BENÍCIO VIERO SCHMIDT*

Commentary on recent events

The government once and for all loosened its controls over the federal budget, basically as a result of pressure from the parliamentary group. Strange country, Brazil, where from the first day of their mandates, congressmen begin to accumulate resources for (their) next election. This is precisely the case, with the STF's withdrawal from the full disclosure of the “rapporteur's amendments”, making public control of the indication of resources for works and other projects in the local regional bases of deputies and senators impossible.

In the clash between Congress and the STF, there is an abundance of information, confirmed anonymously by the parliamentarians themselves, on pricing for authorization of the use of resources from secret amendments: there is a congressman who charges between 10% and 15% of toll for the forwarding of city halls, social organizations and other holders of rights to receive. A scandal with electoral purposes, which even the opposition to Bolsonaro has not resisted in Congress.

Let it be said that the resources (R$ 16 billion) are valid for 2021 and are already included in the 2022 budget, to be voted on at the end of the year. Resources whose application does not obey strategic planning criteria – supposedly under the control of the Ministry of Economy – serving only the immediate demands of local and regional authorities. A plant of patrimonialism, as well attested by reports in the Folha de São Paulo and Estadão on the use of federal agencies (CODEVASF, for example) in the northeast of the country, already under the control of traditional families of local mandonismo, as is the case of the involvement of the president of the Federal Chamber, the notorious Arthur Lira.

Parliamentary pressure also fuels a movement that aims to withdraw from the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) resources that would go to the Electoral Fund next year. Congress wants R$5,7 billion for this purpose. All of this indicates the patrimonial nature of Brazilian politics, with parliamentarians increasingly eager for public resources to maintain their powers. This should also result in low renewal of the National Congress in the next elections.

The year ends with a summary balance of the implemented reforms, allegedly aimed at “incentives to private investment”. This is how the autonomy of the Central Bank is configured, with four-year terms for president and directors, not coinciding with that of the elected president of the republic (Complementary Law 179 of 24/02/2021). The enactment of the regulatory framework for natural gas also goes in the same direction, aiming at expanding distribution and supposedly favoring competitiveness (Law 14134 of 08/04/2021).

The business environment is streamlined and less bureaucratic, especially with regard to opening new companies (Law 14195 of 20/08/2021); while the legislation on the foreign exchange market (PL 5367/2019) awaits presidential approval, having passed through the Chamber and Senate. Other measures (regulation of the cabotage market, new legal framework for the railway sector and the legal framework for the electricity sector) are on the verge of voting.

An embarrassing fact of 2021: André Mendonça's choice for the STF. Immediately after taking office, he participated in a ceremony at the Assembly of God, in Brasília. Its commitment to the Secular State is yet to be proven. Sad scene.

The Federal Police invades the homes of Ciro and Cid Gomes in Fortaleza, looking for traces of operations that took place ten years ago. Smell of persecution and political stigmatization directed by the Presidency of the Republic. A serious fact with consequences for the tense electoral environment of 2022.

The latest polls on the elections point to Lula with a large advantage over the current president. There are real chances of victory in the first round. There is room for evaluations on the advantages and disadvantages of having Geraldo Alckmin as a vice-presidential candidate. The Datafolha survey (December 13-16) indicates that yes, there are advantages, albeit small ones. What seems to be evident is the delay, or impossibility, of taking off a third route, either with Moro or Doria. The chances of a bottleneck between Lula and Bolsonaro remain intact. Data show that the “people from the basement” (as in the song by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco) will support Lula on this foolish ship of national politics.

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

 

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