The pitfalls for Lula – part 4

Image: Sebastian Sorensen


Foreign relations and anti-corruption

foreign relations

Many may find it strange that the issue of foreign relations is classified as part of the trap entangling President Lula's government. After all, didn't Lula take us out of international marginality just by taking office in the presidency? And even more, for the advanced positions assumed in Sharm-el-Sheik, in Egypt, even before the inauguration? Jair Bolsonaro was so venomous that political leaders around the world, with the obvious exception of half a dozen fascists of the same ilk, immediately supported the elected official and repudiated the coup attempt. “Brazil has returned”, was a cry of relief from international diplomacy and ours. So why is this topic in this series of articles?

The issue is more internal than external and refers to the dispute over democracy and dictatorship that has enormous repercussions in the conventional media and even more in virtual networks. By not supporting an almost unanimous declaration among the leaders of Latin American countries, condemning the Ortega regime for violations of human rights and the principles that govern democracies, the Lula government opened up an unnecessary flank. In other words, he refused to sign a libel against a dictatorship.

Lula had already made more than one slip, it was even a real tap dance on the tomato, when being interviewed by two journalists from the The country, at the end of a triumphant tour of Europe. Faced with a question about the elections in Nicaragua by interlocutors largely sympathetic to our leader, Lula responded irritably with another question: “because no one is surprised by the fact that Angela Merkel has been in power for over 15 years, longer than Ortega in Nicaragua?” The astonishment of the two was such that they almost stuttered the obvious answer: “there can be no comparison. Angela Merkel was chosen prime minister by the German Parliament after several elections, where the coalitions she articulated had a majority. Ortega had seven candidates arrested who stood against him, in addition to the electoral processes in Nicaragua being widely contested inside and outside the country”.

Lula changed the subject and started to complain about the fact that he had been excluded from the 2018 elections in fraudulent processes. This episode was a big deal here in Brazil, and the only reason it wasn't explored further was because the mainstream media had no interest, at that time, in weakening the candidate who could defeat the nerd who sat in the president's chair.

The PT's position on the "friendly dictatorships", Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua is contested internally within the party, but a solid denialism prevails, combined with a diversionary rhetoric that does not discuss the regimes and their nature, democratic or dictatorial, striving to show social gains and point to US imperialism to explain any problems. Implicitly, this is the same as saying that making a government for the people (questionable in the cases of Ortega and Maduro) and opposing imperialism justify dictatorial regimes.

That's when things got real and the PT, Lula and his government gave rise to attacks by campaigns from the right, from the center and even from other forces on the left, albeit with different approaches. The right wing uses this anachronistic position to say that, deep down, the PT is a communist party and wants to transform Brazil into Cuba or Venezuela. Who doesn't remember the refrain “go to Cuba”, chanted by bolsominions to any supporter of Lula or the PT? When it is verified, by the last opinion poll, that 44% of those interviewed believe that there is a real communist threat in the country, the theme of “friendly dictatorships” cannot be treated without the necessary rigor, leaving it aside as secondary.

The position of PT and Lula is so much more anachronistic that eminent leftists in Latin America and the rest of the world have already declared their criticism of these regimes, even highlighting the ignominy of the US economic siege, or the social gains of the Cuban government.

I have been intrigued by this PT joke for a long time, and even more so by Lula, who does not have the same roots steeped in logic that formed part of the party's elite, Stalinism. The nostalgia for the times of the Soviet Union and the Stalinism of the communist parties seems to me so much stranger because, in times when those who today defend dictatorial regimes tooth and nail were in militancy against our dictatorship and there was no sympathy for the Soviet regime. Yes, there were those who defended the Chinese or Albanian dictatorship, but they were less vocal.

Back in 1968, while we were involved in libertarian struggles, there was a strange political hiatus when Czechoslovakia was invaded by Warsaw Pact troops, repeating the events of Hungary in 1956. student body) defended the invasion or criticized it with various and embarrassed reservations. Popular Action and PCdoB attacked the invasion, branding the Soviet Union as an expression of state capitalism and a betrayal of the socialist movement. But within the PA there was a contradiction between those who discussed a socialist and democratic revolution and those who treated the defense of democracy as a tactic and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a dogma, to be applied once in power.

This discussion has evolved a lot and has been deepened throughout our lives as militants, with the vast majority becoming critical of dictatorial regimes, right and left.

This debate about friendly dictatorships has repercussions on another front, that of the war in Ukraine. Or the US war with Russia via Ukraine. Not by chance, the vast majority of those who defend the aforementioned regimes are also defenders of Vladimir Putin and the invasion. In this case, the positions are more complicated due to Bolsonaro's support for Vladimir Putin. But the simplified geopolitical view prevails: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Some go further and defend Vladimir Putin as a great statesman. Lula, in this case, is trying a centrist position, neither here nor there, for peace. With the intention of placing itself as a negotiator, along with other “non-aligned” countries.

In my opinion, he's putting his hand in a bowl where it shouldn't be. The Ukrainian imbroglio challenges even the most weighty diplomats. And, without much skill, a position is adopted in which, on the one hand, Brazil signs a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion by Russia, at the same time that it claims the inclusion of a paragraph calling for peace in this declaration. The Russians did not stop turning up their noses at this type of “neutrality”, since the starting point of the resolution is the defense of the withdrawal of the invading troops. On the other hand, Brazil refused to send weapons or ammunition to Ukraine, angering both Volodymyr Zelensky and his tutor, Joe Biden. Lula risks getting on bad terms with both sides. And, internally, on the left-wing virtual networks, the controversy continues to be more and more aggressive.

To complete this very brief assessment of our diplomatic risks, I cannot fail to repeat that the most favorable point for Lula at the international level, his position on deforestation and the climate issue, could turn against him and our diplomacy, if we are not able to carry out this proposal. Imagine Americans, Norwegians, Germans and British (who are financing or declare themselves willing to finance our environmental policies) demanding control of the aggressions of Brazilian agribusiness to our tropical forests and the Brazilian government defending our exports from the affected biomes. From good guy to bad guy, the step is short in this cruel world.

It is not a political front as threatening as the others announced so far, but a coherent position for democracy would be very important, here or anywhere else, under penalty of giving rise to the accusations that neither the PT nor Lula are true democrats. . It is clear that the accusers have a glass ceiling, either because of their current positions (bolsominions) or past ones (mainstream media), but an important part of public opinion does not fit into these two categories and expects a clearer position, at least in line with the unassailable José Mujica.

A questno of corruptiono

It is no secret to anyone the weight of this issue in political processes since redemocratization. During the dictatorship, corruption was rampant, but the control of spaces for political demonstration allowed the military to leave power without this being clear to public opinion. During the government of José Sarney, the newly created PT campaigned fiercely for ethics in politics” and this posture gained a greater dimension with the scandals of the government of Fernando Collor, which led to his impeachment. With the protagonism assumed by the public attorneys, empowered by the 1988 Constitution and the continuous action of the PT, the FHC government was continuously worn out, mainly by the operation of buying votes in the congress for the approval of the PEC of the re-election. There is no doubt that this ethical identity of the PT favored Lula in the campaign that took him to the Presidency of the Republic in 2002.

But Lula's election to the presidency took place with a concurrent election of a congress with a right-wing majority. This reminds me of a discussion I had with my old friend and fellow exile in Chile and France, Marco Aurélio Garcia, when he coordinated, in 1998, the commission for building the program of candidate Lula to the presidency and I represented the PSB in the subcommittee of agricultural and agrarian policy. Plinio Sampaio and I, representing the PT, wrote the proposal that the subcommittee (which also included the PDT, the PCdoB and the PCB) approved.

Marco Aurélio found the proposals very radical. “With these positions we will never win the elections”, pondered my friend. “Without these positions it is not worth winning the elections”, I replied. The PT (and the various fronts that supported Lula since 1989) softened its programmatic positions in order to expand its margin of votes. It worked to reach the presidency, but the effect in proportional elections was not to obtain a stable majority in congress.

How to govern without a parliamentary majority, with a congress more empowered by the Constituent Assembly? There was talk of coalition presidentialism, but the fact is that Lula needed, as much as his predecessors, to attract deputies and senators. It so happens that the Brazilian party system does not favor the formation of political bodies of an ideological and programmatic nature. PT and, at the beginning of its existence, the PSDB, were the rare exceptions. The rest was (and is) an agglomeration of localized or thematic interests, without consistency in terms of a project for the country.

The designation “low clergy” was created to define a growing number of parliamentarians whose only interest was to maintain their place in the Chamber and Senate. For a long time, the way to win the votes of these characters was the release of funds for individual parliamentary projects. The more organic side of the parties was attracted by positions on the Esplanade or in public companies and departments spread across the country. Controlling ministries, especially those with large budgets, made it possible to carry out politics, directing public investments towards the party's electoral strongholds. On the other hand, the manipulation of bids and the payment of bribes by companies contracted by governments was an almost permanent way to finance parties and to line the pockets of politicians. It was the reign of the so-called “caixa dois”, resources donated to parties and politicians that were not formalized in the electoral justice system.

These mechanisms, which have to be called by their name, corruption, lead to a distortion of the ability of different parties to compete in elections, as some end up much better allocated than others. The PT and other leftist parties suffered this unfair competition for many years and denounced it relentlessly. But once in power, the PT and Lula had a difficult choice: either they played the game as the parties that preceded them in power did, or they became hostages of a hostile congress.

In the political philosophy of the Stalinist left “the ends justify the means”, but this motto is not exclusive to this left. Virtually every politician, of any ideology, who has been in power, had to decide, at some point, to maintain moral and ethical principles or to forget them in the name of greater goals. To give a historic example, the impeccable President Abraham Lincoln only managed to get a majority in the US Congress to declare the end of slavery through vote buying, blackmail and pressure. This does not legitimize either corruption or the abandonment of ethics in terms of noble objectives. But it explains a lot.

Lula confessed in an interview in the midst of the “mensalão” denunciations, that the PT did what has always been done in Brazil, that is, it used slush funds. A minor crime, different from the private appropriation of public money or corporate bribery. Although the slush fund had, obligatorily, a counterpart of irregular advantages for the donors of the resources, this peccadillo was so common that it could be publicly admitted without consequences greater than political weariness.

Lula turned around the wear and tear and was re-elected with ease in the second round in 2006, leaving the government in 2010 with 80% approval. This may mean that the ends justified the means in the eyes of the electorate.

In the government of Dilma Rousseff, who created the expression “malfeitos” as a nickname for cases of corruption, the purchase of support in congress was wholesale, via the distribution of positions in ministries and public companies to allies of the center and the right. She had as an opponent a sinister character who raised strong support from the lower clergy, distributing benefits to deputies, Eduardo Cunha. This mayor had no hesitation in blackmailing the President of the Republic and her party, always with the threat of putting the request for impeachment to a vote. And he ended up doing just that, on the day the PT refused to vote for Cunha in the Chamber's ethics committee.

The scale of the buying and selling of votes in the Dilma Rousseff government was greater and even so she did not get stable support. With the loss of popular support in his second government, there was no slush fund that was able to stop the movement for the coup. At the same time, the action of the judges and prosecutors in the Lava-Jato operation, with the militant support of the mainstream media, caused enormous wear and tear on the government. The arrested and confessed characters were all from allied parties, although there were PT members accused in the accusations, including Lula himself.

We all know that these processes were largely manipulated for political purposes and ended up being annulled and extinguished due to lapse of time. But only the very naive accept the narrative that it was all an invention by Sérgio Moro and Deltan Dalagnol, the mainstream media and the CIA, according to some, aiming not only to overthrow the PT government, but to do away with Petrobras, deliver the pre- salt, destroy national contractors, among other objectives. There was a lot of criminal invention, no doubt, but the basic facts were very real, so much so that billions were returned by corrupt people and many others paid as fines by corruptors.

The mark left by the operation and its intense media exploitation was rooted in the conscience of voters and even more so by the disappointment of those who had supported the PT and Lula for the discourse of ethics in politics.

Jair Bolsonaro, a corrupt member of the lower clergy, with a family following and improving the patriarch's illegal enrichment procedures, made ridiculous the amounts of money circulated in the Lava-jato operation. The curious thing is that, even so, the Bolsominions who roared against the corruption of PT governments stopped idolizing the “myth”. What is more serious is the fact that Jair Bolsonaro handed over the keys to public coffers to characters like Artur Lira, Eduardo Cunha of the time. Increasing portions of the budget passed to the control of individual or collective amendments in the House and Senate.

Some are imposing and each parliamentarian owns a substantial portion to invest in their electoral strongholds. It is a total absurdity from the point of view of the budgetary logic of a government across the country and not from the sum of municipalities where parliamentarians have votes. It is also absurd from the point of view of fairness in electoral campaigns, since those elected now have a huge advantage over the other candidates, as was the case in these last elections.

Eliminated by the STF, the rapporteur's amendments were replaced by the commission's amendments and Artur Lira's power of manipulation remained untouched. The Lula government is having to live with a congressional superpower, concentrated in the thirsty hands of the president of the Chamber. The game is now no longer box two, although it can respawn at any time. Buying votes is official and legal, but it has a super powerful operator.

Lula was elected by a formal coalition of left and center-left parties, supported by a broad informal coalition made up of the mainstream media, civil society organizations, politicians of all ideologies, from the president of the New Party to the old PSDB leaders. , such as José Serra and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, important businessmen, jurists, intellectuals and artists, priests, bishops and pastors, saints, digital influencers, others. He would not have won without this support, including, and of enormous relative importance, that of Simone Tebet.

In order to govern, Lula knows that he has to give spaces in the government to parties of the right and center and he is doing that. The problem is that the fragmentation of parties does not guarantee that the support of the leadership of the MDB or União Brasil will be reflected in secure votes in congress. Buying nowadays is at retail. And there is a budget, secret or not, to satisfy this increasingly large lower clergy.

As I already wrote in another article, calling the physiologists to the government is inevitable, but it comes at a cost. Any accusation of corruption, and they are already popping up, will contaminate the government as a whole. If Lula removes a minister who is suspected of “misdeeds”, he gets a crack at the minister's party, with threats from the opposition in Congress. It has already happened in these less than 100 days and it will happen more often, as it is the nature of these allies.

There is nothing to be done, in these circumstances, just as there is nothing to be done about the accusations raised in the Lava Jato operation. The denialist narrative of PT and Lula is not credible, but the alternative of making a mea culpa or public self-criticism would have been political and judicial suicide. Paradoxically, the same abuses of power that made it possible to accuse and condemn so many politicians and businessmen also overturned the processes and paved the way for Lula's return.

The only solution for Lula and the PT is to remain purer than the lamb of God, among the suspects of the very low clergy with whom they will have to deal in government. And, repeating Lula's performance after the monthly allowance accusations, create a government that is highly rated and allows bad company to be forgotten.

The trap is exactly the fact that running a super administration will be extremely difficult given the set of webs that entangle the government.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

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