Brazilians are starting to feel the pinch of a brand new Worker’s Party (PT) administration, the most recent in one of a total of 4 in almost 16 years of PT control of national affairs.
PORTO ALEGRE – Even people who are apolitical or who really do not give a damn about politics are now speaking out about it.
The latest list of reasons for people to say something about the first month of Dilma Rousseff’s second term as President includes more increases in taxes, out of control inflation, increases in the price of utilities, less funding for education, higher interest rates on loans and, last but not least, the newest political scandal at Petrobras.
Under the circumstances, the start of 2015 does not seem very promising for Brazilians.
What happens is, Brazil has been living in two parallel worlds for the past 16 years. In one of them, the fantasy world, the politicians speak about the great accomplishments achieved under undeclared socialism.
In the other world, the real one, is where Brazilians have experienced more increases in taxes, out of control inflation, increases in the price of utilities, less funding for education, higher interest rates on loans, the collapse of basic infrastructure including hospitals, healthcare, pensions, savings and so on.
After holding on to power on the last election, and with nothing to lose in her second term, President Dilma Rousseff, is now being frank about how she intends to govern.
After having the confidence of millions of Brazilians, Dilma and the PT lost most of it in the last 5 years, with scandal after scandal pointing to the political leadership as the stewards of corruption. It is to this situation that Dilma needs to provide hope for, since it seems the start of 2015 has only brought disillusionment and fear of having to deal with a bitter time of economic austerity.
A country that during the last election was separated only by a few million votes is not yet a torn country, but it is well underway to becoming one. It’s the same Brazil everyone knew before the Confederations Cup in 2013.
Those who gave their vote and who were denied have the same dream: a better country for themselves and their children future. The problem is, the Worker’s Party has refused to work on bringing about that country for almost 16 years.
It may be a split between two forms of government, between two political ideas, but both social blocks, the supporters of neoliberal policies and those who prefer socialism, want to go from the Brazil from today to the Brazil of the 21 century that Lula and Dilma announced several years ago, but that has not come.
What Brazilians seem to be sick and tired of is corruption, hypocrisy, meanness and lack of ethics that should not be the rule because they have entrusted their leaders to carry out their work in a different way.
Brazilians from both all sides think the same about political corruption, disloyalty, abuses of power and the lack of participation of civil society in governance.
Dilma will need to understand that she is now governing for an increasingly informed public whose numbers increase daily as they read things differently, not with the lenses of political apathy, conformism or resignation.
Each new president, from now on, will have greater difficulty to govern because Brazilians have awakened from a long slumber, and in doing so do not accept orders passively as people have acquired greater capacity to monitor power.
It may be harder and complex for the rulers. In this case for Dilma, in the next four years, she will be observed by a more active political opposition with which she has to live without stigmatizing them.
The leader of 200 million Brazilians has the task and obligation to make decisions that are consistent with campaign promises and be able to correct the mistakes that denied a broader victory. The question is, will she? Can she? Unfortunately, the answer to these two questions is no. A president cannot and will not end corruption, inequality and injustice when she participates of them and when her ethics have been compromised.
Although common wisdom says that it should not be hard to govern a country where all that people want is to be liked, recognized for their dignity and to be respected and to not be played with, no political figure that has taken part in the scandal of the Mensalão or extortion at Petrobras have the political or moral standing to do the job.
In addition to the political scandals, Brazilians have to deal with the impending economic crisis led by mismanagement of public monies, a collapsing infrastructure, the growth of poverty, a strongly devalued currency, an insufficient minimum salary, and the accelerated accumulation of wealth in the hands of the political and economic elites.
Brazil condescending society, the one satisfied with little as long as people can have their “jeitinho” is dying. What is emerging is a different, more demanding, perhaps less cordial and even more violent, but more modern and realistic country.
Perhaps the renowned anthropologist Roberto da Matta, who unraveled as few the idiosyncrasies of the Brazilian that is divided between the house and the street, speaks about the new society that is emerging where many doors and windows are collapsing. You have found a new way to go out, using social networks to be more political, where people start to be more political than in the cabinets of the Presidency.
Brazil is starting to walk, but still on tiptoe, by new ways of modernity that scares the old guard. Dilma will govern these four years with her ear and head glued to the longings of the new Brazilians.
Today, the political elite knows that Brazilians are aware of their enslavement by democratically elected governments. The question is then, do the political and economic elites understand what does such awareness mean?
Brazil opened 2015 with the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff as president, which will be the fourth consecutive term of the Workers Party (PT), the longest of Brazilian democracy.
In her inaugural speech in Brasilia, Rousseff maintained that the country will continue opening up space for social gains and more economic responsibility.
“We will prove that you can make adjustments in the economy without losing the rights won,” she said after the ceremonial ride in a Rolls Royce convertible that led to the Congress. Can she show the contrasts between what she says and what she does more clearly?
Rousseff spent the first few minutes of her speech talking about the recent social transformation of the country that according to her “rescued 36 million people out of extreme poverty”, particularly during her Party’s administrations. Dilma’s belief is that it is acceptable to have people in poverty and that while they are in poverty and not extreme poverty, it means that things are better.
“In my first term we overcame extreme poverty. We live the first generation of Brazilians who did not suffer the tragedy of hunger. Never before did so many have formal jobs. Never before have so many Brazilians become homeowners,” said the president to the applause of her guests.
The reality is, however, farther from Dilma’s speech than most people know. Politicians live in a parallel fantasy world, remember? As Dilma praises herself and her Party for what she considers great accomplishments, under international poverty lines, Brazil’s poor reach 7%, that is 14 million people who live on less than $2 a day. In 2013, almost 15% of Brazilians lived under the national poverty line in Brazil.
Rousseff‘s speeches continue to reaffirm the new economic direction that the country will follow as Dilma selected bankster Joaquim Levy as new finance minister.
As we reported back in 2014, Levy is a former asset manager at the Bradesco banking conglomerate. “He is a leading Brazilian proponent of orthodox neoliberalism, having earned a PhD at the University of Chicago, the same institution from which former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet drew his principal financial and economic officials,” writes Bill Van Auken, a full-time reporter, activist and politician.
Levy’s promises savings and adjustments which has aroused the ire of voters of the Workers Party (PT), who have not found in Levy the champion of their socialist economic ideals. “The president knows Levy very well. If she chose him is because she knows the need for a new approach,” defended former Finance Minister Antônio Palocci.
One of the main challenges for Rousseff, is improving economic conditions by reviving the economy and international trade is fiscal policy and the creation of unnecessary expenses. In a country where government has a say on everything, it will be much harder to cut wasteful spending unless government does away with thousands of CCs or positions of trust, whose holders earn three or four times as much as those who get paid the minimum salary.
The accounts, however, not be the only concern of Rousseff. The president, 67, began her second term with a divided PT, a political mafia weakened by allegations that damage the image and actions – or inactions – seen in the Petrobras scandal. The suspicion that the corrupt network diverts money and bribes government officials is now well-known as it is of public knowledge that such corruption schemes were established during the Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff to benefit his political allies.
As any other politician, the president announced in her speech a new package of laws to combat corruption. That is exactly what politicians who know nothing about governing like to do: Create more bureaucracy to deal with corruption that stems from existing bureaucratic structures.
Can Brazil survive another 4 years of this?