Brazil: Lula Declines Debate

Boz says that President Lula da Silva made a big error by declining to show up for the first presidential debate. Opposition blogger Luís Afonso Assumpção is bothered by Lula's increasing numbers in the polls despite recent kidnappings by the PCC (First Command of the Capital). Andrew of Comings Communiqué calls Conor Foley's latest blog post “one of the best summaries of Brazilian politics that I have ever seen.”

1 comment

  • Thanks for that link to the PCC video, I’ve had a hard time refinding it.

    The notion that the PCC is trying to help the PT’s electoral chances in SP, however, is a laughable piece of Rovian political noise machine tactics, however: No doubt one of the PSDB’s American political consultants thought that one up and e-mailed it out to the “blogosphere.”

    The PT’s loss of traction in the state probably have more to do with the way the federal government has focused on Northeastern agrobusiness and social development to the detriment of SP’s traditional prerogatives as the industrial heart of the economy.

    And having observed Alckmin and Serra’s handling of criminal justice issues firsthand, I tend to think they only have themselves to blame. But what do I know?

    As to Conor’s grasp of Brazilian politics, I might be more impressed if he could spell Cardoso’s name properly and otherwise give some sign that he didn’t just crib the Wikipedia article on the affair.

    Here’s the scoop: The charges that a system of payments to congress members was used by the PT — as in the famous cause of the backbench PT deputy’s flack arrested at the airport with $100,000 stuffed in his underwear —were not really pursued to the end.

    Why? For one thing, allegedly (and I find this the most plausible) because of the “pizza” factor:

    Once it became clear that the money-laundering scheme used by some PT and PT-allied legislators in 2004 had been set up by a PSDB governor of Minas Gerais in the 1990s, and running full-steam ever since, the appetite for following through disappeared and the investigation was not continued, amid speculation that FHC himself would be implicated.

    Another thread that no one seemed eager to follow through to the end was the preliminary evidence identifying some of the SOURCES of the illegal campaign contributions, tying the whole affair back into the endless commercial wars over the privatization of Brazil’s telecom sector …

    And finally, a more proximate factor affecting the corruption angle on the elections at the moment is the current “sanguessuga” (leech) investigations, in which tons of state officials and federal legislators have been charged with taking kickbacks on the purchase of ambulances with federal funds.

    That investigation, unlike the last, looks like it may WELL end in the impeachment of a large number of deputies — scarcely any of them from the PT this time. Stay tuned.

    “Pizza”: as in, “when a congressional investigation ends with no one getting impeached, the accusers and the accused all go out for pizza together.” That is: even political enemies will stick together when it comes to avoiding scandals that would threaten their lucrative political sinecures.

    One of the hopeful signs in all this mess, I personally think, is that federal police investigating corruption have shown more and more independence and persistence in the last few years.

    And Lula’s projected first-round reelection may — this is a pet theory of mine — reflect some credit he’s gotten for that: Sacking his close friend Dirceu (an interesting Rove-like character) and making much of the phrase “let them (the probes) lead where they lead” did play well to part of the electorate, I think.

    “He steals but he gets things done,” by the way, is not a general saying, but the actual campaign slogan of former governor (and ex-felon) Paulo Maluf.

    Another famous saying about corruption in Brazil: Lula, as a federal legislator in 1998, pointing out “that if we really got to the bottom of corruption in this Congress, there’d be 5 deputies left.”

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