Being attached to two countries is more often a pain than a blessing. As the number of things that go wrong in our imperfect world always tops the number of things that go right, I grieve more often than I rejoice. At the World Cup I suffered for both the U.S. and Brazil. If the Philadelphia Eagles are doing poorly I get disheartened as much as I do when Dad tells me my former soccer team, in the southern city of Porto Alegre, the once glorious Colorado, cannot catch a break. I suffer for Americans killed overseas and for the rising criminality in Rio. I worry about terrorism in America as much as I despair about the blatant corruption of Brazil’s federal government, rooting for the masses of people on the streets that demand the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff.
Here I’ll take a break to mention John Oliver’s excellent take on the corruption scandal in Brazil, involving giant state-owned oil company Petrobras – the icon of Brazil’s proprietary technology in locating and extracting oil from deep ocean underground – now associated with an eight hundred million dollar scandal. Oliver almost chokes when he says the amount out loud. It’s not a mere couple of millions, which would be enough to make any serious leader resign. It’s an astronomical number, with more zeroes than many developing nations’ GNP. As a result, Petrobras stocks have eroded more than 80% in the past five years, hurting the pensions of millions of Brazilians (according to http://www.forbes.com).
Below is the link to John Oliver’s expose on Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff’s misadventures, her astonishingly arrogant reaction and the popular protests, affectionately called PANELACO, (form of mass protest by banging pots and pans) across the country. Dad tells me there will be another public protest on April 12 and he and my stepmother plan on joining it. May be Force be with them…
I hate when people go “I tooooold you” on me and I try never to do that onto others, but, Brazil, I so thus informed you (in The Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s words), years ago, when the country was falling in love with the idea of electing Lula da Silva, a union activist sponsored by Brazil’s PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party) turned into presidential candidate in the post 9/11 era because he hated the military government (far from perfect) and basically everything related to capitalism and free markets. He did not openly say so, but his adoration of communist idols Fidel Castro and Che Guevara spoke volumes.
Lula’s speeches (and the ones by all of PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores – Workers Party’s – activists) always sounded empty. He promised to fix all of Brazil’s problems but offered no tangible solutions. He was just angry all the time, he shouted a lot during his campaigns. His followers looked menacing and violent; violence erupted many times on the streets as a matter of fact, during the Workers Party’s protests, in the 1990’s.
In one particularly disturbing episode in my city, a police officer was murdered by some of Lula’s supporters, the Sem-Terra – The Landless – as they called themselves. Lula’s newest thing was that once in office, he would redistribute the country’s real estate, including the vast farm land Brazil possesses (vast and productive and profitable when well administered as it has been, by business owners, companies, and well-funded, experienced, and highly technological enterprises) would be divided into small tracks and given away to unemployed people – poor, unexperienced in farming, barely knowing how to operate a tractor… That thought alone was enough to scare away investors, both nationally and from overseas.
Seriously, Brazil, how did you think Lula da Silva could ever do anything good for the country? I remember staring at Lula’s presidential campaign poster in disbelief. It was this huge black-&-white close-up of Mr. Lula’s face, a rare half smile on his lips, under the slogan SEM MEDO DE SER FELIZ – Not Afraid of Being Happy. What a joke, I thought, when that was the angriest creature I had ever seen on TV and press photos. That smile was a fake or else he was thinking of the many millions he would accumulate at the end of his second term in office. How does one go from being a simple metalurgico (metal worker), a laborer, into becoming an immensely wealthy individual? I am all for working hard to prosper; more power always to all self-made men and women, to business owners, entrepreneurs, innovators, even to lottery winners – may the sky of the free markets always be the limit to them. Lula was neither and we all know fully well no one gets rich with a president’s salary in Brazil, no matter how generous the perks and tax cuts may be.
Mr. Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, more than anything else on earth, would have liked to become Brazil’s dictator ad infinitum. Just like the military government he so fiercely criticized in years past. Here’s the thing: the left wing in South America is against all dictatorships on the planet unless they are the dictators themselves – ai pode, as people say in Portuguese. Then it’s OK. Kicking and screaming Lula left after his second presidential term (he would have changed the constitution if possible, to be allowed to run for reelection again) only to pass his legacy on to Dilma Rousseff, his own former Secretary of Power and Energy and always a top official within the party. Also reelected for her second term in office last October, but by a narrow margin in a run-off vote, Dilma proved equally bad. As royalty, the Workers Party in Brazil never leaves…
All through South America, since I was old enough to understand that the so-called progressives did not make any serious plans to govern and manage based on knowledge, principles, honor, goodwill, compassion, respect, patriotism honesty, reliable intelligence and strategy, the likes of Lula and Dilma have reigned based on empty promises. As a matter of fact, the cruelty of their machinations goes as deep as purposefully aim for keeping society as dumb, poor, and uneducated as possible; the only soil where their ineptitude has any chance to thrive.
There is the classic under- my-government-not-a-single-person-will-go-hungry-in-this- country-again. Or my favorite ever, vote-for-me-and-I’ll-create-jobs-for-everyone. Please. People go hungry in America sometimes; the ghost of unemployment never ceases to haunt the U.S. economy itself, let alone the slums of Rio, the impoverished villages in northeast Brazil… Not to mention the leftist ancient mantra, that any economic crisis, no matter of what proportions and how it came into being, inflation or depression and everything in between , can always be solved with higher taxes and huge government. If you are not convinced yet, look at Greece.
Anyway, this is all so old, it makes me so tired, it pushes me to repeat myself and I feel so frustrated that Brazil has once again to go through this weary process, wasting precious time, resources, the hearts and souls of its citizens; so, Brazil: I told you, I told you, I told you; just can’t say that enough this time.
My antipathy toward these highly politicized, hypocrite and anarchy-loving union activists go back decades; to when my city was electing its first left-wing mayor in a long time, amply supported by the usual noisy crowd of unionized workers, arrogant intellectuals, and the press. The Workers Party, for nearly three decades banished and persecuted by the military government due to their communist orientation, was now able to organize themselves legitimately, its members free to run for election, be elected! A love story that endured to this day in many South American countries, and look how it is ending: Brazil, who for most of my adult life fought an arduous battle against inflation, who finally emerged from it, deeply scarred and bruised, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, is now facing its old enemy again. Thanks to the Workers Party’s incompetency and corruption, the country is back to a yearly inflation rate of 7.70%. I am not socially blind and insensitive – I understand unions had to be created at one point in human history to protect workers from being abused. However, in Brazil, history also shows, the Workers Party is simply not fit for government; they don’t know how to do it; they are not serious about it.
Lula’s and Dilma’s incompetency was there for everyone to see; written on the stars, on the palm of the voters’ hands.The corruption we now witness in Dilma’s presidency was the natural consequence – these Workers Party activists are mere self-serving politicians; no one in their group had any intention ever of doing something noble for the country, something to be passed on with pride and honor to future generations; there wasn’t a single statesman or woman among them; nothing constructive is ever coming from their rise to power if they remain as they are. The country forgot how mighty a tool the popular vote is and how we should always be mindful of the ways we use it; it is paying the price now. Ah, Brazil, did you not see this coming???
When I feel this powerless, I mostly shut myself off. I don’t want to see anything about the crisis in Brazil and the rampant corruption of its leaders. I did not create it, I cannot solve it; the Workers Party once frightened me with their crazed ferocity and now I am just disgusted at their arrogance and impunity.
And that was my state of mind, just disheartened beyond words, when my husband told me about this skinny 19 year-old kid, a college dropout, of Japanese descent, leading the anti-Dilma protest in Sao Paulo on March 15 (Please click the link to see the photos of Kim Kataguirri and crowds as huge as the country had not seen in three decades):
A teen libertarian, conservative and free-market idealist, who makes fun of Fidel Castro on the Web, reads classics of Economics, leads the Free Brazil Movement and preaches that Dilma Rousseff should not only be ousted via impeachment but actually go to jail? I tried to remain cold. South America has seen so many of these fly-by-night flamboyant personalities… It took me 24 hours to get the courage I needed to read about this wonder kid Kataguirri. Brazil broke my heart several times; once bitten and twice shy…
The popular vote that pushed Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff into power was born at the core of Brazil’s industrialized urban center – Sao Paulo. A 20-million people megalopolis around which multinational groups flourished for decades; from auto makers to pharmaceutical companies. No wonder unions grew strong in such an environment. A call for strike at the Volkswagen plant for higher wages could spread like wildfire through all auto makers in the area and then across the country. From the anger-infused meetings of Sindicato dos Metalurgicos (Metal Workers Union) headquartered in Sao Paulo, came the idea that one of his most out-spoken leaders, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, could one day be a good president to South America’s largest economy (back in the 1990’s Brazil was 8th economy in the world – now I don’t know anymore and as I am afraid of Googling it, let’s stay with that memorable number).
It is now from Sao Paulo again that a young voice is rising, not to support the Workers Party dynasty but to protest it. Brazil’s newest and youngest anti-establishment agitator, from the same Sao Paulo that brought us Lula. How ironic.
I don’t know how many Kim Kataguirris and panelacos it will take for the country to wake up before corruption gets so ingrained that doing business with Brazil is virtually impossible. Once foreign and national investments halt, unemployment will be on the rise – the perfect environment for high inflation once more. Once high inflation settles in, it may take years of harsh measures to reverse the process. Unpunished corruption in the upper echelons of the federal government also means the country lost respect for itself. Once that is the general feeling, morale and self-esteem sink to the bottom. Such pervasive feelings of impotency and hopelessness are as difficult to fight as galloping inflation; it is each man for himself – the sense of community and national pride tumble.
There is still time though; the once 8th largest economy can still stop the bleeding caused by years of corruption (800 million dollars are not spent overnight) by ousting this president and steering clear from that kind of cheap and self-serving leadership in future elections.
My sister is an entrepreneur – she and her business partner own and operate a shopping mall fashion store – and is obviously appalled at the suicidal route Dilma Rousseff chose for her country. The U.S. Dollar rate is now R$3.30; the highest in a long time. You need tree Reais and thirty centavos (cents) to purchase one single dollar. This high rate is basically a self-perpetuating fear thermometer –the higher the rate goes, the less the country believes in itself. The less the country believes in itself, the higher the rate dollar/real jumps…
The Workers Party has been Brazil’s worst nightmare for too long; a smiling face as friendly and trustworthy as The Joker’s. Sorry, sorry, sorry, but I so thus informed you…
(P.S.: I got brave again and Googled Brazil’s economy rank in the world – it’s the 7th largest economy; a GDP of US$2,253 trillion in 2012, according http://www.worldbank .com)