Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One year and seven days ago today, the Curmudgeon wished “many happy returns” to Dilma Rousseff, then age 63 and President-elect of Brazil, adding that she “desperately needs well-wishers, for she faces a most difficult four years.” The principal reason for her future difficulties, the Curmudgeon predicted, would be the “once and future” President Lula.
Now that she’s 64, the Curmudgeon boasts “he told you so”. Dilma has had to contend, month in and month out, with improprieties perpetrated by Cabinet Ministers imposed upon her by her predecessor. No fewer than six (6) of these unworthies have been forced to resign their posts, mendaciously proclaiming their innocence, because of scandals involving personal gain, kickbacks, off-books deals, influence peddling and the like. Yet another is now gingerly walking the plank, making seven (7) who will not be there in 2012.
Seven crooked Ministers is an astonishing number, even if it’s “only” one-fifth of an even more astonishing number of Ministries and other Cabinet-level positions in the federal government: 36. That’s right, 36 different bureaucracies now report directly to the President of Brazil. One in five of those has been shown to be a crook. What do they all have in common, besides venality?
The first commonality is that Lula appointed them Ministers during his reign, and insisted upon Dilma keeping them. She, perhaps against her better judgment, concurred. The second commonality, related to the first, is that each of them was a leader of a political party which had been gifted the control of a cabinet ministry.
In Brazil under Lula, with a very few notable exceptions, cabinet ministers were not appointed because they knew anything about the area they were to administer. Rather, they were appointed to oversee lucrative fiefdoms, and to ensure that their minions and supporters, in return for the generous patronage foisted upon them to the detriment of taxpayers, always supported the President.
Put another way, a number of dodgy politicos were handed a key to the federal treasury, and told that nobody would be watching how they used the key, as long as the party hewed faithfully to Lula’s legislative line. That’s not bribery, because in order for it to be bribery, the political parties and their leaders would have to be convinced to do something that was against their ethical, moral and legal principles.
Sadly, there is not one significant political party in the Lula coalition that has a shred of any principle, be it ethical, moral or legal. They are all dedicated, solely and exclusively, to one political principle—power is good. The power to allocate patronage, the power to favor their friends and isolate their enemies, the power to control the destinies of citizens without ever having to answer for any mistakes, all these are the bread and butter of today’s coalition.
Dilma’s challenge, now that she’s 64 years old and has almost one year as President under her belt, is to try to extirpate the malignant tumors from the body politic, without surrendering the right to govern. The Curmudgeon wishes her well in this, but doubts she will be able.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)