Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon, together with almost everyone else in Brazil, is on tenterhooks today. The question on everyone’s mind is “Will he or won’t he?” The “he” is Brazil’s former President Lula, and the question is whether he will, or will not, accept the invitation by Brazil’s current President Dilma to become a Cabinet Minister.
The exact ministry has (apparently) not been chosen, but rest assured it won’t be one of the thirty-plus garden variety ministries cluttering up Brazil’s bureaucracy—far from it. Lula has been invited to take over the reins of power and become what is called the Prime Minister in parliamentary systems of government. In those systems, of course, Presidents are almost uniformly figureheads with no real power.
In short, Dilma has capitulated to her critics. By this offer to Lula, she has acknowledged her inability to govern Brazil and has decided that, rather than resign or be impeached, she will hand Brazil over to the one person who did know how to govern it, while she stays behind the scenes till her term expires in 2018.
Let there be no mistake — Lula created the monstrosity that now passes for a government, where ministers and the heads of government companies are chosen for their political affiliation rather than by their competence. Back when he couldn’t be elected because his politics were too far to the left for most Brazilians to stomach, Lula complained of the “300 picaretas” [corrupt scoundrels] in Congress.
That affirmation (which, needless to say, he no longer repeats) was right on the money, if you’ll pardon the pun. For, after being elected in 2002 he sought out all 300 and offered them even more power and money. First came the “Mensalão” scheme; after that was uncovered, he instituted and oversaw the “Petrolão” scheme.
Lula thought Dilma could continue his schemes and awarded her the Presidency in 2010; sadly for him, she failed miserably, possibly because she has no liking for corruption. In 2014, Lula shilly-shallied over whether to ditch Dilma and run for President himself. Eventually, he decided to remain in the shadows.
Less than two years later, Lula has once again been shilly-shallying over whether to become President. Why didn’t he accept the offer immediately? Some say it’s because he knows it will look as if he’s trying to hide from the Lava-Jato investigation, in which he’s been implicated by several impresarios and politicos who are ratting out his cronies.
The Curmudgeon, however, believes the real reason for Lula’s hesitancy is that he is negotiating his return to power, seeking to get as much as he can. Before he became a politician, when he was a labor union organizer, he was highly successful at negotiating with the rich and powerful. So now he’s negotiating with PT, PMDB and the other political parties who hold the keys to power in Brazil, trying to cobble together some sort of workable plan.
Lula’s biggest obstacle in putting this together? Neither the Mensalão nor the Petrolão schemes are now available, but 300 picaretas are still running Congress.
The Curmudgeon will emit more dismal columns opportunely.