Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Polls released yesterday show that, in elections for President of Brazil, in the first round, against all comers, the winner would be former President Lula. Then they show that in the second round, he would lose to Marina Silva. As a foreigner, who can’t vote, the Curmudgeon is unable to affect this potential disaster, except by trying to remind his readers who these people are.
Let’s start with the easier target: Marina. The daughter of a rubber tapper, she was a Senator and an environmental minister under Lula. She ran a couple of times for President, got a lot of votes because she is, apparently, one of the only politicians in Brazil who is honest. But of course, she lost, because Brazilians love to vote for dishonest politicians.
Marina hasn’t a clue about organization — she’s never actually run any organization that anyone has heard of. She left PT and yet another party because … well, because she wants to be President, and those parties had other, more corrupt candidates who would be more likely to be elected.
She set out to found her own party, with the beguiling name of “Rede” or “Network”, but she forgot that if you want to found a political party, the one thing you must do well is network. Dozens of second-rate wannabe millionaires have founded political parties, thanks to Brazil’s absurd campaign finance rules, and they’ve managed to do so within a few months.
For over two years, on the other hand, Marina was unable to come up with the requisite number of voter-signed petitions that would allow her party to be registered. Her networking skills were abysmal, although in her defense, she probably had the disadvantage of refusing to pay people to sign her petition, as most of the other party founders did.
So, according to the polls, it appears that a majority of likely voters in Brazil are ready to elect as President a person who has proven herself completely incompetent to be the country’s Chief Executive.
What is wrong with these people?
Nothing, really. It’s just that they’re still hoping, against all the evidence, that there will be someone honest who will lead the nation out of the sink of corruption and the slough of despond into which it has been led by the past thirty plus years of corrupt presidents.
Yes, we mean José Sarney; yes, we mean Fernando Collor; no, we don’t mean Itamar Franco, a short term substitute for Collor; yes, we mean FHC, who was never personally tarred with the corruption brush, but most of his acolytes were blacker than asphalt.
And yes, most definitely yes! we mean Lula, who masterminded the Mensalão and the Petrolão and thus restored generalized corruption to Sarney levels across the country, mostly by finding allies such as Sarney and Collor and Cunha and Renan and the other “300 Picaretas” he denounced in 1993 and seduced starting in 2003.
The Curmudgeon is worried about Brazil, and about its future as a democracy.