Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Tuesday, October 18th, former President Lula took the opportunity to publish an exculpatory diatribe in the São Paulo newspaper A Folha, which he entitled “Why they want to convict me”. In it, he said “It’s not Lula they want to convict: it’s the political program I represent.”
Unfortunately for Lula, he’s completely right on this point. The political program he represents—which he initiated, masterminded and oversaw—has a name. It was baptized “propinocracia” or the “rule of graft” by the prosecutors, and it was only achievable by foul means, not fair.
Earlier in the article, Lula makes his main mistake. He complains that the investigating police and prosecutors “did not know how a coalition government functions, how a ‘medida provisória’ becomes legislation, how government bids are conducted, how state-owned banks like BNDES analyze and approve financing arrangements.”
Unfortunately for Lula, he’s completely wrong on this point—the police and prosecutors may not have known how things worked before they began the Mensalão and Lava-Jato investigations, but they were quick learners.
Presidential systems have never been able to function under a coalition government, anywhere in the world—they are inherently antipathetic. Even parliamentary systems collapse under the weight of more than thirty political parties scrabbling around for scraps of power under the table. Lula fomented the formation of these “minnow” parties.
Medidas provisórias are also inherently incompatible with presidential systems of government, because they allow the president to legislate, in violation of the essence of the constitutional separation of powers. They were widely used in failed parliamentary systems, notably early 20th century Italy and Germany, which eventually produced Mussolini and Hitler.
Under the Lula/Dilma regime, all government bids, including those of Petrobras, Eletrobras and other state-owned companies, were systematically plundered by PT, PMDB, PP and other political parties part of the aforementioned coalition government, and by the corrupt contractors who were favored with the winning bids.
These same contractors, and others of their ilk who successfully curried Lula’s favor, were the prime beneficiaries of the BNDES financing programs, where they received loans at subsidized interest rates. Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica had their top management appointed by the members of the coalition government. These managers had standing orders to “analyze and approve” any financing arrangements based on their political benefits to the coalition.
Lula continues to maintain, in his defense, that the political program he instituted brought huge benefits to the poor and downtrodden. He may be right, but he fails to mention that it also brought him and his coalition cronies large voting majorities.
Lula continues to maintain that he was never personally enriched by the Mensalão or the Petrolão schemes, and he denies he is the owner of the triplex and the weekend home gifted him by contractors. The prosecutors beg to differ.
Lula continues to maintain he never knew about any of the corruption schemes. But Lula ran Brazil, with Dilma’s help, for twelve years. During that time, corruption became wider and deeper than ever in Brazil’s history. Only one person had the time, the energy and the volition to make it happen, and that was Lula.
The Curmudgeon continues to be amazed at the chutzpah Lula demonstrates.