Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Yesterday’s headlines brought the news that former President Lula told the world that PT has lost its way, lost its faith; in short, lost its “utopia”. According to him, PT members only think about “public positions, sinecures, being elected”. According to him, PT members need to decide if they want to save their skins, their jobs, or their projects.
This latest pronouncement surpasses, in chutzpah content, almost anything Lula’s ever said in the past — no mean task, we may say en passant. For if anyone is to blame for PT’s having lost its way and its faith, it’s Lula himself.
Some twenty years ago, Lula was a flaming leftist, in favor of workers and the poor and the unions that represent them against the evil capitalists. He ran for President three (3) times expounding that image, that vision, that “project”. The voters of Brazil rejected him three (3) times.
By 2002, Lula realized his mistake, and decided to emulate Tony Blair in the UK. Blair, knowing the Labour Party was in thrall to the TUC (Trade Union Congress) decided that, in order to win power and ensure its “project”, Labour had to move to the center. Move it did, and successfully.
Lula, who is nobody’s fool, figured that whatever Tony Blair could do, he could do better. So, in 2002, knowing PT had been in thrall to the CUT (Central Union Workers) he moved PT into the center, using the slogan “Agora é Lula” (“It’s Time for Lula”).
By jettisoning the PT project, Lula finally won a presidential election, on his fourth try, and was re-elected on his fifth.
During his first term, having turned his back on PT’s project, Lula adopted, faute de mieux, the PSDB project of his predecessor FHC. As this project required legislative approval, Lula began to create unnecessary cabinet ministries, handing them out as patronage to parties that would support him in Congress. Swollen ministries create jobs for the party faithful.
Not satisfied with this, PT implemented the “Mensalão” scheme whereby minnow parties received cash in return for their votes in Congress. Moreover, PT began the process of infiltrating PT and its allies into powerful positions in government controlled companies and regulatory agencies.
The selection process for upper management of all these entities had zero to do with technical experience or competence, and everything to do with political considerations. Lula, Dilma and PT in general spoke openly of certain positions being within the gift of loyal political parties or their leaders. Swollen agency and company payrolls create jobs for the party faithful.
The principal objective of PT, under Lula’s leadership during the past dozen years, became that of taking over absolute political power in Brazil. Power, as defined by Lula himself, was about “public positions, sinecures, being elected.” Dilma, a lifelong leftist, may have wanted to re-establish the PT project, but Lula ran PT with an iron grip.
Lula, who calculatingly and knowingly uprooted PT’s leftist project, now cynically claims PT needs to return to its roots. That is quintessential chutzpah.
The Curmudgeon arrived in Rio almost 38 years ago, still loves life here, and finds grist for his cantankerous mill almost daily. Please stay tuned.