Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Capistrano de Abreu was a Brazilian historian who died 86 years ago on August 13, 1927. His fifteen minutes of fame arose from his having proposed a most concise Constitution: “Article 1: Every Brazilian shall have a sense of shame. Article 2: All provisions to the contrary are revoked.”*
The Curmudgeon feels that, in addition to Lord Acton’s 150 year old dictum about power and corruption, Capistrano’s 200 year old proposal should be required reading for any and all who wish to understand Brazilian politics in the year 2013.
The past few weeks we have seen outstanding examples of how the authors of the 1988 Constitution, which has 250 “permanent” Articles and has been amended eighty times in its 25 year history, clearly failed to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Capistrano’s succinct proposal.
Example: Ivo Cassol, currently a sitting Senator from Paraíba, was convicted by the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) of price fixing in a government bid. He has said he will not resign from the Senate. He has no sense of shame.
Example: José Genuíno, one of the “mensaleiro” scheme ringleaders, convicted by the STF of several crimes, was a “suplente” or substitute for the federal Chamber of Deputies. He was hoisted into a seat when another deputy resigned. He accepted the seat and has said he will not resign. He has no sense of shame.
Example: Guilherme Afif, now the Vice-Mayor of the City of São Paulo, was appointed the Federal Minister of Small and Medium Businesses, a newly hatched bureaucracy (Dilma now has 39). He accepted the position and has refused to resign as Vice-Mayor, saying he has nothing to do there, so he need not resign. He has no sense of shame.
Example: Aldo Rebelo, now Brazil’s Minister of Sport, has publicly lobbied for a federal law that would amnesty Brazilian football (soccer) teams and unilaterally forgive ninety percent of the federal tax debt, including social security (estimated at R$4 billion) in exchange for their promising not to do it any more. He has no sense of shame.
Example: Henrique Alves, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, used an Air Force plane to fly himself and his family to Rio to attend the game between Brazil and Spain in Maracanã. He claimed he was on official Senate business. He has no sense of shame.
Example: Renan Calheiros, the President of the Senate, used an Air Force plane to fly to the posh resort of Trancoso, Bahia, to attend the wedding of the daughter of a fellow Senator. He claims he’s entitled to use that plane for anything he wants; it’s one of the perquisites of his office. He has no sense of shame.
Example: TSE, the electoral tribunal charged with enforcing the “Ficha Limpa” law that (theoretically) ensures that crooks and connivers (such as all those examples cited above) can’t be elected, sold personal data it holds on 140 million voters to SERASA, a privately owned credit risk company. They have no sense of shame.
Counter-Example: Carmen Lúcia, Presiding Judge of TSE and a STF Justice, canceled the SERASA contract within 24 hours after hearing about it. She does have a sense of shame.
* Portuguese: “Artigo 1° – Todo Brasileiro deve ter vergonha na cara. Artigo 2° — Revogam-se as disposições em contrário.”
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 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!)