Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Among recent Curmudgeon columns, cash is a recurring theme, because it’s what unites the cats and their putative herders. Today the Curmudgeon will focus on legal cash, i.e. that distributed by law. President Dilma is in a bind, because her predecessor President Lula, just before leaving (?) government, vetoed a law passed by both houses of Congress. The law in question is of vital importance to the State and City of Rio de Janeiro, because what it does, as voted and vetoed, is make the 2016 Olympics nonviable.
We recall the touching scene in Copenhagen, when President Lula said to the world, “bring it on!” We recall the touching scene on Copacabana beach when Rio was the last man standing, and Lula was definitely “the Man”. Against all odds, Rio will host the 2016 Olympics! “But wait!” said someone or other, “how will we pay for this?”
The President, the Governor and the Mayor stood shoulder to shoulder and swore the money would be there. They descried the rainbow’s end just “below the salt” – cash disguised as crude oil, nestling 3 miles under the sea. “But wait!” said someone or other, “shouldn’t some of this windfall go to other states? Why only to Rio?”
The President, the Governor and the Mayor stood shoulder to shoulder and said, “Brazil is the country of the future, and the future has a sell-by date: 2016.” But Zardoz, the Curmudgeon’s prescient and omniscient avatar, “has seen the future and it does not work.”
Zardoz knows there are sixteen Brazilian states located north by northwest and northeast of Rio, all of them poorer than Rio. Almost all of them have no significant oil-producing areas. All of them, oil-slick green with envy, look at the money gushing into Rio de Janeiro from offshore oil and say to their Governors: “Go to Brasília and say: ‘God ain’t Carioca, he’s Brazilian.’”
The current legal distribution of the profits from offshore oil exploration gives a large chunk to the federal government, and a larger chunk to the producing states. The non-producing states get diddly-squat.
The diddly-squatters want to reverse the order of things. So the law, as passed (but vetoed), says the states will divide up the lion’s share of the windfall in proportion to their relative poverty/misery levels. The State of Rio de Janeiro will no longer get R$9 billion per year, but R$900 millions.
With its income decimated, how will Rio pay for the Olympic Games? It must take its tin cup to Brasília, rattle around the few coins still left in the cup and say: “me dá uma esmola aí” which translates into “bail me out, dude!”
The ruling coalition, knowing full well that Lula has every intention of being President in 2016 when the Olympics occur, will do the needful and shower shekels upon Rio, so as to ensure Lula’s Long-Lasting Legacy.
“But wait!” says someone or other, “What about the savings from the pre-salt oil?” If Zardoz is right, there will not be any savings: most of the riches below the salt will be sucked into the Olympic sump, where thousands of “amateurs” get filthy rich at the expense of millions of suckers. And Brazil will have succumbed, against all odds, to the temptation to remain a country of the future—which doesn’t work.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus 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!)