Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The title is misleading, because there are several power struggles currently enlivening denizens of Brasília, commentators and editors. One is between Lula and Dilma, or, put another way, between two wings of PT. Another is between PMDB and PT; related to it is one between two wings of PMDB.

Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.
Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.

Yet another is the struggle between Congress and the President. The President has vetoed several pieces of legislation, allegedly financially disastrous. Chief offender is a law that would create hundreds of new counties. There are now over 5,700 of these scattered around Brazil but Congress wants more, because corrupt municipal politicians, having set up their spoils systems, will support corrupt state and federal politicians.

The battle between Lula and Dilma is over the federal cabinet ministries, particularly in the economic field. Lula, who will run in 2018, wants people in power who are beholden to him. Dilma, who cannot run in 2018, wants people in power who are beholden to her. Out of the five appointees whose names have been leaked (more on that below) Lula is losing.

Within PT itself, there is a large faction that truly believes the election results confirm that Dilma has done everything right, and four more years of the same will be great for Brazil. Another faction supports a more realistic view of the country’s economic situation. The problem for the latter is that their suggested measures are straight out of Aécio Neves’ campaign platform, so they are anathema to the true believers.

PT and PMDB, the two principal parties in Dilma’s coalition, are now doing battle over future cabinet ministries, with PT coveting those previously belonging to PMDB, particularly the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which generates immense amounts of money in public works. This Ministry has long been the fiefdom of former President Sarney and those on his coattails, many of whom are now being investigated for corruption.

Within PMDB there are also competing factions. None of them disputes anything so futile as political or economic principles, but rather how best to game the current situation to rake in the most spoils. The two main factions are equally displeased with Dilma’s appointment of the Minister of Agriculture, currently the leader of the farm lobby within Congress. They ought to be pleased with this, but they’re not, because she only joined PMDB last year.

All the dust will eventually settle down, once Dilma gets around to confirming her 39 ministerial appointments. The first five names were purposely leaked by members of her innermost coterie; she is furious, because the sole purpose of the leaks was to make the future appointees targets for abuse by warring tribal factions of PT and PMDB.

Needless to say, Dilma’s public image is being scorched by (a) the corruption scandal; (b) the failure of her economic policies; and (c) her inability to control the governing coalition. But take pity on her — how can she be expected to control 39 ministries without using a “mensalão” scheme and without all the graft generated by government contracts, which will soon dry up?

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON, fetched up on Carioca shores some 37 years ago and still loves them; his favorite spectator sport is politics, viewed from a WASP-like perspective.


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