Opinion By Harold Emert
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A prime lesson anyone – like this observer – learns by working alongside experienced British and other journalists is “knock on the door”, meaning don’t go on hearsay or what others report but instead, take a look at it yourself.
With this adage in mind, as 200 protests involving millions of students and educators overtook Brazil on Wednesday, I decided to tune into a television station I never watch, TV Camara 10, to view unpopular Education Minister Abraham Weintraub face the Câmara/Chamber of Federal Deputies in Brasilia.
My conclusion after this enlightening experience is that Brazil is still a thriving democracy and not a dictatorship ruled by tyranny or the military.
But having resided in this always unpredictable nation for over four decades, I can only hope my optimistic conclusion continues until 2022, or the next scheduled Presidential election.
The confrontation between a Minister and an entity representing Brazil’s populace took place in Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives, which Brazilians call “Parlamento” (Parliament), for some strange reason.
Never mind that this is a nation which has no King but once had two Emperors and continues to have living heirs of its own Royal family.
As evening came, and the angry protests subsided, I heard and saw, at 8 PM, Federal Deputies crying “you lie” or “despite what you say there IS money for education” or “you said there are communists at the universities… well I am a member of Brazil’s (legal) Communist Party!”
They were all “questioning” his Excellency, Minister Weintraub who cooly and calmly insisted that 30 percent cuts are not forever, but “contingency cutbacks” until Brazil improves.
The Minister was also confronted by Federal Deputies who screamed and almost cursed him as being an “ignoramus” for initially cutting funding to “impractical” philosophy and sociology departments at four federal universities.
The representative of the great state of Bahia was visibly taken aback that his esteemed university was initially insulted.
And two female Federal Deputies had to be held back by colleagues from having a fist fight of hairpulling over the controversial cutbacks.
I also witnessed via the magic of TV Camara 10 one Federal Deputy telling Weintraub to his face what many of us would love to say: “How can President Bolsonaro insult millions of protesting students by calling them idiots if we are living in a democratic nation where a difference of opinion must be respected?”
Despite what might seem a “bagunça” or “mess” in comparison to other “civilized” governments, long live Brazil’s Câmara dos Deputados!
And the TV Camara 10 may become now my favorite television station.