Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As commented on by the Curmudgeon two weeks ago, Chief of Staff Antonio Palocci, during the four years he was not in Government, increased his net worth by some R$20 million. He’s “explaining” how that happened but many people (including the Curmudgeon) don’t care.
What bemused the Curmudgeon two weeks ago was the question of whom Dilma would find to perform the role Palocci had performed for her, i.e. herding cats. The felines in question are not domestic cats, they are another species entirely—undomesticated “powercats” a/k/a politicos of continuously varying stripes and spots.
Powercats abound within Dilma’s own party (PT) and its chief allied party (PMDB). Palocci’s job was herding them together so that the legislative goals of President Dilma could be met. He failed. PMDB powercats openly defied Dilma and supported a new Forestry Code, which would grant amnesty to de-foresters who had violated existing law.
Consider also the anti-homophobia bill pending in Congress, strongly resisted by the “evangelical” and the “catholic” blocs within Congress, whose powercats openly threatened to put Palocci in front of a Congressional investigating committee if Dilma dared continue to push for passage of the bill.
The Curmudgeon wondered, two weeks ago, whom Dilma would find to do the job Palocci no longer could. She needed a “Deus ex Machina”—the literary figure whose unexpected appearance on the scene can resolve all the open plotlines. The Curmudgeon’s favorite God from the Machine is called Jones. That’s the Jones from the Coasters’ 1959 song, “Along came Jones.” (slow-walkin’ Jones, slow-talkin’ Jones).
Who’s Brazil’s Jones? Just in the nick of time, after the heroine had been grabbed, tied up, laid across the railroad tracks and the train started coming…along came slow-walkin’ slow-talkin’ Lula. That’s right, former President Lula, lately lurking in the shadows, moved out front and center, rounded up the PT powercats and read them the riot act.
Then he herded up the PMDB powercats and reminded them who was in fact responsible for their being in power. And, lo! And behold! Powercats became almost docile. They dutifully herded themselves together to avoid any congressional investigation into the machinations of the Chief of Staff.
There are those, it must be said, who are not comfortable with this situation, who think it is not the former President’s job to lay down the law. Writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro, one of Brazil’s most acute political observers, claims that Lula has now carried out the political reform so long pending before Congress, by creating the “bi-presidential” system of government. There are now two presidents, one of which does all the administrative stuff, the other does the rhetoric and speechifying.
How to tell the two presidents apart? João Ubaldo attributes Dilma’s insistence upon calling herself “a Presidenta” (she president) to her recognition that her predecessor will be called “o Presidente” (he president). She’s “a Governanta” (the governess); he’s “o Governante” (the gubernator).
Both presidents will be happy, like the married couple where one likes the crust and the other the inside of the loaf of bread. The Curmudgeon now wonders who will be worthy to pick up the crumbs under their table.
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!)