Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Today is crunch time for Brexit, as Prime Minister Theresa May tries to drum up support for her plan. She appears to be losing: many members of parliament (MP’s) theoretically allied with her government will vote against the plan.
What strikes The Curmudgeon, however, is the vast difference between Theresa May’s approach to apostate MP’s and those made, in similar circumstances, by past Presidents of Brazil — especially Michel Temer, recently a lame duck, now a duck in the water.
When facing opposition by members of his governmental party coalition to his legislative proposals, and even the possibility of his trial on criminal charges, Temer’s reaction was invariably to offer lucrative political and economic advantages to congressional members and their cronies.
Among the baubles dangled were positions in newly-created cabinet offices; second- and third-tier appointments to the management of government agencies and government-controlled companies (e.g. Petrobras); and priority in the payment of pork barrel “riders” tacked on to government appropriations bills by members of congress, directed towards their particular electoral base.
All of these actions are, of course, legal; however, they exemplify the historical “if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” predisposition of the Brazilian Congress. St. Francis of Assisi advised Christians that “give and you shall receive”; however, Brazilian politicians have twisted this phrase into “é dando que se recebe”, which really means its negative—“if you don’t give, you won’t get”.
Theresa May, on the other hand, has not descended into this lugubrious swamp: she continues to make strictly political, economic and even philosophical arguments in order to sway the votes of MP’s. She has not offered cabinet positions; she has not offered positions on state agencies or state-owned companies. In short, she has not offered to scratch anyone’s back.
The Curmudgeon applauds Prime Minister May’s efforts, even though he believes Brexit will be a disaster, and he hopes that Brazil’s new President Bolsonaro will adhere to his campaign promises to end the corrupt back scratching, and will adopt only principled measures when trying to convince Congress to vote for his programs and projects.
That is a daunting task indeed.