Brazil’s Lady in Her Labyrinth

Beatrice Rangel reseña el escándalo del PT en Brasil, que afecta el liderazgo y la honorabilidad de Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva y de Dilma Roussef y el cómo, con estos hechos, comienza una tumultuosa época de cambios políticos en Brasil.

Rudyard Kipling counseled his followers to treat success and failure as impostors, given that neither was permanent.

President Rousseff’s is probably heeding such advise when she decided to fight for her political survival.

Few leaders have experienced glory and decay in such short time span and even fewer are presented with the dark outcome threatening Rousseff and her party PT, the Workers’ Party.

Indeed, should president Rousseff be impeached, she will exit with PT as her companion in misfortune.

To public dismay, the old guardian of virtue while in opposition turned into a gang leader in government.

Members of PT under arrest comprise 5 top ranking leaders — including former Chief of Staff to President Lula, Jose Dirceu.

And while this degree of corruption is not PT’s exclusive monopoly given that 3/5 of congress members are either investigated or indicted for bribery, the government party spent the better part of its political life signaling rivals as graft depositories.

The public is thus less inclined to condone PT’s misbehavior.

The fight will thus be harsh, ruthless and probably destructive both for PT as well as for Brazilian short term political stability.

In the end, this face-off will be the preamble for a major institutional restructuring that will strengthen Brazilian democracy and project its economic might. This creative destruction was in the makings when Brazil chose to attempt to become the world’s 5th economy.

Flashing back to the times preceding PT rule, Brazil’s current dilemmas can be traced to Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s successful economic policies that forced the country to leave a comfortable 19th century protective cocoon and jump into the competitive waters of globalization.

Unknown pressures came to bear on two fronts: competition and development of information capabilities.

Competition forced Brazilian companies to accelerate their foreign forays while improving management to defend the national turf against foreign newcomers.

Information began to slowly but surely tear the veil of cronyism covering relations between government and the business community.

Soon Brazilians began to see how poorly managed public resources were and how enriching government posts were for politicians.

And while civic society became stronger and more watchful, political and business leaders behaved as if they were still protected by a veil of opacity hiding their corporatist behavior.

But as the country developed a web of regulatory agencies staffed with young professionals trained in universities abroad, unforeseen by Brazilian elites, checks and balances began to take ground.

The upcoming clash was written on the wall and it took place when Petrobras — country’s economic crown jewel, deemed to be one the competitive pillars — fell prey to a corruption scandal involving graft, money laundering and theft.

The Pandora’s Box opened to level the moral authority of every single institution, notably political parties which had become influence brokers rather that ideologically driven institutions.

And this is what makes the PT predicament so ugly. For the better part of its history, PT was the working class’ party held together by ideology and not by graft.

Current discontent will not wither away without a leadership
change for many reasons.

First is the lack of trust that the powers that be in Brazil have of President Rousseff’s capacity to stabilize the economy.

Then comes the degree of public fury with leadership and third the grounded belief from all levels of Brazilian society that in order to revive the economy, PT sponsored demand building policies need to be supplanted by supply side economics.

Under such circumstances, Brazil has entered a tumultuous phase of political change, starting with placing a new tenant at the Alborada.

This phase will probably last until October when impeachment proceedings will end in the Senate.

The starting point being May 15th when the Lower House of Congress will vote for or against impeachment. Should 342 of the 513 deputies approve, the impeachment process would move to the senate and Rousseff would be suspended for 180 days while Brazil’s vice-president, Michel Temer – leader of the PMDB – would become interim head of state.

As of April 2nd, the government has been unable to secure the support of the 171 deputies needed to block to impeachment proceedings.

A Temer administration would be national salvation caretaker, as he would be supported by virtually all political forces — it will be a transitional government and so will have a narrow margin for error.

His administration will see major changes in the political landscape including the potential obliteration of PT and many small parties and the emergence of two national parties that would bring stability and long term policy-making to the country. Another fundamental change will be the emergence of the judiciary as a true balancing power to the executive, a development that is badly needed not only in Brazil but throughout Latin America.

Publicado originalmente en el Latin American Herald Tribune.