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Trouble in Brazil

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Activists demonstrate in support of the Workers' Party (PT) and former Brazilian Prersident Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Esplanada dos Ministerios in Brasilia, on March 18, 2016. A Brazilian court cleared Lula da Silva Friday to start work as chief of staff to his embattled successor Dilma Rousseff, overturning an injunction blocking his appointment. AFP PHOTO/ANDRESSA ANHOLETE  Andressa Anholete / AFP

Activists demonstrate in support of the Workers’ Party (PT) and former Brazilian Prersident Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Esplanada dos Ministerios in Brasilia, on March 18, 2016. A Brazilian court cleared Lula da Silva Friday to start work as chief of staff to his embattled successor Dilma Rousseff, overturning an injunction blocking his appointment. AFP PHOTO/ANDRESSA ANHOLETE<br />Andressa Anholete / AFP

Brazil is one of the most unequal societies in the world. A foreign black in Brazil marvels at the invisibility of black people in a country where the black population is more than fifty percent. Where are the black people? Ask the Brazilians! Trouble’s trip to Brazil was to search for a prized Portuguese-Yoruba Yoruba-Portuguese dictionary. Yoruba has played with other languages during its long life of written and unwritten history. It has played with Arabic through Hausa and Fulfulde. It has played with Western European languages but mainly with English. But its play with Portuguese is really special and only when that dictionary is examined closely can we really say what Yoruba has done to the Brazilian soul. But in the process of looking for one thing, something else catches the attention of Trouble.

Right now in Brazil, there is political paralysis, economic crisis and corruption predominance. The political paralysis cannot help the economic crisis and the corruption predominance makes action on the politics and the economy impossible. The predominance of corruption leads to stasis in the society. What is happening (or not happening) in Brazil is closer to what has happened in South Africa than what is either or in Nigeria.

For quite some time the president of South Africa and some of his closest associates made play with ridiculing the constitution, even played with the either of changing it, calling it mere paper. Then, the constitutional court pronounced on their recent misbehaviour, especially concerning the Nkandla spending. As if by magic, President Zuma and his supporters sat up and insist in their recent manifesto in the face of the on-coming elections at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality that a vote for the ANC is a vote for the Constitution! Surprise, surprise!!!

In Nigeria, the sacred duty of all accused of corruption is to keep themselves from ever getting to the courts. The roads are bad and they are not repaired so that those accused of corruption cannot get to the courts. They cannot fly to the courts because the airports are really parking bays for private jets. And if those accused of corruption manage to get to the courts, the senior lawyers of Nigeria have arranged payments into the accounts of the judges etc to ensure that they can bury their fathers in peace and forget about corruption court cases.

Well, in Brazil, the politics might be paralysed because of the great number of small parties in the lower house of representatives as well as in the Senate, (remember the instability of Italy until recently?) the judicial system is very lively. And it is led by young men and women between the ages of 35 and 45.

The situation of the economy is a creation of both external and internal dynamics. The prices of commodities have crashed in the world market. The price of oil, the price of coffee, cocoa and other agricultural products has gone down making it impossible for the Brazilian economy to be as buoyant as it was some ten, fifteen years ago. And Brazil has lost manufacturing percentage in the areas of leather products and vehicle production to China. Anyone who saw the speed with which shoe manufacturing disappeared in the towns of south west Brazil would marvel at the intractable nature of what is called economics with capital ‘e’.

Right now, corruption predominates in Brazil. The president of the country is accused of using mathematical wizardry to hide the extent of budgetary deficit and using her position to block judicial inquiry into the mammoth corruption at Petrobras, Brazil’s NNPC. About a week ago, the lower house voted for the president to be impeached by Senate. If Senate decide to go ahead with the wishes of the lower house, the president will have to step down, at least for a period of 180 days while she is tried on the two accusations put to her by the lower house. There is also the small matter of her election for her second term in office. The electoral organisation is inquiring into the possibility that dodgy funding helped her to win the elections. If this proves to be so, then her election will be annulled.

The corruption in Petrobras goes in billions. Dilma Rousseff, before she succeeded Lula da Silva as president of Brazil in 2010, had headed Petrobras. Out of this oil corporation billions flowed into the pockets of most of the political elites of Brazil. Most of that money must have gone into financing elections. Or, as hush money to politicians, some one-third of members of the lower house and Senate are involved. The fear now is that if the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff goes ahead and she steps down, all the investigations in Petrobras will also go away!

All the politicians who are being instigated, who are being arrested and sent to jail for corruption, will suddenly be free. The speaker of the lower house, the deputy president will get away with his part of the looting just as other members of the multi-various parties in the coalition that constitutes President Rousseff’s government. In the unravelling it is the party of the deputy president that would benefit most from the impeachment. In fact the party of the deputy president is now committed to the ouster of the president.

The fear is that the replacement of the present coalition with another would lead to the new government under the present deputy president interfering in the courts and reversing all the gains of the Brazilian judiciary. The reason is that the top three people in the new government, who are at present under investigation, will have immunity and so, the resulting impunity would put a stop to the investigation of corruption.“ . . . politicians charged with a crime while in office or in a cabinet post cannot be tried by a criminal court.”
With the new government “at the wheel, the fox is guarding the hen house. As a consolation, foxes don’t always eat hens…but, you get the picture.”


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