Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Déja Vu All Over Again: Brazil Edition

I don't know if it's Charles' influence on my thought processes, or if it's just that the whole thing smells ever-so-much like the infamous witchhunts conducted against Bill Clinton and his associates, but boy, this alleged Brazilian corruption scandal reeks like last week's garbage. First, we have The Official Story, as pushed by the Washington Post and NPR's "Morning Edition" program. (It was listening to NPR this morning that alerted me to the whole shebang.) Corruption charges leveled against the President (in this case, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or "Lula" as he is universally known) by disgruntled former Administration members, with the sense of invisible wires leading from their limbs to the fingers of right-wing puppeteers. Six months of wall-to-wall "coverage", which is mostly a parade of figures spouting innuendo on the right-leaning media, claiming that Lula was involved. But there's no actual evidence that Lula really was involved. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. (Of course, one had to wait until the very end of the NPR piece before that little fact got mentioned.) And, again just as with Clinton, the fact that the economy has done much better under Lula than it had before him is working in his favor. So I went looking for The Non-Official Story, and I think I've found it. Some interesting things I've learned: -- While there's no doubt that corruption exists in Lula's ruling party, Lula's right-wing enemies don't dare openly attack him over it, preferring to let their friends in the media go after him instead. Why? Because they don't want their own corruption revealed. (The pols attacking Lula are generally ones who, if anything, are disappointed at what they see as his Clinton-style tacking to the right. So any American conservatives hoping to see a conservative government emerge from Lula's troubles are bound to be bummed out.) -- The resignation on September 21 of Severino Cavalcanti, the disgraced chairman of the House of Representatives, has also lowered the pressure on Lula. It's quite likely that, even as the US media is just starting to notice the hoo-ha, that it has already peaked. The upshot of all this? My guess is that it'll be Lula returning to the policies that got him elected in the first place, in order to shore up his support. But that's not what we'll hear about on our radios or read in our newspapers.

Oh, the whole thing is ridiculous.

Brazil has been corrupt as long as Portuguese has been the national language. Wildly, fervently, pyrotechnically corrupt.

I doubt that most voters care about markets. If they did, Lula's popularity would be 90%. But most Brazilians are poor. They're irritated that Lula has been so deferential to the people who care about markets.

Lula has played this calmly. It is an embarrassing scandal, something like Webb Hubbell was for Clinton. But in the end, they'll vote for the man who has held things together.
Oh, yes. Like I said, if anything, this will move Lula farther to the left, to shore up his base. The economy is doing well enough that he can afford to blow off the marketeers for a while.

In other words: The end result will be the exact opposite of what is currently being implied in the US press.
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