Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Understanding Brazil – General Elections

The 2010 elections in Brazil threw up many stories, some of which seemed to pass the foreign news agencies by a little. Dilma Rousseff not quite becoming Brazil’s first female president was the dominant story, while Green Party eco-warrior Marina Silva quietly impressed just about everybody with a dignified campaign and exit. She might make a bigger splash in 2014, especially if she can associate her campaign with a successful Brazil team winning the World Cup on home soil.

Romario and Bebeto can look to reform their 1994 World Cup winning Seleçao strike partnership as Rio de Janeiro Federal Deputy and State Deputy respectively. Neither made rocking baby cradles in celebration as far as anybody knows. Romario was once memorably described as playing football ‘like a lizard slithering across the rocks’. This kind of ability could come in very useful when it comes to a life in Brazilian politics.

The ‘comedy’ angle of the campaign was provided by Tiririca, a kind of unfunny clown who has his own tv shows and has appeared on others. Knowing that being an unfunny clown does not preclude a person from taking part in politics in Brazil, he declared himself for the post of Federal Deputy for Sao Paulo with a winning campaign slogan. ‘What is it that a Federal Deputy does anyway? In truth, I don’t know. But vote for me and I will tell you’. Well over a million people voted for him, comfortably the most votes won by any Federal Deputy in the whole of Brazil, and the second most in Sao Paulo State history. Whether such honesty can find a place in Brasilia remains to be seen, as it appears moves have already been made to keep him out of there. Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, to call him by his real name, has unfortunately already had his honesty called into question. Perhaps his declaration that ‘Worse than it is now, it won’t remain’ rubbed a few people up the wrong way. He also declared his ability to read and write as sufficiently high to enter into Brazilian politics, which requires an exam to be passed, when in reality this son of the Ceara coast in the north-east may have the kind of literacy level to be expected from somebody who began working in a Brazilian circus at the age of eight. Perhaps it is true, or perhaps this voting power has frightened those in his way who have turned to the dark arts in order to keep out this true Clown of the People.

Tiririca can always learn to read and write properly of course, although it may be a little too late for him. Such a lack of literacy earlier in life has been no barrier to Marina Silva’s political career as yet. Another issue that appears not to have been a barrier for our hero is that he was once prosecuted for racism, after one of his ‘comedy’ songs compared a black woman’s hair to a brillo pad and said that she smelt worse than a gamba. Children’s entertainment such as this could be the future of Brazil with him pulling the puppet strings in Brasilia.

That Tiririca was not the biggest clown with shady history involved in the Brazilian General Election of 2010 should not be a big surprise to anybody who has ever lived in Brazil, and taken a passing interest in the politics of the country. Or even watched a novela. The election story that should embarrass Brazil more than that of Tiririca is still that of Fernando Collor.

Fernando Collor de Mellor, 32nd President of the Federal Republic of Brazil from March 1990 to December 1992, puts the achievements of Tiririca and every other Brazilian politician in the shade. After the huge Globo TV Network helped to bring him to power in order to prevent Lula’s first bid being successful, Fernando immediately disappeared on holiday for 6 weeks. His brief period of office was characterised by his right hand man and accountant PC Farias helping to salt away billions of dollars from the federal coffers into their own secret accounts. After being impeached in 1992, he later ran away to Miami and was there when his old friend Farias was murdered in 1996. Once the time to prosecute him had run out, he returned to Brazil, and in 2002 tried once again to become the Governor of Alagoas State. He failed, but in 2006 he was voted in as a Senator instead, after professing support for his erstwhile rival Lula. He failed in his run for Governor in 2010, although he did manage to win almost 400,000 votes, at 30% a reasonable effort in such a small state.

Whether the ongoing amazement that is Collor’s durable political career lasts longer than that of the professional clown remains to be seen, but whatever happens you can be sure that the 2014 election and the preceding World Cup shenanigans will throw up more over-the-top, highly unrealistic stories of greed, power, corruption and lies that will outshine even the most ridiculous novela. Such is the world of Brazilian politics.

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