Opinion – Latinoamérica21: Brazil must seek agreed solutions to avoid past misfortunes


Lula’s new government —his third and the Workers’ Party’s fifth— began its honeymoon with voters announcing the reactivation of state policies that had been neglected or sabotaged by the previous government. In addition, the Budget has already begun to be put in order, after the orgy of benefits granted by Bolsonaro to try to win the elections. That should guarantee Lula a start to his term without major upheavals due to lack of resources.

Despite Lula’s promises not to increase personnel expenses or lose sight of the programmatic focus, the large number of ministries spread across its broad base of parliamentary supportnow transformed into a “broad front”, smells like old stuff.

The strategic area of ​​Science and Technology, for example, was entrusted to a leadership of the PC do B with no experience in the subject. The same can be said of the areas of Communications and Tourism, attributed to the União Brasil party; the areas of Mines and Energy and Fishing, commissioned from the PSD; from Cities to the MDB; and the areas of Development and Agrarian Management for PT members. In all these cases, those elected seem to lack the necessary experience to deal effectively, from the outset, with the respective demands of their portfolios in a government that talks about “urgencies” and having “no room to make mistakes”.

This practice is not exclusive to the PT. It is a structural problem of Brazilian democracy, largely responsible for its malfunction, by empowering political factions, disguised as parties, with no commitment to the public good. The problem is that Brazilian Realpolitik insists on ignoring the effects of such pragmatism on the very legitimacy of the system, attributing the acute symptoms of its degeneration solely to Bolonarist madness and its prodigious disinformation machine.

To the blind self-confidence of Brazilian pragmatism in its art of accommodation of interests is added the self-absorption of the left in its eternal game of instrumentalization of the “democratic struggle”. This sense of infallibility seems to prevent, so far, our full awareness of the mistakes made since redemocratization. This can be seen in the lack of Lula’s concern for controlling public spendingwithout taking into account that the Brazilian State is an expensive State —prisoner of wasteful oligarchies— that offers low-quality services —such as basic education, health and security— in the midst of institutionalized corruption.

In fact, a large part of the wage earners’ quality of life depends on access to quality public services and not so much on the consumer market, so prominent in the 13 years of PT governments.

On the other hand, it is not surprising that in his inaugural speeches Lula did not address the issue of corruption and that he appointed a politician sentenced by the Supreme Court to six years in prison for embezzlement to the Ministry of National Integration, as warned by the NGO International Transparency. The president also did not speak about the efficiency of the government machine and public security, as if these were resolved issues that do not affect the poorest.

After the recent Bolsonarist coup attempt, these issues may be even less discussed by experts and the media, in order to avoid criticizing the government after the strong attacks on democracy and its institutions. However, such issues will be inexorably present in the population’s daily life and no government will be successful if it does not face them, which implies facing the parasitic sectors that dominate the public machine.

And here we enter the most delicate issue for the survival of our democracy: how long will we be able to refinance our social debt through public debt without taking effective measures for the sustainability of economic and social development?

Judging by the speeches of Lula and his vice president, Alckmin, the problem is no longer an anachronistic topic for the Brazilian elites. It happens, however, that the effectiveness of its confrontation comes up against the objective question of public budget and planning, and the way in which the political system implements them.

The resumption of development presents us with the double challenge of distributive pressure and the growth of the State, in the face of multiple particularist (corporate) interests at the level of companies and state segments. The budgetary pressure of this ill-fated arrangement can be seen in the “expenses cap” instituted in the Temer government, both because it excluded the costs of the public debt and because it underestimated the social needs present in a democracy.

The solution to this impasse requires much more than what the democratic consensus around the new government seems capable of offering. Both in terms of designing effective solutions, bringing together thinkers and political forces of different orientations, and in terms of the urgency of facing and resolving the crisis of legitimacy, which involves transforming factions into true parties. These objectives cannot be achieved by the policy of conciliation as it was historically established in Brazil (the “toma-lá, da-cá”).

At this stage of national political life in which we find ourselves, the new government’s inability to generate and make these solutions viable could be the final straw for the New Republic. In all previous cases, once the room for maneuver of political power was exhausted, the change involved the direct participation of the military, either to redefine the terms of the liberal regime or to suppress it. Let us strive, therefore, to produce an agreed solution capable of avoiding the misfortunes of the past.

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