Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lula again: high in populism and scandals

Lula again: high in populism and scandals

Julio Severo

In Brazil, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who has been President since 2002, has won his presidential re-election on the October 29 polls. He will govern Brazil for four more years.

Lula is one of the founders of the Workers’ Party (PT), a populist Socialist party. One of the first measures of his past administration was to support Hugo Chavez in his political crisis in Venezuela. By the “Foro de São Paulo” pact, leftist leaders and groups have a commitment to protect one another. Lula and Fidel Castro founded “Foro de São Paulo” in 1990 to unify leftists in their mission to spread and strengthen their ideology throughout Latin America.

The past 4 years of the Lula administration have been plagued by successive scandals, involving his staff and government officials, many of whom fell for financial, administrative and personal corruption and other serious crimes. Yet, even though PT has been the main goal of the accusations, Lula himself seems fully armored and has been made in the press reports strangely detached from the immoral conduct of his own staff and party. Such press condescendence should not be surprising, for in Brazil television and other media outlets are eligible for government grants. Lula has repeatedly told reporters and the public that he did not know anything about corruption in his administration. Attempts to impeach him failed.

His popularity remained solid before the October elections. A strong message defending the poor and a government program giving basic food to them have rendered him sympathy from the poor and those who care for them. Such message drew many evangelical followers too. In fact, many denominations approached Lula since the 2002 presidential campaign when PT brought to Brazil one of its old friends — Rev. Jesse Jackson — to assure evangelical leaders from different churches (traditional, charismatic, Pentecostal) that Lula and his party were not a Communist threat. Liberal churches had no need for such encouragement.

With Jackson, Lula himself assured them that he would not let his future administration to get involved in promoting abortion and the homosexual agenda. Yet, the past 4 years saw the launching of Brazil Without Homophobia, a comprehensive official government program to defend and protect homosexuality and fight homophobia, and the Brazilian introduction in the United Nations of a pioneering resolution classifying homosexuality as a human right. Besides, the official PT government program contains reference to abortion decriminalization.

Jackson is not the only responsible for the political “marriage” of evangelicals to Lula. Rev. Caio Fábio and Bishop Carlos Rodrigues, one of the founders of the Kingdom of God Universal Church, were instrumental in the past effort — prior to 2002 — to convince the evangelical population that they should not fear and shun Lula and his Socialism. Today, both have fallen. Rev. Fábio, a Presbyterian, got involved in a series of scandals, including adultery and divorce. Bishop Rodrigues has fallen because of his involvement in political mafias benefiting PT, his denomination and himself. Yet, his church remains politically and financially powerful. It owns the Liberal Party, which has been an ally to PT (Lula’s party) in the Brazilian government since 2003. Brazilian vice-president is a Liberal Party member too.

In 2006, the majority of the most politically vocal evangelical leaders supported the Lula re-election. Rev. Ariovaldo Ramos, former president of the Association of Evangelicals of Brazil (founded by Caio Fábio) and current president of the Brazilian branch of World Vision, told before the October polls: “I support the Lula re-election. I see that his administration introduced social advances that should at least be kept”.

Like Jackson, Ramos is a known Black activist. In 2004, Rev. Ramos took part in a Brazilian entourage that traveled to Venezuela to deliver a leftist manifesto in support of Hugo Chavez.

In situations where there is no favoritism for him, Lula bestows privileges on strong electoral groups. One of the largest Assemblies of God denominations in Brazil decided to side with Lula after their president, Bishop Manoel Ferreira, was promised a government office on September 2006.

In the first Lula administration, Pastor Nilson Fanini, former president of the World Baptist Alliance, had also been granted a similar office. He eventually got involved in serious financial scandals, which left him stranded from the large church he had served for decades.

The Reborn in Christ Apostolic Church, which had also embarked on the Lula campaign since 2002, has been sinking in a scandal quagmire, after its president, Apostle Estevam Hernandes, and some bishops were summoned by the courts for obscure financial transactions. Their estates and banking accounts have been blocked by judicial order. The Foursquare Gospel Church in Brazil is facing similar problems. The president and other leading officials in this church have been summoned by the courts because of illegal moneymaking through their past public offices. While the message and measures to help the poor have been a very successful tool in the hands of political (and even evangelical) opportunists in Brazil, the scandals in the Lula administration and his (evangelical or not) allies are soaring higher than the populism of Lula.

Evangelical leaders allied to Lula have wasted their opportunities to offer spiritual hope to a man in desperate need. Some time ago, he took part in a witchcraft ritual in Africa. Recently, he vented a strange declaration that “the demon that lives in him is not to be awakened, for his wish is to close the Brazilian Congress”.

It is notorious, at least in Brazil, that to get many bills and measures approved, his administration had to buy many parliamentarians. This scandal has been known as Mensalão (big monthly pay-off). His effort to buy the electoral support from the poor through basic assistance and food is called Mensalinho (small monthly pay-off). In fact, the population that benefited has voted overwhelmingly for Lula and his political allies, even those involved in heavy scandals. In spite of his “assistance” to the poor, Brazil has consistently dropped 11 positions on the WEF Growth Competitiveness Index ranking from 2003 to 2005.

Because political, administrative and criminal scandals have been besetting the Lula administration, there is a terrible paradoxical apathy plaguing the feelings of the Brazilian population regarding politicians. Because of the crimes of some, virtually all politicians are perceived as corrupt. So it seems that Brazilian electors did lose their ability to care whether their chosen candidate is ethically reliable or not. They eventually vote for the same individuals that are responsible for the political discontentment of the Brazilian population. Thus, in spite of the many scandals involving many members of the Lula party, nearly all of them were reelected on the October polls. Yet, this apathy has produced strange results among evangelical electors: because of some scandals among some evangelical parliamentarians, most of the Evangelical Parliamentarian Front members did not get reelected. From its 61 members, just 15 were reelected. Even its president, Adelor Vieira, was not re-elected as a congressman. This is an astounding victory for Lula, because his administration had been complaining that religious opposition was hindering its abortion and homosexual bills. Apparently, the next Brazilian administration will have no such hindrance.

In addition, the crisis in the Evangelical Parliamentarian Front (EPF) will be a great advantage for the new PT administration because Adelor Vieira was not re-elected. The new person expected to occupy his place in the EPF presidency is Walter Pinheiro, a Baptist from the PT party, or Bishop Robson Rodovalho, an open Lula-supporter since 2002.

For his new administration, Lula will need other means to get his bills approved in the Congress.

Like his Venezuelan friend, Lula had recently made known that, if re-elected, his intention is to modify the Brazilian constitution. Now that he is president again, it remains to be seen what he will actually do to the Constitution and Brazil.

The Brazilian horizon may be threatening storms ahead. Just less than one day before the October 1 elections, Brazil experienced its worst air traffic disaster, which cost more than 150 fatal victims. For lack of proper warnings, a Boeing crashed.

Such an accident may be a terrible alert. Brasilia needs much more than good political pilots. It needs proper warnings for it not to crash. Yet, for a long time Brazil has lacked good political pilots in its presidency. It remains to be seen what the coming days have in store for Brazil.

Source: Last Days Watchman

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