Lula Watch: Focusing on Latin America’s New “Axis of Evil” – Vol. 2– No. 6

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Background On the Elections

Every one in Brazil has been talking about the municipal elections.

Before the elections, President Lula and the hard core PT nucleus in the government (led by strongman José Dirceu) set in motion initiatives unequivocally aimed at installing a socialist regime with PT hegemony, totalitarian undertones and a long (maybe indefinite) permanence of Lula da Silva in power.

These initiatives shocked both the nation and political circles, if only because they ran roughshod over the rule of law, constitutional order and individual liberties. Even worse, they attacked the economic order based on private property and free enterprise.

The government’s offensive added to an already strained ideological climate resulting in a tension acknowledged in numerous and often lengthy articles in the press.

Public opinion appears to have shed its initial attitude of unquestioning trust in the PT government. It now displays wariness and even concern about the party’s methods and goals. As we have seen in a previous report, the results of the first round of the municipal elections, largely unfavorable to the PT government, convey precisely this state of mind.

The political world has also been shaken. Even government allies now manifest displeasure. And the alliances cobbled together by the PT now seem to be gradually crumbling as the present administration increasingly radicalizes.

The governors in leading Brazilian states have warned that excessive centralization threatens the country’s federal system, thus weakening the states and putting the federal government in control of many sectors of society. The governor of Rio Grande do Sul compared the Lula government to the Estado Novo dictatorship (of President Vargas). The governor of São Paulo noted Lula’s resemblance with the leaders of the military dictatorship.

Many news analyses note that the Lula DA Silva government is resurrecting the national-developmental model of the former military dictatorship led by General Ernesto Geisel. That period was characterized by marked political centralization, an economy strongly controlled by the state, and a Third-World-oriented foreign policy.

Transition to a Socialist People’s Republic?

Before the elections, President Lula DA Silva and the hard-core PT nucleus in the government (led by Minister José Dirceu) set in motion many initiatives to establish the basis for a totalitarian leftist regime in Brazil.

Perhaps the government hoped that any resulting reactions to this offensive would simply dissolve in the uproar of the election campaign.

However, this offensive greatly startled everyone. As the governor of Minas Gerais adroitly noted, it only made the left more radical and caused the situation to deteriorate.

The climate of ideological radicalization could be gauged by the numerous and often lengthy press reports and commentaries unveiling the ultimate intentions of the country’s present leaders.

A sampling of typical titles reflects this climate: “The Totalitarian Temptation” (Veja); “The Government’s Offensive against Democracy” (O Estado de S. Paulo); “Soviets of Culture” (Jornal do Brasil); “Authoritarian Advance” (Folha de S. Paulo); “Rural Stalinism” (O Estado de S. Paulo); “The Authoritarian Risk” (Época); “Wave of Obscurantism” (O Estado de S. Paulo), etc.

Launched with a strong political return of José Dirceu (after his recent visit to Cuba on Fidel Castro’s invitation), the government offensive provides a glimpse into the true and final intentions of the Lula DA Silva government, many of which had been skillfully hidden during the 2002 election campaign and the first few months in power.

Employing the disarming election slogan “Little Lula, Peace and Love,” Lula portrayed himself as a leader of a leftist party that had definitively broken with revolutionary practices and goals. Now however, Lula and the PT bring increasingly to the fore that which is called a “totalitarian power project.” Implementing gradual but constant reforms, it seeks to radically transform the structure of the state into the mold of a people’s republic and shake the very foundations of Brazilian society:

“PT strategists tighten the siege and pave the way to set the practical foundations of a ‘transition to socialism’ in the country. …

“Proposed bills … duly analyzed by the Chief of Staff [José Dirceu], make clear the desire of the Lula government to grab a hold of orientation, discipline and monitoring of the instruments of psycho-social control. … Deep down, these proposals make possible a consolidation of the party-state defined by Communist theoretician Antonio Gramsci as the ‘Modern Prince.’…

“It is urgent, to say the least, for society and the National Congress to be alert to the government’s intentions to lay, through vote-getting strategies, the basis for a totalitarian state” {Ipojuca Pontes, “Príncipe moderno e antigo,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/13/2004).

In its main editorial, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo clearly pointed to the PT’s offensive to “take the public machinery by assault and fully dominate the instruments of power,” as well as the “anti-democratic intentions” of some collaborators of Luiz Inácio Lula DA Silva:

“It is alarming that a series of PT government projects and proposals have the indelible marks of authoritarianism and seek to restrict [individual] liberties … It is shocking and deplorable that PT has risen to power to attack our democratic advances …

“However, it is not surprising at all for a party rooted in the left, once in power, to despise democracy and give free rein to its Leninist fantasies and delirium” (“Avanço autoritário,” 8/14/2004).

In two editorials of major importance, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo commented on the “strong escalation of the authoritarian offensive”:

“The government, [while] open and sensible on economic policy, is showing the dictatorial face of its power project. …

“Brazil is again witnessing the spectacle of lies and sophisms that decades ago preceded the rise of dictatorships of the right and left” (“Governo mostra a sua face autoritária,” 8/11/2004).

“There cannot be the least doubt that the Lula government is dead set on subjecting society to arbitrary state control and to reduce democracy to a cardboard facade behind which the PT will do whatever it sees fit, without effective opposition, to keep itself in power as far as the eye can see” (“A ofensiva do governo contra a democracia,” 8/13/2004).

Freedom of the press gravely threatened

The Lula DA Silva government sent a bill to Congress which would create the Federal Council on Journalism (CFJ).

This vague yet comprehensive proposal spells out the duties of the ten-member Council. It would “orient, discipline, and supervise” both the exercise of journalism as a profession and the journalistic activities in the country. Furthermore, the council would put together a journalistic code of ethics and establish disciplinary procedures (of warning, censure or revocation of professional license) for journalists who violate said code. The Council would also define who can exercise the profession of journalist and review all current registrations. In practice, such powers would turn the council into a bureaucratic arm for press censorship and control.

This bill comes at a time when the government, including the president, is criticizing the press for what it calls “denunciationism,” or excessive criticism. In parallel, the government is taking the offensive by reinforcing state media. It re-inaugurated the National Radio, increased the ranks of Radiobrás employees and plans to create a South American public television station – an idea set forth by Lula and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

The government bill is causing great and ongoing controversy. All sectors of society have strongly criticized the bill.

Veja magazine called the bill “the most serious attack on freedom of expression in Brazil since the military regime.” The magazine interviewed dozens of politicians, artists, jurists, intellectuals and businessmen, who unanimously manifested their disagreement and concern:

Denis Rosenfield (professor of philosophy): “The government remains tied to the ghosts of revolutionary doctrine in the ideological field. Their latest initiatives can be equated with the Chinese, Soviet and Albanese experiments;”

Walter Ceneviva (constitutional lawyer): “As long as ‘denunciationism’ was an instrument for the PT to rise to power, all was well. Now they decided to create an agency that limits the activities of journalism;”

João Ubaldo Ribeiro (writer): “I am against the dictatorial choice that serves as the framework for this type of bill;”

José Bonifácio de Oliveira Sobrinho (television entrepreneur): “It is absurd to create a bureaucracy in charge of judging what is or is not forbidden in the field of ideas;”

Sérgio Bermudes (attorney): “This agency is Stalinist and this council subjects journalists to a kind of self-censorship;”

Ives Gandra Martins (jurist): “The projected bill proposing a Council on Journalism is absurd and unconstitutional;”

Luiz Flávio d´Urso (president of the São Paulo State Bar Association [OAB/SP]): “The Federal Council on Journalism runs the risk of previous censorship;”

Emerson Kapaz (entrepreneur): “The government has contracted the incoherence syndrome. When in the opposition, it took advantage of denunciations by the Public Prosecutor and exploited them in the press. Now they want to control both;”

Roberto Romano (philosopher): “This is the government of a party dominated by Stalinists who deem the press, society and any institution as means of power. Those who have been Stalinists for fifty years do not become democrats when coming to power;”

Maria Adelaide Amaral (novelist): “This is a coercive attitude. I am totally against this. It is a return to censorship.”

The magazine Veja itself, on inquiring about the inspiration for a council restricting freedom of expression, says:

“Perhaps the DNA of some major league PT members still has inscribed in it the motto of Russian Bolsheviks: ‘All power to the Soviets.’ For those who don’t know, soviet, in Russian, means council (Malu Gaspar, “The Ghost of Authoritarianism,” 8/18/2004).

The well-known journalist Alberto Dines of the “Press Observatory” called the proposal an “aberration.” Boris Casoy, a leading nightly TV news anchorman, called the proposal “abominable.” He said: “It is an obvious attempt to control journalists and the press” and “leaves no doubt as to its dictatorial roots.”

The organization Reporters Without Borders issued a communiqué asking Lula to withdraw the proposed legislation, which the entity’s secretary-general sees as a threat to press freedom.

Attorney Manuel Alceu Affonso Ferreira, a press legislation specialist, said “the council deserves total repudiation.”

At the 5th Brazilian Newspapers Conference, the president of the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) and of the editorial board of the O Estado de S. Paulo, Francisco Mesquita Neto, warned of increasing government measures which would curtail press freedom in Brazil. He said that, despite repeated appeals, the government persists in retaining the bill on the Federal Council on Journalism “with sufficient powers to prevent journalists from exercising their profession and even suspend publications.”

At the said conference, the president of the Association of Brazilian Judges (AMB), the Hon. Cláudio Baldino Maciel, also condemned the creation of the FCJ and its “function to punish, penalize, and forbid.”

Film director and commentator Arnaldo Jabor also severely criticized the FCJ project and the government’s “schizophrenia” (“neo-liberal by day and Leninist by night”): “This Bolshevik wing has an inoperable tumor in the brain which is the seizing of power in St. Petersburg in 1917.”

José Nêumanne, journalist and editorialist of the Jornal DA Tarde, alluded to the people’s commissars of the Bolshevik Revolution by referring to the president’s chief of staff as “Commissar José Dirceu” and added: “The government has been a permanent threat to freedom of expression and the right to information. This comes from leftist preconceptions” (cf. “ANJ alerta para ‘atentados à liberdade’ e Bucci nega que CFJ amordace imprensa,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/14/2004).

In one of his articles, the same editorialist wrote:

“The Federal Council on Journalism” is an idea sufficient to make Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Getúlio Vargas, Perón and other tyrants green with envy. Instead of imposing censorship, arresting and gagging the recalcitrant critics of this march toward socialism through the cracks of democracy, the PT government has found a more suave (but definitive) means of punishing them: revoking their professional registration and denying them the right to exercise their profession” (“Desprezo pela democracia,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/11/2004).

In its main editorial, O Estado de S. Paulo accused:

“Only the military dictatorship dared to do so much in its attempts to intimidate journalists and silence the press. The difference is the means they used. …

“The best that can be done with this Stalinist-like government project with its newspapers without editors and a press fed with pre-approved releases by dictators on call, is to throw it in the garbage. That would prevent another dangerous advance in PT’s power project” (“A imprensa do projeto petista de poder,” 8/9/2004).

Political commentator Dora Kramer, in her nationally syndicated daily column was peremptory:

“If there is a wave threatening Brazilian society it is not ‘denunciationism,’ invented in the government’s propaganda labs to inhibit denunciations …

“If there is a wave threatening Brazilian society, it is obscurantism which, for the first time since the reconquest of democracy, has recovered from the dictatorship the concept of an internal enemy and called into question the value of liberty.

“In question now is the freedom of expression, but once the trend gets started, tomorrow it can be the turn of the freedom of movement, association, assembly, and finally complaining and thinking differently” (“Onda de obscurantismo,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/11/2004).

For his part, the well-known jurist Miguel Reale, warned:
“The projected bill at the same time attacks the Constitution and the laws of the land, aiming to deprive it of freedom of the press. … The aim ostensibly being sought is to subject journalistic activity to the State” (“Estatização do jornalismo,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/25/2004).

The bill’s seemingly “democratic” appearance

As in other fields, the Lula government pretends to be fulfilling the wishes of society by introducing the CFJ bill. The idea of the bill supposedly came not from the government but from a “long-standing request from the profession” by an entity called the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj).

However, the press has pointed out that Fenaj is not representative of journalists working in newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations. It is a minority organization composed by people serving as press relations officers for state companies and politicians. It is directed by a radical left wing of the Central Workers’ Organization (CUT), a union arm of the PT. Of the seven board directors, five are affiliated with the PT and another is an open sympathizer of the party.

However, the gravity of ideological party control over the bill and the state agency it would create becomes even starker since the bill determines that the CFJ board of directors will be designated by none other than Fenaj itself.

This led former Education Minister Paulo Renato Souza to denounce the bill as a clear sign of the PT’s political strategy. He said the choosing of directors and the rules for appointing them would allow party militants or their allies to permanently dominate the council:

“Thus, the bill is even more diabolical than it seems at first sight. It means that they are trying to obtain not just state control but ideological and political control over the journalistic profession” (“Sinais de fumaça,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/26/2004).

Lula calls journalists “cowards”

As members of the government tried to defend themselves from the accusations made against the bill, some of their claims caused even greater controversy. For example, Luiz Gushiken, head of the Secretariat of Government Communication and Strategic Management, said that the freedom of the press is not an ‘absolute’ value in a democracy.

In another case, the Lula DA Silva government reacted angrily to an article by The New York Times’ journalist Larry Rohter who reported on the Brazilian media’s rejection of and public outcry over Lula’s planned creation of the CFJ.

In a note issued by its press secretary, the Brazilian government demanded the journalist retract his story and said the president is not the author of the bill. The Brazilian press criticized the government’s letter, showed how its allegations were unfounded, and said the government was trying to extend censorship beyond Brazil’s borders.

The most polemic attitudes, however, came from the president himself. On a visit to Paraguay, Pres. Lula DA Silva said he would only grant interviews to journalists who publicly favor the Federal Council on Journalism.

Days later, in the Dominican Republic, Pres. Lula DA Silva aggressively addressed a group of Brazilian journalists: “You are a bunch of cowards, you know? You had no courage to defend the National Council on Journalism,” said the president.

Lula’s aggressive words had a very negative repercussion in Brazil. Opposition leaders and even allies criticized the president.

Journalist Alberto Dines, editor-in-chief of the “Observatório DA Imprensa,” expressed well the general perplexity caused by Lula’s statements:

“‘Little Lula peace and love’ was a good slogan for the campaign, the swearing-in ceremony, and to cover up the inevitable first slips in the first half of the mandate. Now the negotiator tells us that the time for fisticuffs has come – on the table or on the adversaries.

“The accusation of cowardice is too strong to be brushed aside. …

“Cowards flee from the fight, so the climate is one of warfare, combat, rivalry, confrontation, and melee. If the head of state takes off his gown as magistrate, he is clearly admitting that there’s no more room for talk and that he has adhered to one of the belligerent factions. This is grave. Above all, this is too small a matter to deserve such an abrupt change in the government’s mood and tactics. …

“The government is playing with a heavy hand. It is taking advantage of the favorable tide of good economic news to change the tone of its speech, so far marked by the idea of negotiation and consensus. They brushed the nice-guy stance aside. They have turned on the steamroller. (…)

“The strategy of confrontation is senseless and dangerous. Minefields are spread in all territories and spheres. By calling those who disagree with him cowards, the president has activated a bomb with high radiation power (“Covardia e confrontação,”, 8/24/2004).

In an editorial, O Estado de S. Paulo deemed Lula’s statements unbecoming and marked by a “frightening heavy-handedness.” It also said the president’s comments “gave new life to a matter which has still not been definitively answered: Is the government’s central hard core marching down the path of authoritarianism? There are motives to suspect that it is” (“A sociedade não pode baixar a guarda,” 8/18/2004).

A decree to gag public employees

In the context of curtailing freedom of the press in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula DA Silva will soon issue a decree that will change the Code of Ethics of public servants, forbidding them to directly give information to journalists or media organs.

“The proposal totally alters the historic relationship between journalists and sources in their production of news in the public interest and gives excessive power to the government and its auxiliaries, … {who are} all trusted people of the president” (Vannildo Mendes, “Novo projeto do government cala servidor público,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/12/2004).

Thus Veja magazine says the government apparently wants to control the press when both collecting and publishing news by regulating reporters’ access to sources and examining what is published. It points out the contradiction:

“President Lula’s own political career benefited from the PT’s denunciationist tactics … One of the tactics most used by the PT was to plant militants in strategic public posts where they would have access to relevant information and leak it to the press. Now, the PT government does the opposite” (Malu Gaspar, “O fantasma do autoritarismo,” 8/18/2004).

Ideological control of culture

A projected General Law on Audiovisual Affairs would create the National Agency for Cinema and Audiovisual (Ancinav). The bill has generated great controversy and was proposed on the same day as the Federal Council on Journalism Bill was published.

The Agency, whose board members will be appointed directly by the president, would regulate, control and monitor radio and television stations, communications services with an audiovisual content (including telephony and the Internet); the production, distribution and showing of movies and even the collection of royalties. Ancinav would also have the power to investigate and restructure the strategic plans of companies in the audiovisual sector. It could intervene in television programming and decide on the editorial responsibility of the same.

The bill also has a profoundly socializing aspect, as it calls for creating a large number of taxes and an indiscriminate increase of many existing ones. According to the press, this new tax burden will reduce or eliminate the economic independence of an important part of the private sector and even the dismantling of many segments of the economy linked with the audiovisual industry.

Written in vague and often confusing terms, the proposed bill nevertheless fails to hide an ideological inspiration drawn from the nationalist left.

The authors of this bill show concern for Brazil’s vulnerability to what they call American hegemony in the economic, political, technological, military and ideological fields. American culture and particularly films unduly influence the nation’s ideology and culture, allegedly causing the “alienation” of the people.

Thus, the State, in the name of a civic reeducation and preserving a “national identity,” would devise means whereby the State would regulate cultural audiovisual expression ranging from the press (written or spoken) to scientific and artistic production.

For this end, the proposed bill calls for the “planning, regulation, administration and monitoring of cinema and audiovisual-related activities,” controlling the content of cultural productions shown and produced in Brazil, including television films and news reports.

Generalized criticism of the bill

Naturally, the bill’s ideological inspiration and contents gave rise to strong criticism. As with the Federal Council on Journalism, the government tried to support the initiative by alleging that it was a “request from the profession.”

A well-known movie actor, Cacá Diegues, publicly criticized the bill calling it “authoritarian, bureaucratizing, statist,” a return to old ideological superstitions and a reverse march going back more than 30 years.

Cinema-related associations repudiated the “unbearable increase” in the tax burden in a note saying they “do not accept the [government’s] violent intervention and exaggerated regulation of an industry that has shown proofs of its development over the last few years based only on private resources” (Eduardo Simões and Jaime Biaggio, “Cineastas reagem às propostas,” O Globo, 8/6/2004).

O Estado de S. Paulo journalist Fernão Lara Mesquita accused the PT of trying to control the country’s whole entertainment and information media through clearly authoritarian and undemocratic legislation:

“The Ancinav ‘package’ is the most violent attack on civil liberties since the imposition of censorship on the press by the military governments” (O golpe DA Ancinav,” 9/19/2004).

Also the vice-president of Organizações Globo, in an article in the press at large, pointed to the authoritarian nature of the bill creating Ancinav. He attacked the abusive taxation through which the state would appropriate the profit of private companies and denounced the bill’s regulatory mechanisms as veiled instruments of censorship.

Movie actor and journalist Ipojuca Pontes, in an article in O Estado de S. Paulo, emphasized the fact that the projected Audiovisual Law follows several guidelines taken from the Forum of São Paulo, an entity created by Fidel Castro and PT mentors now in government, to orient the left in Latin America after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Indeed, the author wrote, several resolutions of the Forum present the control of media as a strategy to implant socialism.

In its main editorial, O Estado de S. Paulo said the bill creating Ancinav will eliminate freedom of expression in Brazil. This is especially true when considering how it comes in the bosom of a two-pronged attack targeting the press and the Public Prosecutor’s office:

“This is a typical job of that PT that does not blush when pointing to the regimes of Fidel Castro and that of General Hugo Chavez in Venezuela as models of ‘democracy.’ …

“The Ancinav bill is only an extemporaneous re-creation of the very worst the 20th century has produced of this nature. To call it authoritarian is too bland and small” (“Debaixo do parangolé DA Ancinav,” 9/26/2004).

An inquiry turned into a machine for political persecution

The politicization of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) was the epicenter of another grave political crisis.

Created to investigate irregular transfers of funds to New York through an agency of Banco do Estado do Paraná (Banestado), the Commission – known as the Banestado CPI – is led by PT deputy José Mentor. He is politically linked to presidential Chief of Staff José Dirceu.

Under the command of José Mentor, the commission gained access to fiscal and bank account information violating privacy en masse, without any basis on material evidence (something which in itself is unconstitutional).

The type of information obtained included, for example, a list of Brazilians owning real estate abroad, those with investments abroad, bond holders on the public debt since 1996, legal proceedings, and registrations and operations involving banks and other public and private institutions.

According to a journalist with the financial daily Valor, the CPI thus unearthed a databank that would make the information services of the military dictatorships green with envy.

The press also noted that this operation is only the tip of the iceberg of a vast operation to collect confidential information. It should not be seen as an isolated violation of people’s freedoms but as consistent with a totalitarian strategy to subject society and even Congress to the PT:

“This is the crux of the matter. The PT’s eagerness to appropriate information on citizens and companies, circumventing all confidentiality barriers, outdoes even the snooping of the military dictatorship. Only its methods differ. Under the apparent inspiration and command of Minister José Dirceu, who studied intelligence in Cuba (where he usually spends his vacations), and perhaps unbeknownst to the president himself, the PT is creating a diversified arsenal of instruments of social control. As far as determination and competence are concerned, the generals of the 1964 military regime would have little to teach and much to learn from the ‘Soviets,’ as movie director Arnaldo Jabor calls the incurable enemies of freedom who, ensconced in the Planalto palace, know what they want and do what they know, on the pretext that what is good for them is good for Brazil” (O braço do dr. Strangelove,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/12/2004).

In a speech filled with indignation, Arthur Virgílio Neto, leader of the [opposition] PSDB in the Senate, blamed Minister José Dirceu for creating this databank: “This is just like Zé Dirceu, who uses Gestapo methods to persecute his political adversaries.”

For his part, the commission president, Sen. Antero Paes de Barros, attacked José Dirceu saying “this episode shows that those in the PT have no commitment to democracy at all.”

The vice-president of the [opposition] PFL, Sen. José Jorge, blamed parts of the government for creating a parallel databank and leaking private information (Christiane Samarco, “Banco de dados’é a cara de Dirceu,’ diz Virgílio,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/17/2004).

The Senate president himself, José Sarney, called the databank discovery one of the gravest discoveries ever made in Congress.

The situation became graver when Sen. Tasso Jereissati (PSDB) became the target of political blackmail based on illegally leaked data from the CPI.

The senator accused CPI director José Mentor of investigating him for political reasons and with the goal of intimidating him into lessening his opposition to the government. Tasso Jereissati did not mince words:

“A grave threat hovers over all society. Anyone — a minister, a banker — can be blackmailed at any time. …

“To use the power exceptionally granted to the CPI to make the largest databank in the history of this country, breaking the privacy of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians, and to retain this private databank is a crime whose seriousness is hard to gauge.”

The senator also said the president’s chief of staff, José Dirceu, “makes it understood that he is ready to do anything” and accused him of making serious personal threats:

“Because in the final analysis, he himself [José Dirceu] is the one making the threats: get someone, finish off somebody else, shoot so and so. For a cabinet member, these are very strange threats” (Luciana Nunes Leal, “‘Qualquer um pode ser chantageado,'” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/18/2004).

Chief of Staff attacks Public Prosecutor’s office

In its offensive to take over state institutions, the Lula DA Silva government is trying to get ‘outside control’ of the Judiciary. The Public Prosecutor’s office is also in the government’s cross hairs.

In the past, the governing PT made ample use of investigations by the Public Prosecutor’s office for political ends. However, some of its current investigations are proving highly damning to the PT government thus causing extreme displeasure. According to grapevine accounts, the Lula DA Silva government now intends to gag that institution.

Thus, the Public Prosecutor’s office is feeling the pressure of violent attacks, many of which come from presidential Chief of Staff José Dirceu.

In a recent interview on the program “Espaço Aberto” of Globonews, he accused the Prosecutor’s office of using illegal methods and compared the action of some prosecutors to the Gestapo.

Reactions were not long in coming. The president of the Association of Public Prosecutors of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Marfan Martins Vieira, condemned the “hostile and defamatory” attitude of the chief of staff, which, he said, was no surprise. And he quipped: “Thought control and illegality are not prevalent practices in our institution.”

Attorneys-general of 18 states, meeting in the city of Porto Alegre, reacted with surprise at the statements of José Dirceu.

The attack was so strong that the chief of staff, in a note by his spokesman, later rectified his comparison.

In an editorial titled “A Minister Against an Institution,” O Estado de S. Paulo showed the absurdity of the “outlandish comparison of that band of Hitler’s bandits with our respectable public institution.” This is all the more so when the Public Prosecutor’s office is investigating two cases (the assassination of the PT mayor of Santo André and the corruption racket run by Waldomiro Diniz, personal assistant to the chief of staff), cases from which “Min. Dirceu is far from keeping an ethically comfortable distance.”

Moreover, the editorial made a direct allusion to the minister’s despotic methods, his closeness with Fidel Castro and his membership in Castro’s secret services during his years of exile in Cuba:

“Both Hitler’s political police and those of his counterpart, Stalin’s NKVD, the predecessor of Putin’s KGB (about which perhaps Min. Dirceu possesses better operational information) were characterized by their monolithic, unitarian and despotic weight, without traits of ‘decentralization’ in the field of investigation or oppression. It is well to note that in Cuba – certainly the system with which the president’s chief of staff has the most intimacy – police repression does have a maximum of ‘decentralization’ represented by the permanent ‘ideological’ vigilance of neighborhood watchers” (9/12/2004).

Profound Transformation of the State

The Lula DA Silva government’s supporters in Parliament have announced a new offensive to profoundly transform the organization of the State on the way to a People’s republic and a direct democracy of the masses.

Brazilian deputies (many from the Workers Party) went to Venezuela as observers for the referendum on whether president Hugo Chavez should remain in power.

According to the press, the delegation returned with new proposals in their luggage. As Dep.Maria José DA Conceição Maninha (PT -Federal District) noted, they brought ideas to create two more branches of government, as Chavez did in Venezuela: the Electoral Branch and the Citizen’s Branch, which would be erected as people’s branches to supervise the State and its institutions. They also want a constitutional provision regulating popular referenda called to revoke the mandates of people in government.

Thus, under the vague suspicion of “administrative incompetence,” any governor, mayor, senator or deputy can be subjected to a popular mechanism that facilitates revoking his mandate. Once approved, this would destabilize fundamental principles of representative democracy. Furthermore, the PT government can at any moment call upon the so-called organized civil society (i.e., the ‘social movements,’ many led or oriented by PT itself) to ask for a referendum revoking the mandates of opposition politicians.

Such proposals were included in the daily press’ analyses of PT’s power project:

“It is a political project looking forward 20 or 30 years. The goal is to transform Brazilian society and institutions in all areas according to the PT’s own view of how a society should function. This is already being gradually implemented in the government’s current dealings with companies, workers, universities and teaching institutions, social movements, culture and artistic institutions, the press and public administration.

“In this government, a clever observer once said, nothing is coincidental or happens by chance. …

“The PT was born and formed to create and structure a new revolutionary power (on the wake of the fiasco of guerrilla warfare) to replace representative democracy with a kind of direct democracy of the masses which transpires very clearly in their oratory arrogance, irreverence for law, challenging attitudes of MST leaders (inspired by the PT’s ‘textbooks’) and even in the action of party militants now in government” (Marco Antonio Rocha, “A economia fortalece o ‘projetão,'” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/6/2004).

Does Lula want to keep himself in power?

From the very beginning, PT members and Pres. Lula DA Silva himself made it understood the PT project went beyond the four-year presidential mandate. They spoke of eight, twelve and even 20 years.

Such statements naturally caused perplexity and fears that the PT intends to stay in power by skirting democratic rules.

Lula’s visits to dictatorial heads of state have done nothing to allay this apprehension. In the context of the present ideological tension, the president’s statements after his visit and open motorcade appearance with Gabon’s dictator caused particular concern:

“I went on a trip to Gabon to learn how a president manages to remain 37 years in power and still present himself as a candidate for reelection,” Lula commented with the president of Costa Rica.

Lula’s declaration caused uneasiness and was followed by another a few days later during a visit of Mozambique’s president to Brazil. On that occasion, Lula lamented that Joaquim Chissano will leave power after 18 years.

Such statements are made in a context of rapprochement between Lula and Chavez, even as the Venezuelan president announced in his recent visit to Brazil new reforms in the Constitution that will enable him to perpetuate himself in power. An editorial in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo noted:

“President Luiz Inácio Lula DA Silva did not have to go to Gabon to learn how a ruler can remain in power for 37 years. He could have just talked to his friend, Hugo Chavez. …

“The reform proposed [by Chavez] does not strengthen the Constitution, much less democracy. It can give Chavez the instruments he needs to perpetuate himself in power like his idol, Fidel Castro.

“Lula and Chavez share the same admiration for old dictators. After admiring the political work of Gabon’s dictator, Lula lavishes praise on Chavez” (“As reeleições de Chávez,” 9/19/2004).

A climate of ideological tension

The present politico-social climate in Brazil is characterized by marked ideological tension. Commenting on the recent municipal elections, some media observers have said public opinion feels placed against the wall by the political game, that is, the leftist offensive of the PT government.

Anyone seeking an in-depth knowledge of what is happening in Brazil needs to have a notion of the tone employed in the analyzes and news reports, which are a far cry from the easygoing attitude that usually characterizes Brazilian public life.

In an article titled “Scorn for Democracy,” journalist José Nêumanne points out the common trait shared by the present government’s attitudes, measures, and projects:

“Is there a common trait between President Luiz Inácio Lula DA Silva open motorcade appearance (in a showy Rolls Royce) with Gabon’s dictator; his chief of staff José Dirceu’s choice of Cuba to spend his vacations; the PT support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; and the creation of the National Council on Journalism and the National Agency for Cinema and Audiovisual (Ancinav)? Could this common trait be low esteem (or even scorn) among the PT leadership for ‘formal bourgeois’ democracy that they tolerate but do not resist the temptation to try to eliminate, by taking advantage of its own flaws? Was this not what ‘Papa’ Stalin taught?” (O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/11/2004).

For his part, João Mellão Neto, a former secretary of the government of the State of São Paulo, commenting on the government’s projects, says:

“There is nothing to wonder about if taking into account the origins of the PT. In the early 80’s, the party’s founders and first members were all from Marxist-Leninist extraction. … Dialectic materialism explained everything. History would lead them inevitably to power. Once there, their mission would be to reconstruct society. …

“I imagined that with the passing of years they might have evolved. Good luck! Many of them are still the same: radical, authoritarian and profound unbelievers in the ‘bourgeois values’ that are the foundation of democracy.

“These kind of people put in Lula’s head this madness of wanting to control, not only the State, but also the press, culture and finally all society” (“Aonde eles querem chegar?,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/20/2004).

In an article in Veja magazine, Tales Alvarenga notes that the PT denied its revolutionary past to win the presidential elections. However, that which was thought to be obsolete now appears to be back:

“For two decades, factions inside the PT called for seizing power to eliminate the ‘bourgeois’ model of democracy. That is how they scornfully referred to societies that respect individual freedom and a free market economy. For many PT ideologues, Brazil’s final redemption would come with her transformation into a large Cuba without a Congress, Judiciary, or independent press. There are factions installed in the party that continue to think this way” (“Monopólio DA virtude,” 8/18/2004).

Veja magazine itself, under the title “The Authoritarian Temptation,” devoted a long cover story to “the PT government’s offensives to monitor and control the press, television and culture.” The magazine draws parallels between the Lula DA Silva government’s authoritarian growth and similar moves in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

In his weekly article in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, journalist Gilberto de Mello Kujawski dissects “the spinal column of PT’s power project” based on a direct democracy of the masses in which political parties, alternating governments, free enterprise, freedom of the press, and sovereignty of the Judicial Branch are seen as “bourgeois inventions”:

“Only a robust power project that ensures a PT permanence in government for 30 years or more can ensure a radical reform of laws and institutions, a ‘change of structures’ and the re-founding of this country on new fundamentals. This is how … [they] all think. Lula goes with the wave. …

“The PT power project is sufficiently outlined to show its claws: … centralization, State intervention and supervision make up the PT government’s authoritarian tripod, to which is added another as yet unperceived leg: a personality cult – the undeniable mark of authoritarian and totalitarian governments. …

“And Lula, our ‘Little Lula, peace and love,’ is talking tough and revealing the typical heavy-handedness of South American caudillos” (“Autoridade e autoritarismo,” 9/16/2004).

Epoca magazine (of the Globo Group) notes that the Lula DA Silva government’s bills and proposals to control information appear just when the president and some of his ministers attack the press’ “denunciationism”:

“A large part of the federal government’s leadership has based their political careers on the struggle against the military dictatorship. Now this democratic image is being shaken. … The government appears to flirt with the authoritarianism of Cuba, China and the former Soviet Union” (Leandro Loyola, “O risco autoritário,” 8/16/2004).

In an article in the economic section of O Estado de S. Paulo, Marco Antônio Rocha analyzed some positive signs in the country’s economy and their consequences on the political scene:

“Of course, the PT’s political project is to transform not only the economy but also the country and Brazilian society itself according to its ideas and vision. This is not a modest project limited to reforms to make the State and its administration function better and the economy to generate more jobs. This project, mind you, seeks to transform Brazilian society – from its foundations up. This includes the relationship between the State and society, its institutions and what these institutions contain.

“Obviously such a project must be based on the premise that [the PT] will stay in power for a long time – no less than 20 years. …”

The writer also says the government and particularly the PT benefit from the much-trumpeted economic successes, which tend to soften resistance to their politico-ideological march:

“There are romantic PT members, recent joiners, who dream of a socialist or communist society free from ‘savage capitalism,’ the ‘claws of imperialism’ and ‘bourgeois prejudices.’ Others are the emotional PT members. And there are the organic PT members – the ‘Stalinists – cold, calculating, efficient and articulate. They are the ones really in charge. They do not dream. They strategically plan to perpetuate themselves in power (“Periga dar certo… E daí?,” 8/23/2004).

The renowned Brazilian constitutionalist Ives Gandra DA Silva Martins, in an article in the Jornal do Brasil titled “The Democratic Reversal,” warned:

“I believe there is a real risk that an attempt is under way to impose control on society, if possible with the implementation of an ‘authoritarian law’ that disrespects even untouchable clauses of the Constitution.

“From the start, I want to make it clear that I do not think the federal government is acting in bad faith when their members intend to impose a socialist republic, since, still in opposition, they never hid their preference for Fidel Castro, Chavez and the Chinese socialist dictatorship. An unequivocal proof of this is the absolutely preferential treatment they give the Cuban dictator.

“What they are trying to impose is simply that which they have always preached – though they were not elected to implement a program with this profile. …

“As a first step, they signaled that they would adopt a market economy so as not to scare off national and international investors.

“From then on, all their actions were and are to increase their control of society (8/26/2004).

In the article, “The Three PT Governments,” the same Prof. Ives Gandra DA Silva Martins dissected the action of the Lula DA Silva government. He begins by first analyzing the “non-PT PT,” which he says is doing very well by maintaining economic stability and thus its credibility in the country. And he continued:

“The second PT is the PT in power. … Its leaders have never denied that it is a socialist party, and for this reason it intends to impose economic and political interventionism with a minimum of resistance and a maximum reduction of the values of a pluralistic society. The ‘PT in power’ wants, if possible, a Unitarian society in the Cuban dictator’s style, but, if not possible, to reduce opposition to an almost negligible expression. …”

“Finally, there is the ideological PT … whose goal would be to implant a new Cuba or a new Venezuela by causing class struggle and persecuting those who do not think as their movement does. It is in this segment that disrespect for the law, such as land invasions, is tolerated” (O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/22/2004).

Under the title “The Smirk of Socialism,” writer Antonio Sepúlveda warns:

“Although Min. Gilberto Gil, employing mellifluous fallacies, tries to deny the ideological intention of cultural censorship; although Pres. Lula DA Silva, with his broken rhetoric, strives to make believe the lie that the effort to gag the press has come from journalists themselves; although the commissariat assures us that the Federal Police’s Agency for Institutional Defense is not an ideological patrol; and no matter how much the impassioned Frei Betto may swear by all red demons that the Landless Workers Movement is not the embryo of an armed wing of the dreamed-of Maoist revolution, the evidence is disquieting, and the facts are astounding. …

“Another symptom of Stalinist infection is found in the political content that the party’s ideologues want to introduce into education. … Finally, the PT politburo wants our youths to reproduce the thought and values of the dominant nomenklatura.

“Let us keep our eyes wide open; socialism is showing its hideous smirk” (Jornal do Brasil, 8/22/2004).

Tension in the political sphere

The ideological tension permeating Brazil is also reflected on the political scene. The increasingly bitter disputes and the many alliances the PT cobbled together to rise to power appear to be increasingly fragile. Thus, important figures have raised their voices against the totalitarian offensive of the Lula DA Silva government.

Governors of major states, such as São Paulo’s Geraldo Alckmin, Minas Gerais’ Aécio Neves, and Rio Grande do Sul’s Germano Rigotto, have all warned of the danger of excessive centralization, the weakening of the States, and attempts by the federal government to control sectors of society.

The governor of Rio Grande do Sul compared the Lula government with the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas. Gov. Geraldo Alckmin spoke of “the government’s reverse march into authoritarianism” and even compared Lula with leaders of the military dictatorship.

Gov. Alckmin also severely criticized the proposed creation of the Federal Council on Journalism, saying that “whenever you have an authoritarian system, the first measure taken is to curb freedom of expression.”

In statements to the press, Sen. Tasso Jereissati, a former governor of the State of Ceará, and an important political figure in the opposition PSDB, said that two governments coexist in the present administration:

“One is a social democratic government of alternation in power, freedom, civilized conviviality and the other is a Stalinist one that can do everything and gives everything in exchange for total and absolute power. We are seeing the Stalinist side prevail” (Luciana Nunes Leal, “‘Qualquer um pode ser chantageado,'” O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/18/2004).

For his part, the PSDB leader at the Senate, Artur Virgílio, said he is concerned about the government’s authoritarian growth, led “in tow by minister Dirceu” (O Estado de S. Paulo, 9/18/2004).

In an article in Folha de S. Paulo (10/1/2004), Sen. Jorge Bornhausen, the PPL’s national president, refers to the “actions to sabotage democracy that characterize the work of the Lula government and the PT.” After mentioning several examples, he notes:

“Land reform was limited to giving a whole ministry to MST and siphon funds to the agitation scheme of the MST group of Mr. Stedile, to whom democracy and its rules is a detestable luxury that must be swept away with violent invasions and washed away in blood.”

Also in an article in Folha de S. Paulo (10/1/2004), Dep. Michel Temer, national president of the PMDB, warns of the danger that authorities consider themselves in the right to attack democratic values and “from there onward, install a centralizing regime on the road closer to dictatorship.”

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