Brazil: Booing Lula, Lethargy and Healthy Reactions
Up until now, most Brazilians have been discouraged by their inability to do something against the mounting problems that overwhelm them. Such paralysis has served as a protective shield for President Lula and prevented healthy reactions
On July 13 and 17, two events shook Brazil. The first was the booing of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro which was filled with 90,000 people for the inauguration of the Pan-American Games. The second was the crash and explosion of an Airbus of the Brazilian airline TAM at Congonhas Airport in downtown São Paulo. With the death of 199 persons, it was the worst accident in the history of Brazilian aviation.
Both facts have led important sectors of the population, particularly the middle class, to vent their pent-up anger at the Lula government.
In spite of a healthy economy from both national and international perspectives, many problems without likely solutions in the short and medium term cloud the horizon. Among these are: Corruption scandals left unpunished in all three branches of government, the rise in crime now dominating whole areas of the big cities and coordinated by cell phone from inside prisons; a stifling tax burden impoverishing the middle classes; and a ten-month-old air traffic control crisis wreaking havoc with the lives of countless Brazilians.
Until now, the reaction of the general populace has been apathetic or, at best, weak for problems of this magnitude. Attorney Luiz Borges D’Urso, president of São Paulo’s Bar Association, placed his finger in the wound: “We want people to become indignant once again in face of problems, for Brazilian society has entered a state of lethargy.”
The booing of Lula at Maracanã stadium, and the anti-government reactions to the fall of TAM’s jetliner related to the government’s inability to solve the air traffic control chaos, appears to indicate that the lethargy is subsiding.
Indeed, up until now, Brazilians have been paralyzed and discouraged by the mounting problems that overwhelm them. Such a paralysis has served as protective shield for President Lula and has prevented healthy reactions from being manifested with clarity. This impression of insurmountable problems explains although does not justify the above-mentioned lethargy.
At any rate, one must employ the language of reason and not just fleeting emotion to shake this lethargy profoundly and not only in an episodic fashion. In the recent accident with the TAM airplane, for example, some hastened to emphasize a possible responsibility of the government in the tragic episode by echoing rumors.
A few days later, when the report on the content of the plane’s black boxes indicated human errors that could not be blamed on the government, those superficial opponents fell into discredit and, even worse, hurt the cause they were claiming to defend. Journalist Luis Nassif warned: “When criticism of Lula extrapolates and assumes airs of a systematic campaign, it disarms all the relevant critiques that should be made about the real problems that exist in the administration.”
The fundamental question that Brazilians now need to answer is how to recover fully their capacity to react. Undoubtedly, that recovery will have to be a fruit of rational thought and not rumors or emotional hyperbole. Being aware of this lethargy and the need to shake it off is already a good part of the way toward finding a solution.