A minha resposta... desculpem a demora, estava destacando cupons... (leia este post antes: aqui para entender melhor o problema.)
Dear Mr Unger,
It is in many ways difficult to fully comprehend the intricacies of a foreign culture. Even if we take away language as a deterrent to that knowledge, so many entrenched costumes and ideas will remain hidden that even a lifetime cannot suffice to explore them all.
I was born in Brazil and I've lived the events that shaped the country in the last 30 years. In some sense I was even more privileged than a "pure" local, having had contact with European immigrants, Latin Americans and North Americans with different views on the country. Remember that Brazil has always been an "odd" Latin American country, detached from and mostly ignored by the Spanish speaking world, and in many ways detached from the rest of the world.
Throughout its history, Brazil seems to have been riddled by government decisions that defy the most basic good economic sense. Those decisions, however, seemed always to have in common the implicit concept that "Brazil is different" or "Brazilians are smarter". Although those odd decisions provided endless research ground for economists and historians, they were a continuous hindrance to the economic development of the country. Just as an example, in the eighties the military government decided to forbid all imports of electronic components. It is quite obvious that this decision prevented the development of the electronic industry in Brazil, as well as had several other dire consequences, like stimulating smuggling and illegality. As the world went into the digital era, the country was left behind by errors of judgment. A gap of more than ten years had to be bridged again in the nineties.
In hindsight perhaps the direst consequence of the military government was the widespread idea that politics were either dangerous or corrupt.
Post-military politics was populated by the leftist dissidents and the former pro-military loyalists who rapidly became pro-democracy. The Left had as a fundamental motto that everything connected with the military was bad, therefore their opponents would be a better alternative. It also relates to another interesting characteristic of Brazilian politics: conscious people tend to vote against the worst, instead of voting for the best. It is an eternal fight to avoid disaster.
Nurtured during the military rule, the PT ("Workers" Party) was the direct result of the "If it's against the military it's good" mindset. The party originated from the unionism of the richer southeast. Fueled by resources which came from voluntary contributions of affiliates and, more importantly, illegal resources channelled through catholic charities originated from syndicates in Europe, the young Lula immediately noticed his amazing ability to communicate with people with simple minds. It was by promising salary increases to workers who were already earning much by Brazilian standards that the sabotaging of international investments in Brazil began. The German unions were exhilarating with Lula's success: investments in Brazil were reduced and the German workers kept their well paid jobs for much longer. From the point of view of the richer Brazilian workers Lula was also well regarded: their average income increased as well. It was the beginning of the incredible corrupt machine assembled by PT's masterminds, channelling resources from workers, new federal legislation, charities and foreign unions, as well as pay-offs from the companies themselves, which couldn't afford the longer strikes. PT's masterminds (among them Mr. José Dirceu, whose history is even less pleasant) viewed Lula as an incredibly valuable asset. Taking over the country was the next logical step for them.
And to take the country they tried. Unfortunately for them, their first attempts were unsuccessful. Their Marxist radical discourse scared many people, unintentionally helping to elect Collor, a newcomer to the Brazilian national politics. "Maharajahs Hunter" was his political motto, appealing enormously to the poor.
The PT noticed that they would not be able to win national elections by simply relying on their favorite ghettos: São Bernardo and University of S.Paulo. A wider alliance was necessary and a concerted effort to oust every government which was not their own. The constitutional impeachment of Collor can be largely attributed to their mobilization against him, and to the widespread discontentment with his economic measures (Collor plan).
In an unexpected twist, Fernando Henrique succeeded as a minister to curb inflation and as a result he was elected president. There is no doubt that Brazil improved tremendously, due mostly to the economic stability and the enormous effort of the government to provide school for every child in Brazil. Consumption of animal protein increased 3 fold. PT continued working behind the scenes and became a formidable force against his government, opposing systematically every necessary measure taken, paying no attention to economic consequences. PT's interest to increase the number of state owned companies and number of public servants became clear. Fortunately the government succeeded in selling the hugely inefficient telecoms company triggering an unmatched wave of prosperity and foreign investment. PT's leaders were furious as Fernando Henrique's successes became more apparent.
Mobs were mobilized to intimidate the government in many ways. As an example, the MST, intimately connected with the PT, invaded Fernando Henrique's farm with the aim to personally intimidate the president. PT relied more and more on their unionist methods, noticing that it was much cheaper to bribe poorer people, at the same time negotiating with the government to keep their stirred up unrest to a tolerable level.
Since the beginning the PT has sold the idea that the party was going to turn Brazil into a terrestrial paradise, by mitigating social injustice, which according to them was caused by the rich and by government incompetency. Many idealists bought into that idea, generating a formidable army of party's agents that infiltrated in the public services and in the press. Books were written to raise the importance of Lula in the mind of the children. Otherwise shady historians taught the uninformed masses that democracy was an invention of the PT and Lula.
If not everybody bought into the story of who invented democracy, a second fallacy was better accepted: the PT as being the solution to the endemic corruption in Brazil. Lula was carefully shielded from contact with the media, as well as was prevented to have any assets in his name. It became famous that he lived for decades in "borrowed" homes, just to keep the impression he is a humble poor guy. His daughter lived in Europe for years, sponsored by friends with money of unknown origin. If the public perception of a poor Lula changed in any way, PT would stand no chance to win elections. The shielding was effective. Lula would only resurface before general elections, disappearing shortly after. His image was intentionally preserved from public scrutiny.
Shortly before the 2002 elections, PT's image was to be severely tarnished by an unexpected event: the PT mayor of the city of Santo Andre was murdered in very suspicious circumstances. During initial investigations it was uncovered that there were dodgy deals in the city and that the mayor himself used to carry cash back to the PT. Strangely enough, no less than six people died related to that crime. Five were direct witnesses and one was a medical examiner working in the case. At that point of time, PT had to keep its image of a clean political party to guarantee peoples' sympathy and to win elections. Relatives of the murdered mayor confronted PT officials demanding the truth about the perpetrators and had later to flee the country under anonymous threats.
Everything changed after the party has secured a firm grasp in the cash producing mechanisms of the state. Many times it has been said that the institutions would avoid misuse of public resources, but after 2002 elections it became clear that misuse of federal resources was more due to the personal decency of Fernando Henrique than to any institutional mechanisms. To start with, PT nominated 30,000 of his fellow "companheiros" to key administrative areas, people with absolutely no qualifications. These people alone cost the Brazilian public 800 million reals per year in direct costs only, according to a recent number given out by Mr. Alckmin. More importantly, these key officials guarantee that public office is controlled by the party. PT started then the large scale buyout of congressmen, going again back to the methods learned in the unionism.
Once caught in literally hundreds of dirty dealings, amounting billions of reals, the officials of the PT changed their speech: now it was "Ok, we are not clean, but everyone steals as well". From that moment on, stealing became accepted practice and it became evident that the judicial system was totally incapable of dealing with higher level corruption, either because of direct influence by the executive power or because of the incredibly inefficient court system. To make matters worse laws protect elected officials from prosecution, except in extremely limited cases.
Brazilian judicial system is a disaster that comes out of the same "what's good for the military is bad for you" idea, spread by the left leaning parties. It has gotten to the point of preventing punishment, almost as if it were to protect political dissidents of being relabeled as convicted common criminals. Another commonly spread idea, carried forward even by Lula himself, is that criminals are just poor people that had no options in life but crime. Unsurprisingly, crime is on the rise, bringing criminal organizations to profit from this chaos, such as PCC. Leaders of the PCC came forward even recommending their affiliates to vote for Lula. More than one congressman is related to PCC. They oppose Alckmin's PSDB, for they've been tough on crime, to the limits imposed by the very soft legal system.
For whoever reads the news and has some critical judgement, the events related above will make sense and most of them are well documented. Some Brazilian publications are however hostages of the Federal Government, either because they heavily depend on official publicity or because they have tremendous debts with the taxation office. Those will show a totally different view: the official ever shifting story. I would recommend you to read the last 4 years of the weekly magazine Veja and see by yourself what a sorry service the PT is doing to democracy and to the economic development of the country. To prevent criticism they try to shut down all voices by labelling them "prejudiced". Brazilians tend to joke about everything, picking on the politicians with enthusiasm. The joke about Lula being unable to speak English is however much closer to the truth than we would like. Lula spent 20 years of his life doing nothing except preparing himself for public confrontation. He failed however to learn proper Portuguese, let alone English. His speeches consist mainly of evasive maneuvers and pitiful comparisons, mainly related to soccer, well to the taste of the uninformed masses. His aides know that he is unable to read a 4 pages resume of the national and worldwide news provided to him, so much that he demanded that the clippings be reduced to 2 pages. He proudly claims that he never read a book in his life.
I don't say that PSDB is the perfect political party, but what has been done by the PT has absolutely no parallel in Brazilian history. Again, conscious voters try to avoid catastrophy.
Even if Lula is not reelected, the next president will have a formidable problem in his hands: get rid of all the artifacts planted by the PT throughout the government, make sure the Judiciary is functional and improve the image of Congress, to name a few. We would indeed be prejudiced if we said bad things about Lula just because he came from a humble background. We say bad things about him because we know Lula and his party quite well by now and it's absolutely clear what he represents: a tremendous force pushing Brazil backwards and actively promoting corruption and ignorance.