<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Brazilian Countdown

And a Song for Sunday’s Election


By Luis A. Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

October 21, 2002

From Sao Paulo, Brazil

Less than a week remains for Lula, the most-voted-for presidential candidate in this country’s history, to triumph… Not even his enemies doubt it: Lula da Silva will govern and that, kind readers, will raise the hopes for life, sovereignty and democracy throughout our América….

“My heart beats forcefully. I feel that mine is beating in synchrony with the hope of millions and millions of hearts. But I declare this strongly and clearly: My government will not pursue any other goal than respect for the will of the people. That’s exactly why I’m an optimist. Because I am certain that a Brazil of progress and justice if being born.”

-Lula, in his speech on October 19th

10. It’s getting hot

Every day that passes, the Spring of this hemisphere arrives with greater force. The heat and the anxiety of almost 200 million people in Brazil rise. This time, kind readers, our story will be a weather report… I invite you to sip a caipirinha while we review the facts (okay, okay, you can have a beer if you like, or a rum and coke or a frozen juice of tropical fruit!)… Let’s go analyze the role that the traditional media in Brazil, who played very dirty against the Workers Party (PT, in its Portuguese initials) headed by Lula; we’ll speak for a moment with Alipio, our lead taxi driver, with Octavio Ianni (one of the most globally famous Brazilian intellectuals), and, for those of you who like soccer, we’ll go to a game to end this report. We begin:

In recent months, the matter of the traditional media has passed through cloudy skies, with enough fog and surprising lightning bolts. Particularly the well-known magazines Veja and Época, weeklies with various hundreds of thousands of copies per issue, have dedicated themselves to a deaf war, apparently “impartial” toward the candidacies of Lula and his companions… Some weeks ago, Veja published, on its cover, a “truncated” photo of the PT’s presidential candidate with horns and a devil’s face… and the headline, quite small, said: “For Serra, Lula is the Devil” (José Serra is the candidate of the dominant class… but what stayed in the minds of the people, obviously, was this evil face… that, in the end, caused a lot of laughter among the readers).

But the last attempt by Veja, in its issue of Saturday, October 19th, was even more pathetic. They’ve placed a monster with the heads of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky with the headline: “This is what the radicals of the PT want.” And the entire content of this “work” is to explain that there are sectors within the PT that are going to demand radicalism in the government although Lula may not want it… That is to say, the “geniuses” of Veja magazine are already speculating over what could occur after the PT takes power… wanting to frighten the people with the ghosts of old revolutionaries.

Or let’s talk about Época, a publication by the Globo media group, that a week ago began a series of reports about the process of the second round of the election. The majority were favorable to the governing party (that of Serra). And one of them (“The Downtrodden in Power,” October 14, 2002) was dedicated to counting the supposed economic and political failures of Nelson Mandela as the president of South Afrida… Clearly, since Mandela is one of the personages most admired by Lula, the story was focused on the idea that left wing (and popular) governments have always been bad, inefficient… And this is very curious, because those who have most fed the right wing discourse about Lula from the beginning were the traditional media outlets.

Never mind the television chains. In a debate a few days ago between the candidates for governor in the state of Sao Paulo – Geraldo Alckhim (of the right-wing in power and the exiting governor) and José Genoino (founder of the PT, former congressman and ex-guerrilla soldier) – the TV station almost never put Genoino’s name on the screen and instead constantly typed that of Alckim… And the next day, in spite of the fact that Genoino was the clear winner of the debate, all the local dailies praised the restraint of Alckim and some merely complained that the debate was boring. This is not something I was told, kind readers, I saw it.

And speaking of debates, Lula’s rival, don José Serra, has been demanding up to ten debates with the future president of Brazil. Lula, without getting angry, reminded him that in the first round there were four debates and he won every one of them. Well, this has opened up another war on Serra’s part: in every television commercial, in every campaign flyer, in every corner of the press, it is said that Lula is afraid to debate with Serra. The statements by the former metal worker in the previous debates are criticized.

What’s more, in Serra’s commercials and propaganda, the people have been subtly threatened. The theme is simple: The owners of the country say that a Lula government will be catastrophic for Brazil. They say that what happened in Argentina (extreme crisis, misery, hunger) will happen here. Or that Brasil will become another Venezuela… probably because that – a coup – is what they are preparing.

What’s going on in the PT? Not much. Everything is calm and it continues campaigning throughout the country, mainly where its state and regional candidates have made the second round. A highly reliable source in the party told us that, for now, Lula speaks only through his public meetings, that he won’t have anything to do with the journalists until after the elections (and, with this class of “journalists” they are correct: better to not take such risks). On the other hand, Lula, two days after the October 6th primary election, told his closest collaborators, “I would have to be an imbecile to accept a debate with an opponent if I’m already so far ahead.” So there will be just one debate, on Friday, October 25th, between Lula and old Serra, who certainly has been charged in the past with electoral irregularities (paying money for votes, among others) when he was elected, some years ago, as a congressman. Here we will be, measuring the rising heat wave in these lands.

9. Fernando Hernique, Economic Terrorist

Last Monday, a poll revealed that 72 percent of Brazilian businessmen and bankers, whether or not they plan on voting for the PT, are certain that Lula will be the next president (A Folha de Sao Paulo, October 14, 2002). They don’t see many problems with a Lula victory, and some even welcome it. The Economist, in its latest issue, published a report that says if Lula wins “it will be a triumph for democracy in Brazil,” the best test of whether elections in Latin America are not a fixed game to benefit its elites. Time and the Wall Street Journal also praised the process. Even Otto Juancito Reich, in La Paz, Bolivia, on Wednesday, said that the Bush government will work with “whomever the Brazilian people elect democratically.” From Wall Street just one notice as come during these hot days: They simply await the announcement of the likely members of Lula’s economic cabinet before reacting (that will probably be next Monday, they speculate).

However, for the past two weeks, the real, Brazil’s currency, has devalued almost daily. Bond profits for investors are also falling. How can this happen? Aha! Hello there… from behind his desk as the president of the Central Bank of Brazil… his name is Armínio Fraga and he’s a Chicago Boy. Every day, the “measures” taken by bureaucrats of the government of President Fernando Hernique Cardoso, instead of detaining inflation, generate more and more chaos… Causually, while the value of the real goes down and Brazilian people lose their purchasing power, the Serra campaign threats that Brazil could go the route of Argentina rise in volume… Maybe that’s because Serra and Cardoso belong to the same party… and as the exiting president he’s entered the campaign.

8. Alipio and the Electronic Prince

Let’s go back to the streets for a while. In a taxi that brings me to the University of Sao Paulo, I speak with Alipio, a middle-aged man, short and with a mustache that covers his gold teeth. Kind and simple, the taxi driver of our headlines has not been able to vote because he doesn’t have a voter ID card. But, he says, if he had been able to, “I would have voted, without a doubt, for Lula. Lula came from the people. If anyone can do something for us, it’s him. Serra is too compromised with the rich and he won’t change anything.”

The problem, says Alipio, with a convincing expresión, “is that Lula has always wanted to be president, for 20 years. For me he should have fought to be a congressman, a senator, a mayor or a governor first… On that path he could have united the people in fewer years.” And clearly, the good taxi driver doesn’t forget that in this country, aside from military officials, those whom have governed for the past two decades have been the political mafias, always passing power from one hand to another without thinking of the poorest people (50 million Brazilians live below the extreme poverty level).

Will Brazil change with a Lula government? “I believe that it will, because the people are going to be here, administering, governing with him. Lula is a person of the people, he comes from the Northeast, where the people suffer a lot. He’s known about the suffering of the people from below.” And Alipio knows how to make change. He’s not a political analyst nor more nor less. “It’s enough to want the true things, the things that are missing.”

There, chatting with the taxista, we arrive at the University of Sao Paulo to ask a few questions of Octavio Ianni, a sociologist recognized across the globe for his deep analysis of globalization, modernity and the role of the mass media. Ianni, in a brilliant and simple article, has created a new Prince, heir to Machiavelli and Antonio Gramsci: The Electronic Prince. It’s about a new power, now higher than the old political structures, that is neither a person nor a party: It’s about the traditional media, married and heading the dominant interests in our era, that today define who can govern in any corner of the planet… They are the new transnational (and neoliberal) power. If an unknown person is supported by the media, he can become, overnight, a lucid analyst, a sympathetic figure, trusted… Or, to the contrary, the media is the force that can create chaos or make an honest politician into a villain (recall, kind readers, the attempted coup d’etat last April in Venezuela).

Narco News: What does the appearance of this new Prince in the world mean?

Octavio Ianni: That the great political questions are not decided any more by political parties nor by governments. They are principally decided in the Media. Some elements of governments and parties have influence over these decisions, but the media corporations are those who indubitably have the decisive influence in the formation of public opinion, in the conscription, in the reorientation of public opinion regarding large national and global problems. As such, the parties and the leaders are widely subordinated to the media or they work in collaboration with them. It can be said that the world today is a vast stage of political marketing. As in the case of the United States, leading and bossing the world through marketing… and it occurs just the same in other nations and regions of the planet.

Narco News: Then, Octavio, how has a man like Lula, surrounded by the media, become so close to winning the elections?

Octavio Ianni: Everything I’m saying is, logically, important in Brazil. Paradoxically, at the current juncture, Lula’s electorate is responding with an original and alternative proposal that is surprising, and even surprising in its challenge to the fact that the electronic media have taken the place of politics. Why is this growth of the Lula candidacy on the contemporary Brazilian stage happening? Fundamentally, because the socio-economic crisis, the social crisis, is serious. There are many social sectors who live and suffer with unemployment, with insecurity, with various forms of violence and the presence of governors who are ambiguous, evasive, and wrong. The State, in the spirit of public opinion, in middle of this crisis, is creating conditions for the Lula candidacy to become very strong.

7.5 Soccer and Dust

Last Wednesday, in Morumbí Stadium in Sao Paulo, the soccer game that the sportscasters call the championship game of the year in Brasil was played: Sao Paulo vs. Santos. On the Santos team a poor kid named Edson is compared to Pelé. And today, when the most popular game in the world is now a business (and even more so in Brazil), the Brazilian players have become expensive merchandise and no longer play like their predecessors, with the grace and form that made them legendary… But even this has changed. With a team full of youngsters (the average age is 18), the ex goalie Leao, who won the World Championship in 1970 together with Pelé and other stars, coaches a team that remembers that the game of soccer is about pleasure, about a level of cheering and celebrating. The Santos team practices, in a few Brazilian words, o jogo bonito (the beautiful game), providing hope on the best days to all who enjoy it… and in Brazil, that’s 99.99 percent of the population.

On game day, your correspondent was invited by two Santos fans, from a port city with an old tradition of workers’ struggle and resistance to the military dictatorships. As always, when there is a bad call on the field, the better team loses… Luis Gómez, emotional due to the impressive demonstrations that the people here put on in the stadiums, converts to the True Religion of this country and falls in love with the Santos team… in spite of the day’s defeat, nobody leaves sad… There are only satisfied faces among the Santista fans… Before leaving the stadium zone, a brief dialogue began between people who don’t know each other:

“Don’t worry, friend,” says one, “this came was a mere setback. What comes next is winning the championship…”

“You’re right,” says the other. “We lost but, the team doesn’t matter any more. What matters is the propaganda sticker on your car… Now, it’s Lula.”

And the anonymous Santos fan is right. Amid this tropical heat, now, it’s Lula (this is the main slogan of the PT’s campaign). Now, in spite of everything, the popular leader is very close to taking power together with Ze Dirceu (president of the Workers Party and ex-guerrilla fighter) and together with Benedita (the black mayor of Rio de Janeiro who came out of the favelas, together with many Brazilians who today have placed their hearts and hopes on the new government, in the government of the people. Am I right, Alipio?

The most recent polls (all of them), published last weekend, have given Lula 66 percent of the votes to Serra’s 34. Not even the deaf war of the traditional media of the Electronic Prince that Ianni speaks of, nor Serra’s war, nor anyone has been able to stop the PT, now allied with almost all the parties of the center and the left, as it grows and consolidates in the preferences of the people. The candidate of the PT has almost double the votes of his opponent… Only a monumental election fraud or tragedy could stop him from winning. And as the famous campaign song of the PT goes, “You can’t turn off the sun… nor shut up Brazil when it wants to sing… Now, it’s Lula.”

Would you like to sing along? Give it a try:

http://www.lula.org.br/eleitor/jingles.asp

In the coming days, kind readers, we will continue with this countdown, with more about this immense story, until we get to zero and blast-off, definitively, into a new time for América and for democracy… Stay with us…

Read part II of this Series
Read part III of this Series

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America