The Brazilian Mess – how to explain it

Trying to explain what is going on in Brazil to my friends and colleagues here in Australia, has been a challenge and a bit of a long conversation. I am very far from an economic connoisseur, miles away from understanding politics, but I’m good at summarising situations, so here is how I see it…

  • Let’s start with the military coup of 1964 which lasted until the 80’s leaving Brazil with an eroded educational system (teachers and students were subversives) and an external public debt that would become evident only years later, but was about four times higher than it is now, and it was about half of Brazilian’s GDP.
  • Since then, Brazilian Politicians are trying to cope and recover from this hole.
  • Add a lot of corruption in all parties and throughout time with no consequence. With the free press, after the end of the dictatorship, a lot came to light but very few people felt the whip of punishment.
  • Then you have Collor, the president who resigned in 1992 not to be impeached, and was re-elected to the Senate in 2014. He is now part of the investigation for corruption, “Lava Jato” operation, that I will mention a bit more about. He was almost impeached because his main economical act was invading people’s savings accounts leaving everyone with the equivalent of AU$50 in the bank and taking whatever was extra to fix the economy. My grandfather, on my mother’s side, is counted as one of his victims, like him many didn’t recover of the emotional blow that measure landed them and died of health complications short after. Needless to say, he didn’t fix anything.
  • After some years Lula arrives at the presidency, in 2003, a worker with no education who had been fighting the noble fight for the poor for three elections unsuccessfully. He was to stay until 2011 in two four-year mandates. During his time he put a series of measures in place that were apparently fantastic but completely unsustainable. He “gave money away” to the people. He created supporting systems, I think they are similar to the Dole, that were given to various people who, no doubt about it, needed it:
  • Support for students
  • Support for unemployed people
  • Support for families with many children
  • Support for families of incarcerated people
  • Support for poor people to equip their housing commissioning houses
  • Support of students to study overseas

All these sound great, and to the receivers, it was great. The problem is that these same receivers were not generating value in the society to to refill the public coffers.

For a while these measures turned the economy and there was a sense of false prosperity. Salaries were raised in general, because people would prefer not to work and receive the Gov Support if the salary didn’t match at least what they would get if they didn’t work.

Brazilians are great in breaking payments in 10 instalments and overcommitting their income. There is a cultural element where my people tend to think they have to appear richer than they are, which makes for a lot of over-spending.

I believe that meanwhile, Lula, who was supposed to be for the people, became corrupt, he probably became tempted by the power, the money and the abundance he had never experienced before. His children became multi-millionaires in the span of ten years and their elevation is parallel with lobbying and political movements and benefits given to large corporations.

  • Dilma, the current president, is Lula’s protege, she managed her first mandate in the same spirit, in the wake of Lula’s policies. She was re-elected in 2014 but hasn’t been able to do much so far, because of all the corruption issues. I don’t see her as being as corrupt as Lula, I think she isn’t as smart, she seems to have a faint noble streak, but she is naive and frankly, I don’t find her smart at all.
  • In August 2013, the law that allows for reduction of sentences to convicted criminals for dubbing their fellow lawbreakers, was reviewed and signed by Dilma. That was something very important for what would come next, if she knew what she was doing!
  • Then came Operation Car Wash “Operação Lava Jato”, in March 2014, the investigation that caused all the mess started. Looking into the money laundering of one car wash, the first domino fell.  With the law I just mentioned above, one person caught started telling on the others. About 160 people have been put in jail so far, almost 3 Billion Reais have been recovered while about 22 Billion have been requested to be returned. Collor and Lula have been caught in this operation’s net and are being investigated.
  • Dilma, in an attempt to help Lula, offered him the Chief of Staff Ministry, to allow him to avoid preventive incarceration, and to allow him to be investigated by a higher level of justice, escaping the grasp of the Car Wash Operation; I believe that he would be able to manipulate the higher level judges and escape justice.
  • Lula hasn’t been allowed to get into this ministry so far, the justice system is fighting hard to avoid it. There is talk he is trying to run off to Spain.
  • This ministry and the release of some private conversations recorded between Lula and Dilma were the straw that broke the camel’s back, as I see it. They turned the public opinion, created the protests and made the impeachment process to progress.
  • This week, one instance of the impeachment process was voted and approved. In the next few weeks, the Senate should vote, if they approve it, Dilma will be removed from office temporarily, for 180 days, as the investigation moves forward.

With all that we also have the crazy mozzies, mysterious viruses, the new flu felling people by the bunch, the ecological disaster, the super polluted Guanabara Bay, falling bike paths, the infra-structure in Rio with its delayed projects AND we are 105 days from the Olympics…

PS.

I have to say that I’m still happy, because for the first time a lot of people are feeling the consequences of being corrupt, are being punished. I feel there is a sense of pride in being honest being recovered and although the short term from now should be dire, the long term has to be better than it has been.

PS2.

To help my writing, please buy and review my new book at Amazon. Find the book in the market you are registered at, search: Tania Crivellenti –  Sideways Reality” [at Amazon AU, US, BR]

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Brazil – When the Pot Boils

I was born in Brazil, my Brazilian Brazil, as a song sings. I’ve decided to write about it today, this country where everything is happening. I feel a mix of complete unbelievability and a sense of hope, although I’m not sure about the Olympics at all.

Brazil is falling apart and at the same time creating the roots in which the country might get reconstructed. To my work colleagues, the protests of Sunday last, 13th March, look like big parties, and they probably were.

They were peaceful, there was dancing, I’m sure there was singing of political rants, booing the current president and the former president, both from the workers party; although most of these people on the streets, were the same who voted for them. They lost faith. The defence of the two presidents is to say that this is a scheming technique of the rich people and the opposition to burn them. It isn’t. What the protests are about: against corruption in all parties, about justice for all, rich and poor.

In 2013 there was a large scale protest, at the time I was disappointed because when I enquired what the protests were for, I saw each person was protesting for something they thought was worth it, there was no unified front. It was about the money spent for the construction of the stadiums for the Fifa World Cup, about the state of the health system, about the increase in the price of bus tickets, about the educational systems. These were all valid reasons, but without focus there is no strength.

Sunday, the story was completely different; it was about corruption and that brought record numbers, a protest as my generation has never seen. It filled my heart with happiness to see this movement, a pride I might not have the right to feel, since I’ve left Brazil 12 years ago to embrace the Australian ways. Because I felt like an alien in my Brazilian culture most of my life, more so when I became an adult and had to function inside the work force. I left, I found a place where the rules and cultural subtleties are closer to my heart.

Brazil released a big shout against Corruption! It was amazing to see, although there were different little points, they were about honesty, supporting the police, the federal courts, it was requesting Dilma’s impeachment (the current president) and crying for Lula’s arrest (the previous president).

The hope is that this movement will recover the pride in being honest. With low salaries that the investigators, the police, the lower legal echelons receive, the lack of resources, the poverty of the Brazilian government buildings and institutions, there isn’t much to incentivise them to keep being honest… but now, a million people here, a couple of hundred of thousands there, in love and pride, that might give them a mission bigger then themselves, anchored in something I thought was completely forgotten… patriotism.

All this chaos started with a single thread, a judge was given the investigation into a car wash which became the nick-name of the investigation (operação lava-jato). A new law was approved around that time that enabled prosecutors to offer reduction of sentence to condemned people who dubbed on others, if they had proof. That was the thread that pulled all others, they found a link between that and Petrobras, the petroleum state company, and then it never stopped.

In Brazil there is a high level of barely literate people, which makes very hard for them to understand white collar crimes, such as embezzlements and selling of flavours; but when they found that Lula had taken eleven trucks of goods from the governmental house, the Palacio do Planalto, and among them they found gifts of gold and jewels, presents from other countries to the Brazilian people (not the person, the President), the rugs from the house, priceless works of art from Aleijadinho and Portinari, THAT, they could understand, it was the lowest type of crime: thievery.

Ally to that were the ecological disaster in Mariana, which drowned a city and will have ecological consequences worldwide, and the Zica Virus or whatever is causing a spread of neurological diseases, added to the overspending in the construction for the Olympics and the result is that the pot boils.

And when it boils, it boils. It blew an amazing number of people, although I cannot be precise on how many, something between 3 million and 6 million people country-wide.

To every protest two or three head-counts were divulged, the police would publish a very low number, the organisers, a very large number and the researching institute of São Paulo gave us another even lower number, so we don’t really know anything. As always, and as part of Brazilian idiosyncrasies, finding the truth is often hard.

The numbers aren’t anywhere close; for example, for São Paulo’s protest, the organisers calculated 1 million people, the police said it was 500 thousand and DataFolha, the research institute, said 200 thousand. The only thing I can say for sure is that there were a lot of people.

Thank you all my friends and all Brazilians who made the effort, who left the house, who went to a place in green and yellow and shouted against corruption. To all who now feel pride in being honest, I feel this might be a change in the tide. If people can take this pride to their day-to-day lives, it will change the culture, change the country, change the future.

[Note, the text in Portuguese is completely different from this one, this is for everyone but Brazilians, I explain things here. The one in Portuguese is for Brazilians, another view of the situation.]

[Picture: http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/06/protests-brazil%5D

Why Australia?

The other side of the world, really? My friends and family have difficulty to understand why, but once explained it gets easier to get.

After I came to the conclusion that I needed a good life in order to feel inspired to write (see the post called “when did I start writing?”) I started looking for ways to achieve that.

I know many people find inspiration and energy inside a depression to write. I knew then as I know now that people write no matter what if they feel the drive. Unfortunately I’m not one of those, I am not good with sadness, with being unhappy or tragedies, it is not my forte. Instead I spend my energy working hard and changing things, making life better and then writing about it when I am feeling energised and inspired, harvesting the work I put into earlier.

Of course I have to keep in perspective the fact that I am quite privileged as the worst that ever happened to me makes for the better that might have happened to a lot of people.

I was in Brazil and was able to find another job, better than the first, but it turned out it was a copy of the other. I worked 70k from home and shared my rides with a colleague who lived in the same area, who then became my good friend, my most avid reader, and eternal supporter of my writing. We talked endlessly about my writing ideas and tidbits I would write here and there. He was instrumental in my realisation that writing was my path and we still connect technologically to exchange news about our lives and our artistic inspirations.

The job was horrendous, the boss was atrocious, we worked long hours and the travelling was dangerous and tiring. On top of that the company was in a city with two smelly factories.

If I had to choose I would say that water is my element, it often features in my dreams in its many forms. Many times water influenced my life.

When I was about two years old I fell on a stream and the water carried me for some distance. In my memory I was carried away in a river for long metres but my parents barely remember the episode so I think my little child inside exaggerates it a lot.

I grew up spending most of my vacations at my grandfather’s ranch by a large fresh water dam and my parents constantly took us to the beach, even though we lived about 4 hours in-land.

I’m strongly attracted to the ocean and spent many vacations thinking deeply on what I could do to live near the sea.

I used to list in my mind all the cities in Brazil’s coast and wonder if I could find a job in any of them. Reminding the reader that this is way before 2003 and therefore there was no google or job listing website allowing me to search for work Brazil-wide.

The only economically viable option was Rio de Janeiro but I never felt a desire to live there due to the security issues. I investigated Fortaleza in the North and Florianópolis in the South but found it hard to believe I would find a reasonably paying job.

The day before I got married we suffered our first and smaller flood. It was my parent’s property with a river running at the far end of a sort of farm house. Six years later there was another flood, this time 2 meters of water inside the house and my then-husband had to be rescued from the top of the house, by a drunken strong man, on a boat, secured by a rope from the higher ground at the front of the property.

This time we lost everything and for me it was the best thing that could have happened. I had always desired to live abroad and that felt as if the Universe had just pushed me out.

Right at that time my cousin, who was living in Sydney, went for a visit and her accounts of the city made it figure in my mind’s map for the first time. Through her I discovered this city, by the ocean, beautiful, first world, English speaking, and with a migration program, which could be the solution to my problems.

I persuaded the then-husband to consider the option and he ended up agreeing and I came in first to have a look. On the second day I decided I never wanted to live, it was home, it was where I found a piece of my soul I didn’t know was missing. It took some months to arrange a visa for me and for him to join me. Four years later, with a lot of hard work and a pastry chef diploma with 900 hours in the kitchen later, I got our permanent residency, and we got divorced shortly after.

To finalise, the reason I moved here was to write and have a good life, and that I am daily achieving.