It's time to fight our terrorists


Source: Folha de S. Paulo, 16/08/2004

Emerson Capaz

As “The Economist” states when commenting on two new books now published in England with the theme of pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries: they, the pirates, were the first terrorists. Acting outside the law, they looted ships, stole cargoes of gold, silver, tobacco, sugar and slaves, living in parallel states, combining brute force with careful marketing of the lifestyle they practiced. They went so far as to claim that they practiced equal rights as naturally as they waged war.

The association with the current Brazilian moment is tempting, if not immediate. Among us, there is no formal terrorism, one that rejects democratic space to engage in a clandestine struggle and strike the center of state power through attacks that can symbolize its capacity to organize and to sow fear. Our terrorists take other paths: evasion, smuggling, counterfeiting of products and brands, better known as piracy.

But the goals are the same. They spread like a lethal gas contaminating the entire economy. They make formal jobs collapse and weaken income. They stifle the competitiveness of companies that comply with fiscal responsibilities and the country's competitiveness. They deceive the consumer with apparently lower prices, but that camouflage the terrible quality of what is sold. They ridicule the laws, the basic foundation of democracy and of society's relations with the State. They limit the government's ability to invest to the extent that they do not pay taxes. They corrupt, entice, and disrupt the market environment. And, as if none of that were enough, they fuel organized crime.

They also kill. Not with bombs, but with order murders reported by the media relatively frequently and invisibly, as the recent CPI report investigating the piracy of industrialized products and tax evasion reports. The document records the deaths of 22 people in the states of Goiás, Bahia and Minas Gerais from the use of pharmaceutical products of irregular manufacture, unauthorized and deliberately falsified. For the same reasons, 11 babies and an adult died of widespread infections in six municipal hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and people were also blinded or suffered serious injuries to the eyeball. According to CPI, the most serious cases occurred in the Hospital de Olhos de Niterói and in the hospitals of Santa Casa de Misericórdia in Rio de Janeiro and Ribeirão Preto.

Wouldn't that be a new type of terrorism? Sometimes invisible, sometimes visible, always wrapped in the terrifying but not always noticeable veil of barbarism, unfair competition has become a threat of terror that aims to establish a culture of civil disobedience, paralyze formal businesses and manipulate citizens' conscience to make him an accomplice in a situation that has no benefit to the nation. To fight it is to defend the highest interests of progress and development.

The former pirates recruited their armies precisely from the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of the population. If modern terrorists wave at suicide bombers, for example, with the possibility of eternal life, buccaneers surrounded themselves with a romantic aura that promised a community with a vocation for easy and quick wealth. In those times, the forces of progress were slow to react. With greater or lesser intensity, the terrorism of buccaneers, who declared war on the world, has raged in the seas for more than two centuries. So much so that one of the icons of piracy, William Dampier, died retired, over 60 years of age, in his own bed.

Piracy did not settle until the forces of law transformed each and every ship as a target for attention and investigation. It is exactly what you need to do in the modern environment. In Brazil, this is the moment. The economy is reacting. In addition to the expansion of formal employment and credit, data from the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade indicate that companies, public and private, are regaining confidence. In figures, US $ 47 billion of new investments are scheduled, 30% above what was recorded in the first half of last year.

It is an auspicious start. Plans that hibernated in the drawers are gaining practical outlines in strategic sectors. The country is undergoing a virtuous cycle that will undoubtedly lead it to break the vicious cycle of poverty, acute social disparities and stagnation. If the terrorism of unfair competition is combated and neutralized, there is a real chance that we will find the path of good developmental policies and provide investors with stable macro-structures that function as true extensions of the hegemonic law.

Emerson Kapaz, 49, is president of the Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition. He was secretary of Science, Technology and Economic Development of the State of São Paulo (Covas government).