A great Maranhão


Author: Demétrio Magnoli

Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, 05/03/2009

“Today, the PMDB is a party without flags, without proposals, without a north. It is a confederation of regional leaders, each with their own interest, with over 90% of them practicing clientelism, with an eye on positions. ” In his recent interview with Veja, Senator Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB-PE) concluded by explaining why his party wants positions. “To do business, earn commissions. Some still seek political prestige. But most peedebistas specialize in those things for which governments are denounced: bid rigging, targeted hiring, corruption in general. ”

Before the ink that printed Jarbas 'statements dried up, as if to verify them and to ridicule the note of loose indignation issued by the PMDB, the exemplary episode of Real Grandeza, Furnas' pension fund, came to light. The fund management assault operation, which manages an equity of R $ 6,3 billion, was plotted within the Executive, by Minister Edison Lobão, who acted ostensibly on behalf of the PMDB, and stopped at the last minute by intervention by a president of the Republic harassed by the mobilization of state employees and pensioners.

Lobão opened his offensive through an interview with O Globo in which he accused the leaders of Real Grandeza of practicing “a complete banditry” and promoting “great naughtiness” with the purpose of “not losing your mouth”. If the minister's words had meaning, he would resign at the time he was disallowed by the president. At the other end, Lula would not disallow him without firing him if the privatization of the public thing was not the currency in the deal he has with the PMDB. But Lula and Lobão didn't even blush: they know the rules of the game.

Pedro Simon, an innocent man, demanded from Jarbas a list of names of the corrupt. Jarbas did not make a report of corruption, but a political diagnosis, which asks for complements. The Brazilian political system, reorganized in the throes of the military dictatorship, is articulated around four major parties: PT, PSDB, DEM and PMDB. The first three convey, for better or worse, ideological narratives about Brazil and the world. The fourth, however, is not really a party, but the greatest expression of the patrimonialist cancer that poisons the entire political system. Basically, the PMDB is a vault under which the State's partial capture commands are housed.

“Patrimonialism is private life embedded in public life,” wrote Octavio Paz. In the same passage from O Ogro Filantrópico, he points out the crucial paradox of the Mexican State, which was “the main agent of modernization”, but “he himself did not succeed to modernize entirely ”. The weight of the past is manifested in the attitude of the head of government, who “considers the State as his personal patrimony” and, for this reason, the body of public officials, “from ministers to ushers and from magistrates and senators to porters, far away of constituting an impersonal bureaucracy, it forms a large political family linked by ties of kinship, friendship, co-parenting, solidarity and other personal factors ”. Brazil did not experience a revolution that would institutionalize itself as an official party. But here, as there, a clear border was never drawn between "private life" and "public life". The PMDB only exists because there is no such frontier.

A crucial theme in the literature opposing the Brazilian military dictatorship was criticism of the power of the so-called technobureaucracy. The military excluded politicians from the core of the state apparatus. Arena, the official party of the situation, welcomed the portion of the political elite conformed to the imposed subordination. In the MDB, the official opposition party, dissatisfied politicians took refuge, who longed to return to the center of the stage. The negotiated transition of Ulysses Guimarães and Tancredo Neves represented a triumph for the MDB. Technobureaucracy fell back and the access of the political elite to the sources of public wealth was restored. Under the presidency of Sarney, the Arena leader transferred to the PMDB, the land where the opportunity for a modernizing reform of the state germinated was salted.

In Mexico during the heyday of the PRI, parliamentary majorities were automatic. In Brazil, they are built by the Executive, through the hidden privatization of the most coveted fragments of the State apparatus. Corruption is the complementary face of Parliament's degradation. The PMDB is, by nature, the eternal departure from the situation. From Sarney to Lula, the party with no program or ideas formed the governing majorities of all presidents. Now, as the lights of the 2010 campaign are turned on, the peedebistas form different temporary columns, lined up behind the main candidates for the Planalto. The PMDB will be at the next government base, with Serra, Dilma, Aécio or Ciro, practicing the sport in which it specializes: blackmailing presidents, selling parliamentary support in exchange for positions that serve as keys to “manipulation of bids, targeted hiring, corruption in general".

The PMDB described by Jarbas, a multi-headed hydra, has its iconic figure in Sarney. The parliamentary representative of military power in crisis, the improbable president who frantically distributed radio concessions to his vast morning glory while the country was wrecked in the sea of ​​hyperinflation, the “electronic oligarch” of poor Maranhão, in the precise synthesis employed by The Economist magazine, converted years ago in Lula's interested ally. In this condition, he controls a slice of the state, in which the Ministry and the state companies subordinate to his political godson Lobão are. Now, with the sponsorship of a Lula who only has eyes for 2010, the personification of patrimonialism returns to the presidency of the Senate. As Jarbas said, his purpose is to transform it “into a great Maranhão”.

Demétrio Magnoli is a sociologist and holds a PhD in Human Geography from USP.