Back from the class struggle?


Source: Correio Braziliense, 18/07/2005

By Raul Pilati

The guts of our society have been exposed in recent days. And they were not plucked out by the political-party scandal that melts the PT. They were due to the action of the Federal Public Ministry, Police and Revenue in the Daslu department store, in São Paulo. Dedicated to selling luxury items to consumers with high purchasing power, it has become an icon of the rich and glamorous, as its owner, Eliana Tranchesi, accused, with others, of smuggling and evasion.

How impressive was the reaction of the class entities and self-proclaimed elite representatives? that group that, due to the large volume of money it has, understand themselves as a variety that deserves different treatment. Have the speeches been directed against the form of the operation? mobilization of newspapers, the accused and their companies being exposed, a large number of agents involved. But some people consulted by the column see clearly that the nerves are stirred up due to the proximity of the inspection action of a range of renowned entrepreneurs and companies. Operation Narcissus was the breaking of an imaginary frontier.

Signs of concern had already occurred when Operation Barley last month dismantled what would, according to the Federal Police, be a tax evasion scheme set up to benefit the Schincariol brewer, based in the interior of São Paulo. Five members of the owning family were arrested and handcuffed to the cameras.

? Was there a lighter reaction in the case of Schincariol ?, recalls Emerson Kapaz, president of Etco (Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition), which combats the growing tax evasion? partly resulting from the high Brazilian tax burden?, the illegal trade in products and the adulteration of brands. ? Now (the reaction) came with more force ?, he observes.

Kapaz is so concerned that he will participate in the event scheduled for today at the Federation of Industries of São Paulo (Fiesp) to discuss the Daslu episode. But it promises to be the dissonant note in the expected rain of criticism of the Public Ministry and the Federal Police. Since December he has counted 12 large police operations, and he approves, especially when they were directed against tax evasion and smuggling.

Guilt and fear
Even defending limits to the exaggerations of public agencies, he realizes that, behind the smoke screen they are releasing, speaking of the form of the operations, there are other interests. ? When it starts to get close, it starts to get really bad; begins to differentiate the chaff from the wheat ?, he says.

This effect can be explained by a maxim taught by former Federal Revenue Secretary, Ozires Lopes Filho: the amount of tax evasion is proportional to the risk. The greater the threat, the less willingness to evade. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the feeling of impunity, supports Kapaz. ? If not, the small business owner will think he is making a fool of himself by paying all taxes, or else he will also evade.?

In the operation against Daslu, some additional precautions were taken: images of the detainees were not allowed, they were able to accompany them to the police station, among others. Already effect of previous criticisms. But, without a doubt, an enormous apparatus was used to execute Narciso: 240 policemen, 80 inspectors, dozens of vehicles, etc.

Is it too much? Not when you want to use the demonstration effect. Inspection is used as a warning: pay attention, tax evaders, we are acting and we will arrest you. Even entrepreneurs admit that many companies are rushing to catch up.

Is this the greater risk that is appearing? and making itself felt. ? I want everyone to pay taxes to be able to demand from the government to reduce the general burden ,? explains Kapaz.

From the social point of view, the reaction of the entities draws attention for the noble position that he assumed. Two or three months ago the PF carried out another gigantic operation against the smuggling and embezzlement of products. Hundreds of people were hit, arrested, prosecuted and goods seized. Neither Fiesp nor any trade federation moved. Why? The operation was against the sacoleiros: 300 busses detained, tons of products collected.

Justice be done that only the Bar Association of Brazil reacted. And it remained consistent with previous reactions and, again, last week. ? We have long criticized the way operations are done. In Operation Cataract, do we criticize the lack of access by lawyers ?, highlights Roberto Antônio Busato, president of OAB.

But he is also surprised by the reaction to the Daslu case. ? It was the first time that I saw civil society look for the Order or speak out directly ?, he observes. And there are some guesses for the reasons. ? Perhaps because it occurred in downtown São Paulo, with a well-known brand and with a relationship of people of greater influence ?.

What elites do not seem to realize is that such a stance reinforces the boundary between classes, and will be demanded in the future. ? This is the price that people pay for being concerned with the interest of defending only their equals ,? says Busato.

Another strange thing was that Fiesp jumped ahead of the defense line. After all, it is a store and, to top it off, where most of the products are imported. It would do its job better if it valued the national industry.