"Brazil needs new leaders"

By ETCO
03/09/2015

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Political scientist Bolívar Lamounier talks about the situation and the ways for the country to overcome the political and moral crisis

On August 13, ETCO-Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition held a meeting of its advisory board in São Paulo. In addition to issues related to the Institute's activities, the meeting dealt with the country's political and economic moment. The discussion counted on the collaboration of a special guest, the sociologist and political scientist Bolívar Lamounier, graduated from UFMG, PhD in political science from the University of California and director of Augurium Consultoria. He made an analysis of the current political scenario and, broadening the focus, drew attention to the lack of leaders in the country and of a nation project that mobilizes society.

After the meeting, Bolívar Lamounier gave an interview to ETCO in Action. Below are the main parts of the interview.

What are the ways out of the political crisis?

Lamounier: Theoretically, we have four possibilities: 1) continue as is, with a weak president dragging on until the end of the term; 2) the president is impeached; 3) She put Lula in the position of prime minister and remain a kind of “queen of England”; and 4) the president resigns.

Continuing as it is will bring about what kind of consequence?

Lamounier: The president's continuity is to drag the situation to the end of the term and expose ourselves to growing risks. Because she will not improve as a manager or as a politician in this period. She is what she is, this is her limit.

What do you think of the impeachment hypothesis?

Lamounier: It is a very dangerous way out, which radicalizes the country too much. Furthermore, the legal foundations that are being invoked, such as tax pedaling and the possibility that there were illicit resources in her campaign, are very fragile. Even though there was illegal money, no one is showing that she knew and that she sought these resources. You can't do like in football, that you punish the team with the loss of control of the field just because half a dozen fans made trouble. There is no point in that, it is a wrong line.

In your opinion, what would be the best way out?

Lamounier: The least traumatic way out would be her resignation, but as she shows no signs of accepting this hypothesis, we have to prepare for a long period of difficulties: the economy is very bad and she is showing no sign of great capacity to govern.

How did we get to that point?

Lamounier: It was enough to be following the economic and political fundamentals calmly to see that we would inevitably reach this situation. For eight years, ex-President Lula accumulated an amount of popularity and political power perhaps never seen in the country and did nothing with it. He sat on top of the power. He did not carry out any reforms, he did not do any infrastructure work, he did not have an educational policy. What progress was he envisioning? It was to sell iron ore to the Chinese. While prices paid off, we had a very high growth rate here. The price of commodities has plummeted and we now have to manage on our own.

Were we caught by China's slowdown?

Lamounier: It would inevitably happen. A country that alienates its economic growth from another must be prepared for a reversal. Sooner or later it will happen. And at the time that this reversal took place, we were unlucky to have a person in the presidency of the Republic who does not have the necessary attributes for the position. So, in Brazil, millions of families, millions of unemployed people are paying this price.

At the same time, there were complaints, revelations of corruption ...

Lamounier: The moral crisis is due to the country having lost its self-image, the ability to think and project itself into the future as a nation that wants to be one way and not another. If you have a reference, an image of the country, the institutions all more or less coordinate, articulate themselves with that ideal, and this will filter down until it reaches the most humble citizen in the country. Now, when you have no frame of reference, you stay with God. Worse than God will give you, you are hostage to certain groups that know very well what they want. If those who want good do not act, those who want evil act.

Aren't investigations an advance?

Lamounier: Some people think that, in raising these problems, I am underestimating the progress that has been made in Brazil in several aspects. I am not underestimating, I am just saying that in some ways we have stopped or regressed. For example, democracy is there, we are 140 million people voting, but how did we go ten years without knowing what happened at Petrobras? Isn't the idea that there is transparency, there is accountability? How is it that the President of the Republic, who at the time was a minister, presiding over the board of directors, lets animals of that size pass under her chin? There are aspects where we either stop in time or regress very seriously.

Does the way of doing politics in Brazil, of giving positions in exchange for support, favor corruption?

Lamounier: A certain degree of transaction exists in any country and is necessary. Now, handing over closed pens, as has been done lately - handing over to the party such as Petrobras, handing over to the party such as the Ministry of Transport - is irrelevant. This is partly due to the bad intention of some people, this cannot be denied, but partly also because a notoriously unpaid party came into command in the country.

And the opposition?

Lamounier: The opposition is making a lot of mistakes. The parties in Brazil have a lot of business on occasion. They don't seem to think strategically. Since the election it was absolutely clear that we were going to have a huge, extremely painful fiscal adjustment. Worse, a fiscal adjustment that the president had denied during the campaign, and therefore would end up having to do without legitimacy. Oppositions had to have been more proactive. Instead, in the first semester we saw people headbanging. The opposition sometimes forgets that it is also demanded by the people. The people don't just charge the government, they charge the opposition too.

How do you evaluate the country's leadership?

Lamounier: This is a serious problem. Today, in Brazil, people who have the time and capacity to reflect more calmly on certain subjects - businessmen, intellectuals, journalists - need to take a break to better analyze what has happened in the country in the last thirty years. Brazil is a little aimless. It is not just a matter of the Dilma government and the individual Dilma Rousseff. We lost the sense of purpose in the country, the ability to reflect and the ability to form leaders in the necessary number. I am not denying that there are leaders. There are many, from various parties, but not on the scale that Brazil needs. Just remember that in the short space of a quarter of a century, Petrônio Portela, Ulisses Guimarães, Tancredo Neves, Mário Covas, Roberto Campos died. On both sides of the spectrum.

How to solve this problem?

Lamounier: Everyone complains that the country is without leaders, but people never remember to argue that leaders do not grow on trees, it’s not like papaya, that you go there and harvest. If you think you're missing a leader, let's see what we can do. Some countries have deliberately created institutions from which the subject leaves prepared for politics if he wants to pursue a high-level career. In France, for example, there is the National School of Administration, which was created for this by [general Charles] de Gaulle. I think we need to get out of this slump in which we put ourselves. The doldrums are very dangerous. It's been a long time since we reclined, put on the belt and slept.