Saturday, January 01, 2011

Viva Brazil. Felicitaciones, Presidente. Venceremos!

Former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff was sworn in today as Brazil's first female president, taking over from her mentor, Lula da Silva, who left office with an astonishing approval rating of 87 percent. Rousseff, who was imprisoned and tortured in the 1970s during the tyranny of Brazil's military dictatorship, served as Lula's chief of staff and mines minister and was a key architect of his social-democratic policies.

Under the Workers' Party, Brazil's sound fiscal policy, equitable social programs and wealth redistribution have helped pull 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. After having been at the brink of international loan defaults eight years ago, Brazil now lends money to the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment is at a record low and the currency has doubled in value against the US dollar. But poverty continues to torment the country.

"I will not rest while there are Brazilians without food on their table, homeless in the streets, and poor children abandoned to their luck," Rousseff said today. Recalling her roots in the armed struggle against Brazil's military rule, Rousseff choked back tears and said: "That at-times tough path made me value and love life much more. It gave me, more than anything else, courage to confront even bigger challenges. It is with this courage that I'm going to govern Brazil."

Less noticed by the English-language press were Rousseff's expressions of commitment to liberty, democracy, and a greater openness to the democratic world. "We will preserve and deepen the relationship with the United States and the European Union," as well as with Brazil's "brothers of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa." She added that Brazil will continue to safeguard individual political and religious rights: "I affirm my commitment to respect press freedom and free speech. I prefer the sound of a free press to the silence of the dictatorship."

Rousseff's Workers' Party policies invite a stark comparison with the Venezuelan police state ushered in by the thug Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan dissenter Francisco Toro (h/t HP) notices:

"All of the social goals Chávez told us Venezuela could only reach once we buried 'the bourgeois state' (read: pluralist constitutional democracy) are goals Brazil is achieving without gutting its democracy. And they’re goals we’re failing to achieve even as our democracy gets put through the wood-chipper.

"As Brazil does what we in Venezuela can only dream of – which includes putting a brilliant economist, one-time guerrilla and political prisoner, descended from Bulgarian immigrants, in the presidency – it’s perhaps time to reflect on what our Southern Counterfactual says about our road not taken. The Brazilian experience shows that the frontal assault on our political rights and civil liberties has been entirely pointless. The monstrous contention that our freedom was the price we had to pay for social justice is quietly refuted, day in and day out, just on the other side of Santa Elena de Uairén."

And how was the Venezuelan president ringing in the New Year? By seizing rule-by-decree powers to head off the January 5 arrival of a new parliament and pushing through a raft of laws to regulate the Internet, prohibit NGOs from receiving foreign funding and prevent lawmakers from voting against Uncle Hugo's party. "Let's see how they're going to make their laws now," Chávez crowed.

Let's see, indeed, Hugo. Your days are numbered. Here's to hoping the Age of Tyrants is in its final hour, and for a chorus of Marg Bar Diktator the world round. To usher in the New Year, here's John McSherry and Francis McIlduff with "At First Light":


Blogger Kurt Langmann said...

My brother's daughter was born this morning in Belo Horizonte too, how auspicious. Much love to all of Brazil on a happy day. Not that Brazil is perfect; the poverty and crime is endemic. There are many big problems to be tackled and resolved but they are doing much better than Venezuela on all fronts, that is true. Democracy is not perfect but it's better than all the alternatives.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Pedro Carvalho said...

"Felicitaciones" is a Spanish word. Brazil's a Portuguese speaking country. If you want to congratulate someone in Portuguese you should say "Parabéns".

4:15 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Quite so, Pedro. Could well have been, comhghairdeas!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Pedro Carvalho said...

Hahaha, I wouldn't go that far! You were close enough.

However, my tip for non-portuguese speakers is: if you don't know how to say something in Portuguese don't just assume it's the same as in Spanish. You may get some nasty results...

12:50 PM  

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