Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How much more chaos can Brazil take?

brazil_outline
According to Simon Romero, this is how many Brazilians are feeling these days:   
Cartoonish depictions of Brazil’s president are so popular that his office is trying to restrict access to his pictures — so they don’t get turned into lampoons on social media.
Some Brazilians joke that a bold outsider — like Tite, the coach turning around the fortunes of Brazil’s national soccer team — should run the country instead. 
Maybe his star player, Neymar, could become finance minister, they say.
Then there’s the growing chorus of Brazilians who contend that the presidency should be abolished altogether, replaced by citizens making decisions via the instant-messaging service WhatsApp.
Once again, Brazil has found itself in upheaval, with President Michel Temer engulfed in a graft scandal that is threatening his presidency. 
Now, amid all the hand-wringing, anger and exasperation, the crisis is bolstering Brazil’s tradition of gallows humor, fueling a mix of satire and existential resignation.
Of course, we understand the anger over a corrupt system that has become Exhibit A of Crony Capitalism and the talk of Latin America. At the same time, can any country survive such cynicism? As the article explains:  
At the core of the humor is a sobering nationwide trend: a declining faith in the nation’s democracy.
Even before the latest scandal exploded this month, support for democracy in Brazil plunged in 2016 to 32 percent from 54 percent the year earlier, according to Latinobarómetro, a Chilean company that surveys political views around Latin America. 
Only Guatemala, where President Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign because of a fraud scandal, ranked lower, with only 30 percent there supporting democracy.
Again, we understand the anger and cynicism. In other words, the last president was removed. The current president faces a mountain of problems, too. Can an honest politician be found?
As always, I’d like to check with my Brazilian friend for a little context. His attitude is this: “Letting people govern directly via WhatsApp can’t be worse than what we have now.”  At the same time, my friend is hoping for an honest politician instead. He assures me with a grin that his countrymen would probably get into fist fights if they governed by WhatsApp.
Here is a lesson here for the rest of us. Brazilian crony capitalism worked well when the economy was booming and politicians could give away things in exchange for votes. The whole system is now collapsing because the bad economy forced cuts in social programs and exposed the corrupt relationship between the political class, big business and the public sector unions.    
Will Brazil’s political system survive? Probably, but things cannot get any worse before I start looking at other alternative outcomes.
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk), (YouTube) and follow me on Twitter.



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