During the past weeks there were several unfortunate interviews on the Israeli radio and newspapers about the elections being held in Brazil on October 7. They concentrated on two issues: the ineligibility of the ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to run for the third time, and criticism of the front-runner, Jair Bolsonaro, described to the Israeli public as a “far-right” candidate who is against women’s rights, blacks and gays, and an admirer of the military dictatorship that governed Brazil from 1964 through 1985.
The sentiment that transpired from the interviews was a sense of regret for the first and trepidation from the second. While we understand that the media in general leans to the left, it is offensive to allow misconceptions and outright lies being broadcast on the eve of such a crucial election to influence the vote of Brazilians resident in Israel.
Regarding the ex-president Lula, none of the articles brought up the fact that he is currently serving a 12-year sentence for corruption, bribery, money laundering and influence peddling. There are currently five other criminal proceedings pending against him. During his presidency he commanded the largest scheme of corruption in the history of humanity, robbing and squandering billions of dollars of public funds thus stealing the future of the Brazilian people.
To the leftist media in Brazil, this is not important.
For their members it is unfair that a popular politician such as Lula be denied the right to run again. And especially after the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended that he be allowed to run from prison! After all, almost all the senators, congress- men, governors, mayors and public officials in Brazil were or are involved in corruption in some degree. It is deemed our national pastime! What the media wants is to focus on the supposed “achievements” of Lula’s government when Brazil, the first of the emerging BRICS, was being cheered around the world for its economic prowess. The truth is that what Lula and his Workers Party achieved was to bury the country in debt, reach an incredible 40 million unemployed, close thousands of businesses, bankrupt the country’s largest public company and scorch the economy.
Brazil has one of the highest corporate tax burdens in the world and the most cumbersome bureaucracy one can find. A business pays some 63 different taxes to operate, most of them compounded. It takes years to receive all the requisite permits, and only after payment of endless “expedited fees”. The corruption machine created by the Workers’ Party is a monster as big as Brazil. But all the taxes collected from over 220 million people under Lula were not enough to satiate the appetite of its politicians or the demagogic gestures he made to ingratiate himself to the world.
Lula, who could not be a street cleaner in Brazil having completed only the second grade, received diplomas honoris causa from no less than 16 universities including the University of Coimbra (Portugal), Polytechnique de Lausanne (Switzerland), Sciences-Po (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris – France) and University of Salamanca (Spain). Under President Barack Obama, a statue of Lula was erected near the White House as a Hero of the Americas, next to Abraham Lincoln, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Simon Bolivar! Yes, Lula was a hero. A hero to Cuba to where he sent billions of dollars to finance ports and other infrastructure as a gesture to his mentor Fidel Castro.
He befriended Hugo Chavez and Ali Khamenei, not to mention his “brother” Muammar Gaddafi. He also gifted one of the most expensive plots of land in the capital Brasilia to Mahmoud Abbas to build an enor- mous Palestinian embassy, and another $10 million to build a hospital in Ramallah. All this while the public hospitals in Brazil were and continue to be in crisis, lacking medicine and equipment, and where to this day patients lie on the floor for lack of beds.
Lula learned from the best to create the illusion of a prosperous Brazil. Much the same way the Soviet Union bragged about its social achievements.
Illiteracy in Brazil is enormous. Did Lula invest in schools? No. He decided that the person who could barely write his or her name was literate. The papers gloated that in 14 years, the illiteracy rate fell to 4.3%! As if this is some achievement. Poverty remains ram- pant. Did Lula invest in crafts, professional training or enterprise promotion? No. He decided that if someone earned 300 reals (about $100) a month, he was to be moved from the low to the middle class. The same with Brazil’s high unemployment. Did his govern- ment invest in jobs? No. Lula decided that recipients of government food allowances were to be classified as employed! Health care remains a disaster. What did Lula do? He did not invest in hospitals, clinics or courses for nurses and doctors. Instead, he “imported” doctors from Cuba and shock(!), several of them were not even doctors but military personnel enjoying a time in Brazil, paid by the Brazilian taxpayers.
What a great way to create results in government! But lies don’t last very long.
One of Lula’s first measures after being inaugurated was to disarm the population. The result was an explo- sion in kidnappings, drug trafficking, homicides and robberies. In 2017 alone there were 59,080 homicides.
Between 2005 and 2015, more than 318,000 children and adolescents were murdered. Only 3% of the cases are solved per year.
ONE MONTH AGO the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro burned to the ground. More than 20 million irreplaceable documents, exhibits and artifacts were lost. The very history and memory of Brazil gone for- ever. The museum only needed 600,000 reals (or about $140,000) per year for its maintenance and protection.
It did not receive it. From the 310 million reals allocated to culture, 280 million went to dubious “cultural” projects destined to benefit leftist artists and “pseudo” artists as well as established artists who no longer need- ed “incentives” but continued to take home fortunes for their support of Lula.
After 15 years of misgovernment, the Brazilian people decided to say enough. Enough to the corruption and the robbery of public funds. Enough to the violence, the lack of schools, the lack of health care, the lack of transportation, the lack of justice, and the disregard for the people’s wellbeing. And enough to the lying rhet- oric that brought fortune to Lula’s family and inner circle but vast misery to the people.
This public outcry is personified by Jair Bolsonaro.
The congressman is not an “outsider” like Trump, but in many ways he is not part of the establishment.
He is one of the few politicians in Brazil not under investigation or being prosecuted for corruption or other crimes. He is vocal about his beliefs which, because they spouse Judeo-Christian values, are considered “offensive” by the left and the media. And they include his support for Israel, and his promise to transfer the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.
Bolsonaro graduated from Brazil’s main military academy. He served in the army for 17 years reaching the rank of captain. In 1988 he entered politics. During his 25 years in Congress, he submitted 173 bills and one constitutional amendment. In the army he is remem- bered as a fair, strong and principled officer. Since he decided to run for Brazil’s president, however, to the Congress and members of the media, he is nothing short of a Nazi.
So let us see. Bolsonaro was accused of being against women for not including in his program measures to equalize their salaries to men’s. The fact that he cannot do anything about this as president – since the issue has already been addressed by Federal law – is irrelevant to the media. He was also falsely accused of inciting rape when he defended the chemical castration of rapists! He was accused of being homophobic for maintaining that every citizen’s sex life is private. But it is true that Bolsonaro is against granting privileges or benefits to someone because of his or her sexual orientation as well as the attempts to include books on homosexuality in the curriculum of children as young as six.
Books that were considered too racy to appear at 9 PM on Brazilian TV! Similarly, he is not against blacks, but against quotas in universities reserved for people of color, instituted by Lula, regardless of their merit.
Joaquim Barbosa, Brazil’s only black Supreme Court Justice, effusively praised Bolsonaro last year.
Bolsonaro is also accused of defending the military dictatorship that governed Brazil for 21 years. If anyone from the media would have bothered to read a bit of history he or she would have found that it was the Brazilian Congress that requested the intervention of the Armed Forces against a communist coup that aimed at turning Brazil into a proletariat dictatorship. Bolsonaro has acknowledged that the mistake was made when the military did not call for elections a couple of years later.
I GREW UP under this dictatorship. I remember clean streets, proudly singing the national anthem every morning in school, and striving to be chosen to raise the flag. My parents, Jewish refugees from Arab countries, found in Brazil a haven of security and opportunity to which they are grateful to this day. Our doors were always open. As children, we played on the streets all day with the neighbors. Yes, in college we learned that abuses were committed during that time. But nothing close to 60 thousand unsolved murders a year, the unacceptable level of poverty and sheer neglect we face today as a result of the plundering of the country’s wealth. And this was because, although they were not apt to govern long term, the military above all loved the country and were not corrupted.
A couple of weeks ago, a follower of Lula decided to kill Bolsonaro during a rally. Bolsonaro narrowly survived the knifing but almost immediately another absurd allegation emerged regarding the choice of hospital made by the family. To declare that the attempted assassination of Bolsonaro pitted the Jewish community against the Arabs was outrageous! There is no such strife in Brazil where both communities use both hospitals interchangeably.
As a Jew who lost family in Auschwitz, I am profoundly offended when people use the Nazi slur lightly. Bolsonaro is not a Nazi. And if being “far-right” is to want to try to bring some measure of sanity to a government in disarray, plagued by people with no principle, looking only to fill their pockets, it is being “far-right”, so be it. I, a woman, a Jew, a defender of equal rights and obligations to all, will continue to proudly support Bolsonaro’s “far-right” campaign and will vote for him for president on Sunday. Maybe he will not be successful in killing the monstrous corruption machine built by Lula and his party. But he is the only candidate who can give my country of birth a chance to break free from the clutches of this filthy gang that took over Brasilia.Deborah Srour-Politis is a Brazilian and US attorney based in Israel and the US, and has a weekly radio address on national radio in Brazil.
Victor Sarfatti is the treasurer of the Social Liberal Party – SP, Jair Bolsonaro’s party.
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