Brazilian politics and its pretenders

May 7 was the last day to obtain a Brazilian voter registration card for this year’s elections, and while I had the need to obtain one in mind, I asked myself, “Is it really worth it?” Brazil is one of the few countries that offer teens at the age of 16 to vote. But, quite frankly, to me it is not worth it. One of the many reasons is that  Brazil has 31 different political parties, and not all of them have political platforms; the funny thing is that parties such as  PTS (Social Transformation Party) and PF (Federalist Party) don’t  have a declared ideology; they’re just there. In addition, many, if not all, Brazilian political parties have been involved in some corruption scandal. For many Brazilians, the point of voting for a specific political party is to choose the least corrupt one, accepting that every single party has some dirt under its rug—or, as in the 2005 case of Brazil’s Labor Party, some money in its underwear.

In 2010 a Brazilian clown known as Tiririca ran for Congress. Besides having to prove that he was literate, he was known for having controversial slogans for his campaign, such as “Do you know what a congressman does? Neither do I, but vote for me, and I’ll tell you.” He also exclaimed, “If elected, I promise I will help all Brazilian families…especially mine!” Needless to say, many Brazilians were compelled by his slogans and elected him to Congress. He became the most voted for politician in Brazilian history, after Enéas, a federal deputy known for his tirades against corruption on television. After Tiririca’s first day in Congress, he mentioned on national television how he had just received a 60% raise in his salary because right after elections, Brazilian congressmen voted on an increase in their own salaries. Of course, R$200,000 per month is not enough for political clowns.

Just as laughable is the water fine imposed by São Paulo’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin. He decreed that paulistas who “abused” water were to be fined. Of course, this restriction does not include Alckmin himself, since, according to O Estado de São Paulo, the Governor’s mansion wastes two million liters of water per month. Alckmin’s water bill isn’t the only clownish act in his government’s three-ring circus. His views on crime are just as farcical. He recently stated on the radio that homicides have gone down, while in reality, the number of latrocínios (homicidal robberies) has reached a peak—amazing progress in Alckmin’s view!

I previously wrote a piece in last September’s Talon regarding Brazil’s poor judicial system revolving around politicians, a piece entitled “The Federal Legislator Inmate.” The article described how a federal legislator, Natan Donadon, had been convicted of corruption but still remained a congressman. Even though he was in prison, his fellow legislators allowed him to maintain his position and his salary after a dramatic plea for leniency that left many congressmen teary-eyed. This set of examples—from the openly absurd Tiririca to the absurdly clueless Alckmin and the tearfully absurd Donadon—leads many of us to feel as though there are no good politicians to vote for. Many Brazilians seem to have accepted this reality and simply vote because if they don’t, they’re fined two reais. Should I have skipped school on May 7 to obtain my voter card to vote for bozos such as these? Would it have been an excused absence to go buy circus tickets?