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Brazilís Socialists Turn on Each Other

By John Sweeney

Caracas 26.09.05 | Itís a very old line in crime movies and novels. The criminal is confronting justice at last, and he faces off with his former colleague in crime, snarling, ďIf I go down, youíre going down with me.Ē Jose Dirceu, the senior Workers Party (PT) Deputy in Congress and until last June Chief of Staff in the Cabinet of President Luiz Inacio ďLulaĒ da Silva, turned against da Silva publicly for the first time in an interview published Sept. 25 by daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Dirceu, who resigned in June after he was accused of being directly involved in a congressional bribery scandal orchestrated by the PTís National Treasurer, is one of nearly 20 deputies who soon could be fired from their posts in the Chamber of Deputies and stripped of their congressional immunity so that they can be prosecuted in Brazilian federal court on corruption charges. If Dirceu goes down, however, he intends to drag down da Silva too.

President da Silva is a co-founder of the PT and is honorary president of the party. Dirceu is a former communist guerrilla who has ruled the PT internally for over a decade. Dirceu is intelligent and ruthless. He is also an unrepentant Marxist disguised as a moderate socialist. If Dirceu is expelled from the Chamber of Deputies his control of the PT also would be threatened.

The fact that Dirceu now publicly accuses the president of being responsible for the PTís corruption-related crisis suggests two things. One, Dirceu likely expects that he will be booted out of Congress. Two, Dirceu will do everything in his power to retain control of the PT, which in the long-term is more important strategically to Brazilís radical leftists (like Dirceu) than keeping da Silva in Brazilís presidency for a second four-year term. Anyway, Dirceu probably has concluded that the PTís corruption scandal will hurt da Silvaís popularity so much that he wonít win re-election in 2006.

Dirceu was careful not to directly implicate da Silva in actual acts of corruption. However, Dirceu insisted that the president did participate directly in the ďdiscussionsĒ about the PTís strategies and policies for forming ruling alliances with other political parties. Practically all of the more than three-dozen deputies implicated in the congressional bribery scandal belong to political parties that belong to the PTís ruling alliance in both the government and Congress. Dirceu stressed that while da Silva cannot be assigned responsibility for any corrupt acts within the PT, he is still ďresponsible, as we are all responsible,Ē for the PTís corruption-related internal crisis.

After muddying da Silva in the interview, Dirceu backed down, declaring that da Silva never knew that the PT had a parallel accounting system that used illegally obtained bank loans to finance part of da Silvaís presidential campaign expenses in 2002. However, Dirceuís remarks werenít meant to help da Silva in any way. This issue, still largely unexplored by Brazilian congressional investigators and the international news media, is tremendously more dangerous to the future of the PT and the Brazilian left than the congressional bribery scandal.

If the PT financed part of da Silvaís election campaign illegally in 2002, the Brazilian political opposition arguably could make a strong case that da Silvaís presidency is illegitimate. The reason this hasnít happened yet is that opposition leaders using the congressional bribery scandal to weaken the PT and hurt da Silvaís popularity likely realize that questioning the legality of da Silvaís election could backfire politically against them. Although da Silvaís popularity has dropped significantly in the past five months, he is still popular with more than half of Brazilís voters.

The PTís political opponents will continue to attack Brazilís main leftist party in coming months. They want to make sure the PTís longtime self-proclaimed status as Brazilís only honest political party is destroyed. Honesty and integrity were PT pillars as it sought to broaden its base to the center of Brazilian politics. However, now the PT is just another run-of-the-mill corrupt Brazilian political party that canít keep its promises in government, and when in power bribes its congressional allies to advance the governmentís legislative agenda.

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