Hamburger Face for Congress

Postado em: 31st outubro 2014 por Vanessa Barbara em New York Times, Reportagens
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The International New York Times
Oct 31, 2014

by Vanessa Barbara
Contributing Op-Ed Writer

São Paulo, Brazil — It was a typical election in Brazil. Jesus and Osama bin Laden were running for Congress, as well as Barack Obama, Bob Marley, Santa Claus and Battman (with two Ts). The self-styled “Hamburger Face” unfortunately wasn’t elected, nor was a candidate just called Congresswoman. (When the results were released, it turned out she didn’t get a single vote — not even her own.) But a famous clown named Tiririca won a second term in the House, after starring in a kitschy TV campaign.

Next year, 35 percent of our members of Congress will be millionaires.

In São Paulo, which is proving to be more conservative than most of Brazil, the number of legislators in the so-called Bullet Caucus will increase by 30 percent. They are usually former military police officers, with a right-wing posture and a belligerent discourse; they stand for lowering the age at which teenagers can be tried as adults (currently 18); for increasing police repression; and against gun control. Their mottos are: “the only good thief is a dead thief” and “human rights are for right humans.”

The second-most-voted-for congressman in my state was an evangelical Christian ex-cop who recently produced his own comic book. In 32 pages, he describes “two brand-new police cases.” In one, an angel supposedly helped him during a chase so he could catch two fugitives. (In real life, however, three suspects were killed by the police.) After the elections, he urged independence for the wealthiest states from the poorest ones that “preferred charity over work.”

So this is what a normal election looks like in Brazil: strange people, funny memes, a strong influence of religion and lots of turnarounds. Fifty-three days before the first round, Eduardo Campos, one of the three leading candidates for the presidency, died in a plane crash. His replacement, representing the Brazilian Socialist Party (a center-left party), was Marina Silva, an evangelical Christian and environmentalist who suddenly attracted a huge amount of votes. The polls went crazy with her ascension. Everybody thought she was going to last into a runoff with the incumbent, PresidentDilma Rousseff — or even win the election.

In the end, they were wrong. What we had in the last round was the same old fight between the Workers Party, a center-left to left-wing party, and the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party, just as we’ve seen since 2002.

The second round was absolutely barbaric. Ms. Rousseff, of the Workers Party, and her challenger, Aécio Neves, exchanged insults and accusations. Last Friday, Mr. Neves said that the current campaign would go down in history “as the most sordid of our democratic system.” In a single debate, he accused her 36 times of being a liar, while she did the same 32 times. He claimed that Ms. Rousseff’s government was a “sea of mud.” She called Mr. Neves “abominable.” In a television ad, she implied that Mr. Neves “has some difficulties showing respect to women.” She has also accused him of hiring his sister, an uncle and six cousins.

Last week, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the previous president and one of the most prominent members of the Workers Party, declared that Mr. Neves was attacking his party “like the Nazis did in World War II,” while Mr. Neves compared João Santana, Ms. Rousseff’s campaign strategist, to Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

For three whole weeks, people fought in the streets and on the Internet. After the debates, they yelled obscenities out of windows. Friendships were broken; couples have split. On Twitter, a woman suggested to her followers that they should all plan something for Christmas, since she didn’t have much of a family left.

Three days before the final round, the weekly newsmagazine Veja released its new edition early. The publication claimed that the president and her predecessor were aware of a corruption case within the oil corporation Petrobras. The accusation was based on plea bargain testimony from a black-market money dealer. On the same day, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court denied a Workers Party request to ban the circulation of Veja, but prohibited publicity of this issue, deeming it unlawful propaganda. Ms. Rousseff was also given the right to reply. According to her, the magazine committed an act of “electoral terrorism.” Meanwhile, Veja’s headquarters were graffitied with the words “Veja lies” and “Journalistic garbage.”

So this is what I mean: a nice, standard election. On the eve of voting day, polls showed the candidates tied. On Sunday, people left their houses to vote — since it’s mandatory — and to take selfies in front of the voting machine. Somebody decided to set fire to a machine; another glued one key of a machine in order to obstruct opposite votes.

Finally, on Sunday night, Dilma Rousseff was re-elected by a narrow margin: 51.6 percent to 48.3 percent.

This whole democracy thing is very exhausting.

Vanessa Barbara, a novelist and columnist for the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, edits the literary website A Hortaliça.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 31, 2014, in The International New York Times.