Brazilian Brouhaha

“I’m enjoying this whole brouhaha in Brasilia so much,” a friend posted on Facebook on Tuesday morning.

I wasn’t.

I was panicking.

I have been progressively severing my ties with Brazil over the last few weeks, but not without paying a psychological price. As I wrote before, I had decided to close KBR’s operations there and transfer all my business activities to the U.S. This was my last month of a double life. I was planning to close my bank accounts by the end of the month.

As you might recall, our move to the U.S. was predicated upon the fact that, after a whole year of trying, we managed to sell our house in Serenity Valley. Next, we struggled to transfer our assets — legally, of course, with the exchange currency moving up and down on a crazy swing — to a bank in Greenville, where we were planning to build a new home. We still are.

Many years ago, when I still saw myself as a person of “faith,” an astrologer friend told me I had some kind of “heavenly protection” that stopped me from hurting myself or overextending myself in my business adventures. I don’t remember the dream du jour at that point, maybe a recipe book or a vegetarian restaurant, since for a while I fancied my cooking skills.

So, basically, I was safe. And, in all honesty, I don’t know what took hold of me on that dreadful Tuesday.

Maybe, as mentioned earlier today by another friend who had also moved to the U.S. a few years back, my fear was triggered by an old “panic gene” inherited from ancestors who had to escape the pogroms in Eastern Europe. Although I can’t remember any family stories of that sort, despite the fact that my father’s family did travel from Poland to Brazil in 1929. Being a Jew, you actually never know.

I guess my memory actually does not fare so far back in my personal history. I don’t remember consciously, but there might be some kind of painful remembrance of the Military Coup in Brazil in 1964, delicately dubbed “the 64 revolution.” I was 12 years old, and after a short period of tanks in the streets, everything went back to normal, or so I thought. Only this morning, I could imagine the kind of fear my parents must have felt at the time, both in their early thirties with two young children to raise.

My teenage years went by through the “years of lead,” but as I grew up with some kind of protective aloofness, I had a pretty normal life. Eventually, the pressures of the dictatorship abated, and we were back to democracy, albeit with frequent and radical economic crises.

I don’t want to recall all the hardship I had to overcome, being a Brazilian entrepreneur and “slightly artistic” my whole life. It has passed. It doesn’t matter.

At any rate, when I woke up Tuesday morning with an excruciating headache, the second migraine attack in less than seven days, and went directly to the computer to check the latest Brazilian news, two days after the “biggest popular demonstration against the government in history,” my intermittent feeling of alarm was thoroughly justified: After being indicted for the crimes of money-laundering and occultation of assets in the current Brazilian corruption scandal wave, ex-President Lula was invited by the next-in-line-to-be-indicted President Dilma to occupy a high position in office, which would unofficially make him some kind of “non-recognized” Prime Minister, turning Dilma officially into the puppet that she has been for all her time in office, especially in her second term. This would protect Lula from going to trial and maybe to jail as a regular citizen — an arrest warrant was already in the works — but that wasn’t the whole story, not even the half of it. With this highly irregular, possibly illegal act, Lula would be elevated to the position of de facto leader of Brazil.

According to the media, he had already made his demands: Brazil was supposed to go back in full to the populist and protectionist economic policies that started to destroy the country in the first place; the government should increase spending, and start immediately to “stimulate” the economy, in order to regain its now-tarnished prestige with the poor. Nobody seemed to care that the country was utterly broke, with the highest unemployment rate in many years, inflation on the rise, bankruptcies, companies going out of business, one after the other. Moreover, they couldn’t care less about the will of the people, clearly expressed in the huge protesting crowds all over the country, only two days ago.

The “dictatorship of the PT[1]” has been (un)officially announced. We were lost.

My last obligation to Brazil was to file my tax returns for the year 2015, following the official communication of my change of residency to another country. I had been contemplating asking my accountant to do it on my behalf, and I had time to burn, since the deadline was more than a month ahead. But in light of the latest news, I’ve decided to do it myself. Immediately. Alan was worried that the new laws concerning the legalization of the assets of Brazilian citizens abroad would affect our own. I guaranteed him this was not “gonna” happen. But the truth is, in Brazil one never knows.

I first tried to download the software into my present computer, but for some reason it did not work. The software required that I install Java, but apparently this state-of-the-art computer does not allow Java anymore.

I grabbed my old Dell, out of use for a couple of months, but I was so anxious that I did something wrong and managed to provoke the blue screen of death. This time, a permanent one. The computer could not fix itself, and it wouldn’t start. So I tried Alan’s computer, a little older than mine, and this one worked.

After half an hour of extreme tension, I completed the forms and sent them directly to the Ministry of Finance through the Internet. I saved and printed the confirmation receipt — the tax report system in Brazil is pretty advanced — and I was done.

I had been by myself through all this “little” personal crisis, since Alan had gone to the dentist and I was home alone. I took a deep breath, put on my snickers and leggings, and went to the gym for a run, facing the pool and the newly-flowered dogwood trees announcing the imminent spring. I was far from home and suffering from the occasional longing. But I was safe and sound.

Now, as I finish writing this chronicle, Lula’s confirmation as a Minister of State has been put on hold until later today or maybe tomorrow, because a greater scandal has taken place: It was confirmed that another minister belonging to PT tried to obstruct justice by bribing a senator to derail the man’s plea bargain, the same senator who brought proof against Lula and Dilma to the corruption trial. Lula does not want to share the headlines with lesser criminals than himself, the indisputable chief of the gang, the “intellectual” mentor of Brazil’s demise.

***

When this chronicle finally aired on Saturday morning, Lula’s confirmation was swaying back and forth according to the determinations of the Supreme Court.

The Brazilian people are clearly against it, but the “gang in office” does not care at all. Their rudeness, their profound contempt for the people and for the Law is ostensibly made manifest by the vulgarity of their language and their even more vulgar contentions, in a total disregard for the Constitution made public by Sergio Moro, the judge in charge of the corruption trials, through the wiretapped conversations between the most important officials in the country. How shocking.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that, at this moment, we all know for sure something we had just suspected for so many years. There is indeed a “gang in office,” and that certainty is an important step in our struggle to get rid of them.

Enough is enough.

[1] Lula’s party, also the party currently in office in Brazil.

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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