domingo, 14 de julho de 2013

NYTIMES : Brazilian President’s Attempts to Placate Protesters Backfire

Published: July 13, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO — First she wanted to convoke a constitutional assembly, then she favored holding a plebiscite. Her government has promised more money for education and health care, to be paid for from oil royalties that do not yet exist. Her advisers have floated ideas like reducing the number of cabinet ministers from the current ungainly 39 and making it easier for the public to introduce legislation by petition.
Pablo Porciuncula/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
President Dilma Rousseff has announced a series of initiatives to address protesters’ demands. The latest, a plan to improve medical care by sending 10,000 doctors to underserved areas, set off anger because most of the physicians would be foreign hires.
President Dilma Rousseff has tried to defuse the protests that have rocked the streets of Brazil by seemingly granting the demonstrators what they want. But nearly every step she has taken has backfired, increasing public dissatisfaction with her performance.
A month after demonstrations erupted over official corruption, overspending on the construction of stadiums and infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, police brutality, and a host other issues, a whiff of desperation hangs over her government.
“We have a political leadership, in both Dilma and in the Congress, that, because it doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is happening, is answering with mere gestures,” said Cristovam Buarque, a senator and former education minister. “Whether it’s oil royalties or plebiscites, the agenda these days is nothing but marketing, marketing, marketing, pure marketing.”
One of the main demands of the protesters, whose demonstrations have subsided but who remain a feared and potent political force, has been for a “World Cup level” of health care and education. In an effort to respond, Ms. Rousseff announced last week a new incentive-laden program that aims to send, beginning in September, thousands of doctors to urban slums and remote areas like the Amazon that lack adequate medical services.
But it turns out that the government intends to look abroad, to countries like Portugal, Spain and perhaps Cuba, to fill many of those slots, a decision that immediately antagonized Brazilian doctors, who are underpaid and overworked in comparison with many of their peers in other countries. Brazilian medical associations have threatened to go to court to halt the initiative, describing it as an irresponsible media ploy, and they have also begun talking about a doctors’ strike.
“I insist on starting by correcting one concept,” Ms. Rousseff said, clearly on the defensive, when she announced the effort on Monday. “The ‘More Doctors’ program does not have bringing doctors from abroad as its main objective, but instead bringing health services to the Brazilian interior.”
Then, on Wednesday, Ms. Rousseff went to a conference in Brasília attended by many of the country’s 5,570 mayors where she announced that $1.3 billion would be made available to them for health care through a special government fund. But the mayors had been expecting a package twice that size, so they booed — and that reception, rather than her initiative, became the big story.
“If she was only going to give them half of what they wanted, she should have gone on the radio to announce it and spared herself the embarrassment” of being slighted in such a public setting, said Bolívar Lamounier, a political analyst in São Paulo. “What we’re seeing now was obvious during the campaign: she’s got no game, she doesn’t know how to maneuver.”
Ms. Rousseff does appear to be paying the price for her lack of political experience and skills. An economist by training, she had never held elected public office, serving only in state and federal cabinet posts before Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, her predecessor, chose her as the Workers Party standard-bearer in the 2010 election. Aided by his popularity, she won handily.
At the peak of the protests last month, Ms. Rousseff made a point of turning to Mr. da Silva, a master of political maneuvering, for advice. But instead of having him fly to Brasília to confer with her, or talking quietly by telephone, she went to meet him on his home turf in São Paulo, leaving the impression among many Brazilians that she was not in charge and he was still pulling the strings.
When they spoke again, he went to Brasília. But unhappiness within the Workers Party, including among members of Congress worried about their own survival in next year’s elections, has fueled speculation in the news media and discussion in the party about Mr. da Silva possibly returning as the party’s candidate if Ms. Rousseff’s downward spiral continued.

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