Hanging on a Word

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Brazil – A Convenient Secret

Would you vote to maintain in office a man who was convicted of stealing millions from public funds? No? What if the benefits were good and your vote was secret?

Last Friday, the 30th of March, the House of Representatives in Brazil voted, under a secret ballot, and maintained in office Natan Donadon, convicted – among other charges – of stealing 8 million Reais from his own country and government. There were 233 votes in favour of banning Donadon from his seat, 24 short of getting it done. The other 131 seats voted against, and therefore to keep him in office and 41 representatives were absent and did not vote. Yes, that’s allowed!

Including the 41 that didn’t bother to show up, that is 172 representatives of the people who seem to think that a proven corrupt is suitable to remain their colleague. No one is thinking very highly of this bunch right now, but then again – we don’t know who they are, do we?

Before the voting took place, Donadon had over half an hour to defend himself – wasn’t this guy already prosecuted? –  so, while more than 50% of the population doesn’t have access to basic education, Natan Donadon spoke on national television, complaining that the prison does not provide warm showers nor is the food appropriate to his sensitive stomach. Donadon also went on about the financial difficulties he is facing due to the temporary suspension of his salary and how horrible it felt to be cuffed.

This pity party, believe it or not, is the excuse for the votes in his favour. Now, Henrique Eduardo Alves, Head of Chamber, has declared there won’t be any more banning processes until the possible end of secret ballots is decided on. Could this be the kick-start needed to end corruption as well?

Not likely. Projects meant to expose such votes are not something new in Brazil. The subject has been considered for decades. But who decides? That may just be the trouble, everyone decides and therefore no one decides. Government officials keep discussing the subject, tossing the ball around, waiting for this extremely pertinent, yet highly inconvenient problem (for them) to go away.

Brazilian citizens are once again in the hands of the men and women who were sworn to protect the people’s best interests and civil rights; that of course in exchange of a modest salary of around 24,000 Reais and nothing less then a few, 15 or so, benefits such as free housing, a car with a driver, unlimited air travel, 5 start hotels and an allowance with no specific purpose. Sure, it’s a democracy, but when alone this so called allowance represents more then double the minimum wage in the country, it may not feel like one.

As the great majority of politicians work to win time and hopefully have this whole tedious subject forgotten, tax payers are left working double shifts in order to barely get by – do I feel more protests coming on? Can’t say, but I do hope the people speak up or Donadon may get to have a warm shower a few years too soon.

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