Thursday, September 5, 2013

Secrets and Lies - São Paulo

In 2014, vote for Ali Baba. He has only 40 Thieves.
You will notice that I rarely post on political topics on my blog. There are a couple of reasons for this--one being that there are people who focus on this and second of all, most of the time I have no idea what I am talking about. I find politics and voting here a complete mystery and in spite of fits and starts of trying to understand it, I am roughly in the same place as in 1998 when I moved here for the first time.  It doesn't help that there is a history of monkeys coming in third for mayor in Rio, a clown was elected in São Paulo (like THAT didn't provide ample joke potential), and bad politicians (Collor, Maluf, ACM, etc) keep coming back and back and back...okay, ACM is dead. We are probably safe now.

So, bear with me as I try to follow along current events. There is a deputado (like a representative) named Donadon who was convicted in 2010 of "detouring" $8 million reais from 1995-1998 when he was the financial director of the Legislative Assembly of Rondonia (who here knows where Rondonia is? It's a state. Could be somewhere north of here. Wait, here it is.). So he said "okay I quit." And he did. And then he was voted back in later that year. What? Yeah, see, I am already on shaky ground.

My cheat sheet
Bottom line: he was back in Congress. A man with a mission. Only issue is that he was sentenced to 13 years in jail (and to pay back $1.6 million reais, which does not add up to the $8 he stole, and I don't know what to tell you there. Seek expert help.) But he got to stay a representative. And was saying, hey, let me serve those 13 years later. The Supreme Court said "no, get thee to a prison." So he did. Then last week, there was a vote to see if he could be impeached as a representative (given he is in jail) and guess what? He could stay a representative. Now there is some other interesting stuff going on--the Supreme Court is back again saying "I don't think so because his mandate is shorter than his jail sentence."  But this is not my point.

My point is that the vote about whether or not he could stay a representative was a secret one. While it is known by the numbers (XX votes for, YY votes against his impeachment), no one knows how individual representatives voted. So, you have no way of knowing if your representative is in favor or against a corrupt guy staying with the title of representative. Yes, he is on leave and not getting a salary. 

What gives? Remember how I said that the military dictatorship is not far from the minds and history of this country? Yes, it is because of the military dictatorship that votes were secret. The thought being that the military government could not seek revenge for certain legislative processes if they didn't know who voted for them. And therefore you would not end up hanging in your jail cell under iffy circumstances. 

Now, just yesterday the house of representatives approved open voting. Yes, after 40 some years of secret votes, let's go forward with open ones. It still needs to go to the Senate for a vote. I am totally in favor of open voting, because at least in the US, you can find out if your representative needs a phone call advising him or her that their latest vote was terrible. 

I am moving forward in my knowledge of politics...if I am wrong about any of this, please let me know. It won't be a huge surprise! (PS, my Brazilian husband did fact check--so I am not toooooo far wrong!)


  1. I'm with you. I really hope the secret votes come to an end, although there are rumblings that the Senate might maintain them secret in certain cases.

    I also think it's interesting to look at the history behind these things. Since it doesn't fit (and is obviously counter-productive) in the current political climate, it's easy to forget (or not know in the first place) that it actually served a good purpose in its original context.

    1. Interesting on some votes remaining secret. Is there such a thing as secret voting in the US in certain cases? Hmmm, I don't think so. Must check this.

      I am just getting fascinated by what the military dictatorship did to the psyche of this country. So many things happen or don't happen because of the history of it. I guess the same is true of my own country--there was a reason for the electoral college vs direct voting way back when, but maybe not a reason for it anymore.

    2. Very true about the electoral college.

      I don't think there's any psyche involved in the secret votes in Brazil. It's just some thing that made sense (kind of) back then that should've been revoked with the new Constitution in 88 but wasn't because it served other (less excusable) interests post-dictatorship.