Fishguy Farewells, Corruption, and Hell Freezing Over

This is my last blog post until MY LAST blog post when I get back from the jungle on November 29th…only two more to enjoy people so soak ‘em up!

Farewell to the Fishguy:

This gem of a picture about sums up the last nine months for these three gringos…

Donovan and I were forced to say goodbye to the Fishguy last Wednesday as he headed back home to New York. The three resident gringos have been together for quite some time and his presence down here in our final couple of weeks will definitely be missed.  Thank you Dan for the conversations, devolving English, insights into Portuglês (that’s our special version of Portuguese and English), and all around good company. To the man who once tried to convince me that “I don’t have how” was proper English grammar…I salute you.

Mensalão sentences come down: Paying for the “Big Allowance”

Bribery. Racketeering. Embezzlement. Conspiracy. The massive “Mensalão” (or in English the “Big Allowance”) vote-buying scandal that has rocked the Brazilian political establishment finally came to an ignominious conclusion this past week with several high level officials of former President Lula’s administration, including his Chief of Staff José Dirceu, being sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

If you aren’t familiar with the scandal, in 2005 charges of a cash-for-vote bribery scheme were lodged against the ruling Workers Party (PT) and a number of Lula’s closest political confidants.  The officials allegedly paid a monthly allowance of $12,000 to members of the Brazilian Congress in exchange for votes favorable towards ruling party legislation. Last Monday the Brazilian Supreme Court finally weighed in with a potentially precedent setting verdict that found Lula’s right-hand man Jose Dirceu guilty of bribery and unlawful conspiracy and sentenced him to 11 years imprisonment (although it remains to be seen how much of that sentence he’ll actually serve).

Many people down here see the case as Brazil at its worst. The arrogance, impunity, and utter lack of respect for the rule of law all exemplify the issue that almost any and all Brazilians you speak with identify as their county’s gravest problem: political corruption. Whether or not you agree (I have serious reservations), there is no doubt that corruption permeates all levels of Brazilian political life. Much of the analysis I’ve read in the local newspapers seems to suggest that the Mensalão verdict offers hope of a new day for the political system in this country. Many argue that never before has the Brazilian Supreme Court (a notoriously inactive body) stepped in and thrown its weight so forcefully against corruption. Moreover, these same people suggest that never before has the Brazilian public been so vociferously outraged by political corruption.

I can’t fully disagree with many of those arguments. Certainly, on its face, Monday’s verdict looks to be a positive step forward for this country. However, I also can’t get the stench of an even larger cover-up out of my nostrils. The larger than life, cult-of-personality figure known as former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva got off 100% scot-free from this political bloodbath and I find that…curious…to say the least. Call me a cynic, but when there is smoke there is usually fire. The number of high-ranking Lula confidants embroiled in the scandal is impossible to ignore. Common sense tells me that the former President MUST have known something. To assume otherwise would be to assume Lula the clueless leader of both his party and his administration. Suffice it to say that while the verdict certainly represents something significant in the history of Brazilian politics, in all likelihood a much larger fish managed to escape the Mensalão scandal un-fried.

Has Hell officially frozen over?

And I thought we started the holiday season early back home. Not sure what I found more amusing…Christmas decorations up all around town on November 1st…or a giant snowman in front of the mall. The world must be ending in a few weeks because Hell appears to have officially frozen over.  The snowman gets me every darn time.

Other happenings:

  • Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food for me…
  • Val took Donovan and I out to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ on Saturday…d.e.l.e.c.t.a.b.l.e.
  • Guess who went OFF on our rental company when they tried to charge us a $300 re-painting fee for our apartment…that looks identical to the day we got it? This guy. Finding professional, trustworthy businesses in this city is next to impossible. Why is it so hard to have an honest, straightforward business relationship? Unreal.
  • I watched both “Tropa de Elite” (Elite Squad) and Tropa de Elite 2 this week…brilliant movies that provide the “other” perspective in the never-ending war between drug gangs and police officers in Brazilian favelas. As much as I loved both, “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) still takes the cake.  Nonetheless, all three are ABSOLUTELY worth checking out.
  • Last Thursday was another public holiday. It was “Republic Day”…which officially marked the day that Brazil became a…you guessed it…republic. Hilariousness to the max. It would be the rough equivalent of Americans shutting all businesses down for “Constitution Day” or something absurd like that. Every two weeks is a work-stoppage holiday…practically without fail. When you ask people here about the significance of holidays they almost always look at you and laugh.
  • One of the greatest goals in the history of football. If you haven’t watched it…enjoy seeing a man literally defy physics…I bow to you Ibra…you not only had the audacity to try a bicycle kick from 30 yards…you had the quality to complete it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck5P30zC3Z0
  • Things are quickly accelerating on the job front. That’s kinda sorta exciting. Hint: Whatever I do will most likely involve speaking Portuguese.  Honestly, between now and December 1st…that’s about all of Andy’s future plans you’re going to get.

This is officially blog post #40. I would like to once again pat myself on the back (maybe even brush my shoulders off a little bit). Go me. Seriously though, that’s all I have for now…until my swan song on the 29th…have a great couple of weeks!

Gringoly,

Andy

P.S You might even get some FRESH new content on Andyinhat.tumblr.com from my final excursion into the jungle.

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