Red nose revolt aims to oust 'corrupt' Senate head José Sarney
On one side is José Sarney, the ageing president of the Senate and former President of
Critics say that Mr Sarney is a symbol of an outdated, corrupt and autocratic system that modern Brazilians are trying to leave behind.
On Saturday, thousands of Brazilians demonstrated against Mr Sarney in co-ordinated protests in 13 cities across the country. In São Paulo, 1,000 demonstrators wore red noses and stopped traffic. “It is shameful what is happening in Brazil,” said Marcelo Pizani, a motoring journalist and São Paulo organiser of the Fora Sarney — “Sarney Out” — campaign. “This revolt is coming from the people.”
The protesters are increasingly using irony as a weapon. Another arm of the campaign is Rir Para Não Chorar (Laugh Not To Cry).
“The clown’s nose is a legitimate symbol of society’s defence and integrity,” said Fernanda Suplicy, an organiser who claims that 50,000 red noses have been distributed on São Paulo’s streets.
The conservative Estado de São Paulo newspaper has led the allegations against Mr Sarney. The senator’s supporters say he is a living example of late 19th-century Brazil’s system ofcoronelismo (literally, “colonelism”), when power was concentrated in the hands of landowners, or coronels, who ran everything.Estado has alleged that up to 500,000 reals (£163,000) of the R1.3 million that a foundation bearing Mr Sarney’s name received from the state oil giant Petrobras was diverted to front companies and Mr Sarney’s family. His son Fernando is being investigated for alleged financial crimes including money laundering. New claims emerge every week and Mr Sarney denies them all. “It is a campaign by the Estado de São Paulo, which has a political position against mine, which is to support President Lula [da Silva],” he said. Another allegation concerns 663 secret decisions or “secret Acts” that the Brazilian Senate passed between 1995 and this year, up to 10 per cent of which Estado says benefited Mr Sarney’s family or allies.
Mr Sarney says that until June, he did not know the “secret Acts” existed. He defended himself in an impassioned and lengthy speech to the Senate on August 5. He denied knowing Rodrigo Cruz, the beneficiary of a Senate job. Newspapers then published pictures of Mr Sarney at Mr Cruz’s wedding, next to the happy couple.
President Lula da Silva continues to support Mr Sarney because the senator’s party, the PMDB, or Democratic Movement Party, is the key to his plans to have Dilma Roussef, his designated successor, elected in presidential elections next year.
The Senate ethics commission has decided to do nothing about many of the allegations against Mr Sarney. But campaigners plan to demonstrate every Saturday until he leaves office. Mr Pizani said: “Change will only happen when this old class dies.”
FONTE: Times Online