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Aktuelle Berichte aus Brasilien – Politik, Kultur und Naturschutz

“Teachers of Ethics” – Brasiliens wichtigster Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto. Korruption unter Lula.

It is tautological to speak about a lack of ethics in the National Congress. Scandals follow upon scandals, from the member of parliament who ”couldn™t care less about public opinion to Senate employees who, following the example of notorious senators, show a standard of living beyond their earnings and their declared income





Fortunately, there are exceptions. It is a pity that the indignation and protests of honourable parliamentarians have little repercussion in the streets. Sprees such as air travel, showy castles and idyllic mansions are generally what hit the news. Few people hear about the incorruptible and consistent parliamentarians who are incapable of even having undeclared funds for their election campaigns.

Corruption stems from a lack of character which is particularly apparent when the person finds himself or herself invested with a position of power. From the policeman who extorts shop owners to the police chief who pockets bail payments, from the businessman who bribes public servants in order to obtain illicit tenders to the mayor who appropriates resources for school lunches or parliamentarians who believe they have the right to use public funds to pay their domestic workers™ salaries.

How to put an end to all this shady business?  It is not easy. Human beings suffer from two insurmountable limitations: faulty manufacturing and a ”best by date. This is what the Bible calls ”original sin. There will always be men and women lacking character or ethical principles, on the lookout for a chance for illicit gain. The solution does not reside in the cultivating of virtues, though this is important.  If it were, religious schools such as those attended by Collor and Maluf[1] <#_ftn1> would be producing angels.

The solution is to create, through deep political reform, institutions which will inhibit the corrupt and will have mechanisms for popular control. In other words, to make our democracy merely delegable, more representative and above all participative.

While the solution does not appear, I suggest that the following be invited to give a course on ethics in the National Congress: their Excellencies José Gomes da Costa, Rodrigo Botelho, Francisco Basilio Cavalcante, Clelia Machado, Sebastiao Breta and Fagner Tamborim.

What these people have done should not be considered extraordinary. However, when faced with falsity, nepotism, bad administration or the cynicism of parliamentarians trying to justify the unjustifiable, it is good to publish the example of these teachers of ethics.

Jose Gomes da Costa is a street sweeper in the Sao Paulo prefecture. He earns R$600 a month, 26 times less than a federal congressman. With this he sustains himself and his three children. On 18th May last, as he was sweeping the streets, he found a Banco do Brasil cheque for R$2514.95. Jose would have to work four months spending nothing, in order to save this amount. He went to one of the bank™s branches and handed in the cheque.  His motive: his sense of self respect.

Rodrigo Botelho, also a street sweeper, found a bag containing R$3000 in cash on 26th May 2008 during the World Table Tennis Championship in Rio de Janeiro. He saw the owner™s name on the documents inside, announced it on the public address system and returned it. Rodrigo is normal, he has character.

Francisco Basilio Cavalcante, a cleaner in the Brasilia airport, father of five children, earns a minimum salary. On 10th March 2004 he found a leather bag in the airport™s toilet. There were US$10,000 and a passport in it. If he were to put everything he earns away and not spend a cent of it, he would take three years and four months to obtain this amount. Francisco declared: ”This is how it has to be. What does not belong to us needs to be returned. Money that isn™t ours will bring us no good. It cannot bring happiness.

Clelia Machado, 29, works as a cleaning assistant and earns a little on the side as a manicurist. She brings up her two daughters aged seven and nine on her own. Her monthly income is less than R$550. She has worked in the Federal Highway Police station in Seberi in the state of Rio Grande do Sul for three years and every day she cleans the bathroom there. On 11th March 2008 she found someone™s savings rolled up in toilet paper by the toilet bowl.  It was US$6715.

Clelia handed the dollars over to the policemen. When interviewed she said ”They could well have been mine. But since they weren™t, I immediately handed them in. It was the right thing to do.

Another street sweeper Sebastiao Breta, 43, from the town of Cariacica in the state of Espirito Santo, returned the R$12,366 which he found in a bag in a dustbin. The name of the man who had been robbed was written on a sticker. Sebastiao earns a minimum salary.

When asked if he had thought about keeping the money he said: ”Never. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to return it. When I am not able to pay my bills I go crazy.  I kept thinking of how upset the owner must have been, not being able to pay his bills because he had lost everything. My wife and I would not have been able to sleep at night. I find it odd to take what belongs to someone else.

Fagner Tamborim, 17, who delivers newspapers in the town of Pirajui, 398 Km. from Sáo Paulo, earns R$90.00 a month. As he cycled he found a bag on the road with R$6000 in it. He returned it to the owner. ”I saw a lot of money and cheques. I took it home to my mother who phoned the bank.                        

The best that Brazil has is the Brazilian people, not necessarily its parliamentarians.
Copyright 2009 by Frei Betto. Without prior authorization, the reproduction of this article is forbidden by either electronic or printed means. Contact: MHP “ Literary Agents.(E-mail: mhpal@terra.com.br)

1] <#_ftnref1>  Fernando Collor was president of Brazil and was impeached because of corruption.  Paulo Maluf is a Sao Paulo politician who is also considered to be corrupt.

*Frei Betto is a writer and author, together with Verissimo, Cristovam Buarque and others, of ”O desafio ético (The Ethical Challenge) (Garamond), he is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian.Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union.

Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church™s ministry to workers in Sáo Paulo™s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers™ Movement (MST).

In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government™s Zero Hunger programme.

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Donnerstag, 04. Juni 2009 um 15:54 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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