Letter to LASA from President Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Dear fellow directors of LASA,

I wish to reiterate my gratitude for your invitation to participate at the celebration  of LASA’s 50th anniversary. I have always followed LASA’s journey and had the pleasure of attending several of its meetings.

I am also grateful for your reaffirmation of the invitation, notwithstanding the statements by researchers and professors who, driven by ideological passions, imagined that I might use the event to discuss Brazil’s internal political problems. Those who are acquainted with me know that I was trained as a social scientist at a time when, despite beliefs and values, intellectuals sought to keep scientific objectivity as a core value in their academic endeavors. And yet, the ideological winds currently blowing at certain academic circles seem to mix the position of activists with that of scientists.

Needless to say, in my whole life I have steadfastly stood for democratic values  in the Brazilian context and in the world at large. Exiled by the military coup d’état of 1964, compulsorily removed from the University of São Paulo by the authoritarian regime in 1969, I created a center of political and intellectual resistance in Brazil (like CEBRAP) and helped, as much as possible, in the struggle against military dictatorships in Latin America. For that I paid a heavy price. I was deprived of the chair I had earned at the University of Sao Paulo, was prosecuted by the military regime and submitted to questionings, blindfolded and hooded, in a notorious torture center in Sao Paulo.

Elected Senator by the democratic opposition to dictatorship, I was deputy rapporteur of the Constitution which sanctioned the transition from authoritarian rule to the Rule of Law. With the full restoration of democracy, I was Foreign Minister, Minister of the Economy (at the time of the Plan Real of economic stabilization) and was twice elected President of the Republic, with huge pluralities, in 1994 and 1998.

Throughout this itinerary not for a single moment did I deviate from my democratic values.

In the current Brazilian context, some political sectors argue that President Roussef, by being submitted to an impeachment process (still in course), conducted in the strict observance of the Constitution and under the supervision of the Brazilian Supreme Court (8 out of 11 of the Justices having been appointed by Presidents Lula or Roussef), is the victim of a ‘golpe’. Odd ‘golpe’ indeed in which the President remains in the presidential residence, surrounded by advisors and the security apparatus appropriate to Heads of State, while waiting for the outcome of the impeachment trial in the Senate. The Upper House of Congress can only remove her for good if 2/3 of the senators decide that she has indeed violated fundamental articles of the Constitution. Prior to the beginning of the impeachment process, which according to the Constitution requires the acceptance of the indictment by 2/3 of the members of the Lower House (Chamber of Deputies), the Roussef Administration enjoyed the support of circa 80% of the Senate.

The background for the impeachment process was the exposure of a criminal organization that since the mandate of the previous President united businessmen, public officers, politicians and political parties to increase the cost of public contracts and divert part of the resources obtained through this subterfuge to gain political support, votes and, eventually, personal wealth. This widespread web of corruption is being exposed and has already led to a series of criminal investigations and sentences by the Judiciary. Furthermore, the financial mismanagement of the last two years led to an unprecedented 8% drop in Brazil’s GDP and to 11 million Brazilians unemployed, besides a spiraling public debt.

The Constitutional articles of impeachment that were breached refer, among other issues, to the lack of compliance with the Law of Fiscal Responsibility which  prohibits the Federal Government from borrowing from  Federal Banks to implement its own programs, as well as with  the disregard for Constitutional prescriptions prohibiting government from appropriating resources without previous authorization by Congress. Those practices  led to the misrepresentation of the real fiscal situation of the country, a serious signal of  administrative irresponsibility, especially  in an electoral year.

My inclination to accept the impeachment was based on the elements mentioned above. Evidently this has no  relation whatsoever with the acceptance of threats to the Brazilian democracy or violations of democratic principles.

Having made this clarification as a personal explanation to those who invited me and support me, I would not envision – let me restate this point – to use LASA as a setting to discuss these questions which, as I have emphasized, have nothing to do with the question of democracy.

I ask only for your understanding that at this moment of life, at 85 years of age, I do not wish to give pretext to radicalized minds, driven by partisan passions, to use me in an imaginary fight ‘against the coup’, a coup which never existed.

I thank you again for your invitation and, apologizing for not being in a position to accept it by the reasons stated in this message, I wish you all the best.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso



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