August 5, 2021

In Brazil, the unfortunate domination of clans and dynasties over political life

LETTER FROM BRASILIA

It is a bronze-colored bust that sits in a hallway, in the heart of the Brasilia Congress. With proud, determined eyes, a cross around his neck, the man fixes the comings and goings of Brazilian parliamentarians. And don’t hesitate to teach them a lesson: “Healthy politics is the daughter of morality and reason”, is it inscribed on its base.

“When I walk past this statue, I feel filled with emotion and a strong sense of responsibility”, confides MP Lafayette de Andrada, 54 years old. And for good reason: the bust in question represents José Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva (1763-1838), “Patriarch of independence”, first head of government of independent Brazil, but also his direct ancestor.

Lafayette de Andrada

“Lafayette” (homage to the hero of the American Revolution) comes from one of the oldest political dynasties in Brazil. “Six generations of parliamentarians! What other family can say the same, except among the English lords? “, enthuses the person concerned. In two hundred years, since José Bonifacio, the family has sixteen deputies and senators, eight ministers, two judges at the Supreme Court, and an incalculable number of mayors and municipal councilors in Barbacena, stronghold of the clan in Minas Gerais (Sudeste).

“Parents’ lobby”

“At home, politics has always been part of everyday life”, continues Lafayette de Andrada. He is far from being an exception. In Brazil, politics is a family affair, right up to the top of the state. Witness the Bolsonaro clan in power: Patriarch-President Jair succeeded in “placing” his sons Flavio, Carlos and Eduardo (” zero one “, “Zero two” and “Zero three”, as their father calls them) respectively as Senator, City Councilor and Deputy for Rio de Janeiro.

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But the phenomenon is much wider and deeper. According to the most recent data, collected by the online news site Focus Congress, nearly two-thirds of deputies and three-quarters of Brazilian senators already have parents in politics. The “big families” run a majority of regional capitals, dominate most of the local assemblies. Dynasties forming a “parents’ lobby”, more powerful on paper than that of the Bible, weapons or agribusiness.

All regions and all camps are affected. In Sao Paulo, the right-wing Covas dominate (“Bruno”, who died on May 16, was mayor of the city) and, in northern Ceara, the left-wing Gomes (“Ciro” was the third man in the last presidential election). We could also cite the Macedo in Curitiba, the Genro in Porto Alegre and the Bornhausen in Santa Catarina (south), the Virgilio in the Amazonas and the Viana in Acre (Amazonia), the Sarney in the Maranhao and the Magalhaes in Bahia (Nordeste) or even the Garotinho and the Maia in Rio de Janeiro… The list is endless.

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