Descendo a Ladeira – 2018

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Imagem: Alexandre Figueiredo-Linhaca Atomica

Já me disse um amigo que o Brasil é o pais do futuro e sempre será.  Assistimos atônitos o pais em crise e para piorar, nem o futebol se salvou.  Machado de Assis descreveu o país no seu conto mais famoso – O Alienista.  Aí descobriu-se que todos pertencem ao manicômio.  Enfim é um pais de loucos e de loucuras.  Como explicar a condenação de um ex-presidente e depois o ping-pong da solta/não solta.  Como entender um presidente negociando favores com empresários na calada da noite no próprio palácio?  Como entender as extravagancias dos políticos e burocratas num quadro de total escassez de recursos?

As instituições: executiva, legislativa e justiçaria estão em frangalhos.  Vem daqui a pouco as eleições e o candidato mais popular é o nulo ou voto em branco.  Quem pode, está votando com os pés e mudando de país.  No inicio do ano, as previsões oficiais para a economia era um crescimento acima de 2%, nada espetacular, mas pelo menos acima do crescimento demográfico.  Atualmente 1.5% e a previsão máxima e com a população expandindo em torno de 1.7%, cada pessoa esta ficando mais pobre individualmente.

Desde a eleição de 2014, propaga-se que as instituições estão funcionando.  Dilma ganhou a eleição e foi empossada apesar dos protestos, choros e ciladas do Tucanato.  Seu impedimento também supostamente ilustrava legalidade e procedimentos corretos com as votações na Câmara e no Senado.  Entretanto, engana-se quem achava que teria uma melhoria qualitativa com o novo governo (saído do bojo do velho).  O atual presidente se mostrou tão ou mais comprometido com as praticas nefastas e em vez de reforçar a justiça ou o legislativo, o governo acabou promovendo a continuidade da descida.

No inicio da Lava Jato, o judiciário apresentava-se como o núcleo solido guardião da lei.  Tanto os promotores públicos quanto aos juízes e desembargadores orgulhavam-se da continuada profissionalização, competência e isenção na aplicação da lei.  Mas vemos os “doutores” e togados cada vez mais politizados.  Talvez o exemplo mais claro é o STJ que está divido em torcidas.

A administração atual procura apoio apontando o baixo índice de inflação, mas fecha os olhos para a inflação, que só está aparentemente sob controle pelos efeitos nefastos da falta de crescimento de demanda e de empregos.  Há estimativas que o Real que já beira aos 4 reais por dólar vai acima de 5 em 2019.  Assim o encadeamento negativo elevara fatalmente a inflação e a estagnação persistira.

Machado falava de alienação como estado psicológico, mas também há alienação de produção e patrimônio.  No momento, o Brasil esta liquidando.  A Petrobras esta se desfazendo de ativos importantes, a Boeing esta no processo de comprar a Embraer e a Braskem também esta no bloco de vendas.  O Brasil numa posição de fraqueza, se rende ao capital internacional.  Os nacionalistas de esquerda e direita choram, mas não tem ideias alternativas ou quando tem não batem com a realidade.   Tem propostas de aumentar os impostos, cobrar as dividas (INSS), e nacionalizar setores produtivos, mas não enxergam bem as consequências.  Esquecem que o estado e as empresas estatais e paraestatais refletem a sociedade desigual. A produção, consumo e distribuição dentro do estado aumenta em vez de atenuar a desigualdade.  Os salários, gastos e despesas muitas vezes são desproporcionais a produção e retorno.  Quem esta dentro da maquina quer defender a unhas e dentes os benefícios consagrados (muitas vezes em lei e até na Constituição) e todos, independente de suas orientações politicas, querem uma boquinha.  Veja como exemplo a indústria de concursos públicos.

Num pais de mais de 200 milhões de habitantes e dimensões continentais, há sempre oportunidades e iniciativas.  Entretanto, a descida da ladeira demonstrado pelo o desaparecimento de centros de excelência, a estagnação da educação, a insegurança pessoal, a falta de um sistema de saneamento básico e as precárias condições de saúde além do declínio econômico e politico evidenciam a crise.  Enquanto o Brasil não encara de frente seu conflito histórico entre liberdade e igualdade não há perspectivas a não ser a continuidade de soluções parciais e incompletas.  A desigualdade e tão gritante e tão enraizada que a sociedade acaba se acomodando na mesmice de sempre.  Ao mesmo tempo, o Estado e a sociedade restringe a liberdade das forcas de mercado que poderiam acelerar a produção e o crescimento.  Os partidos e os candidatos se recusam a encarar o problema, procurando ficar apenas em chavões que não agradam ninguém.  O México com AMLO tem agora pelo menos um presidente eleito com maioria de 53 e apoio majoritário no legislativo com um programa de esquerda, embora com risco de cair no populismo fácil ao curto prazo.  O Brasil por sua vez não tem candidatos com programas nítidos.  Enquanto isso no final da ladeira tem o precipício, senão …

Se a população, a sociedade civil, as organizações coletivas, os indivíduos, empresários e trabalhadores se unissem, talvez possam encontrar um caminho.  O Brasil é uma sociedade coletiva e as pessoas querem fazer parte de algo, para encontrar o sentido do que é ser brasileiro, que seja algo além de um complexo de inferioridade.

 

 

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Institute of the Americas: XXVII La Jolla Energy Conference – Comments by Steve Scheibe at www.allabroadconsulting.wordpress.com

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Author’s photo of conference panel

 

In 1991, a barrel of oil sold for an average of US$36.00.  Last year, the average was around $42.00 as the following chart shows.  Today, oil is in the mid $60s.

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There was a lot of talk in the 1990s about peak oil and running out of it one day.  It is amazing how the world changes but still things stay the same.  Oil is now relatively abundant, more complicated to extract, more is known and feared about environmental impact and consequently alternative and more sustainable sources of energy are increasingly important.  Thus climate change, sustainability and the future of energy production have become increasingly important parts of our energy network and its future.

The Institute’s Energy Conference has shown great value and staying power.  Its organization and execution is a formidable task and the Institute of the Americas and Jeremy Martin and staff deserve kudos for another year of success.  A cursory overview of the program (https://www.iamericas.org/lajolla/) attests to the Conference reputation and prestige.

This year’s Conference drew speakers from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, the USA and numerous organizations such as Brazil’s ANP, Mexico’s energy regulator and the CFE as well as Argentina’s producers and control sectors.  The oil giants were also present with high-ranking executives from Exxon Mobil, BP, other majors as well as companies in consulting, construction and distribution.  Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), representing civil society and environmental interest participated on equal footing with market driven business organization.  Finally, the Conference always attracts academics and journalists who specialize in energy and related policies.

Oil, gas and other energies intertwine with politics and this is certainly the case in Latin America.  Of course, Maduro’s reelection in Venezuela, the race in Colombia and the upcoming races in Mexico and Brazil were frequently discussed both on and off the record.  The main concern for the industry and investors has been to divine the future.  Investments run in the billions of dollars and while time lines and linkages can be established, the future prices of oil and the future national policies cannot be predicted with much accuracy.  The ongoing business challenge for the industry is to find predictability in unstable and weak institutional structures and rapidly changing markets.

Here is a brief summary of the main points by the major energy producing countries highlighted at the conference in alphabetical order:

Argentina:  President Macri replaced the populist Peronists Nestor and Christina Kirchner.  The Kircheners governed between 2003 and 2015 with a mixed record of growth and stability and a pronounced animosity to too much foreign participation in the energy sector.  Their price control policies hampered investments and nearly broke the power generation and distribution sector.  President Macri’s challenge has been to try to revive the sector while at the same time controlling inflation and soften the hit on people’s pocket books with the rise of energy prices.  With Cristina Kirchner, electricity and other energies were subsidized at around 50% of production costs.  This led to unreliability and frequent outages.  Under Macri, the government has installed a new regulatory authority and is attempting to make the sector attractive to both foreign and domestic investors.  Natural gas plays an important role and has brought Chile and Argentina closer in a symbiotic with the former at times supplying natural gas or being a market as Argentina opens up offshore and onshore resources.

Brazil: The international oil sector perked up on Brazil with the 2016 impeachment and Brazil’s ongoing offshore auctions have been widely seen as successful.  Exxon Mobil, a major investor, has returned, as have other foreign oil companies (???).  The black cloud on the horizon is the lack and increasing loss of legitimacy of the Temer government.  Normally, Decio Oddone, the head of the ANP (Brazil’s oil/gas regulator), has attended the La Jolla Conference.  But Decio did not come this year and I suspect that was due to the current truck-drivers’ strike over the cost of diesel fuel. This strike started on the eve of the conference and caught the government by surprise although informed parties such as Mr. Oddone knew that the crisis was brewing.  The consequence of the strike, which still has not been settled after 10 days, has led to wide productive paralysis and a half point loss in 2018’s estimated GDP, plus the further weakening of the government.  So again, the lack of stability and weak institutions has come to the fore.  Overall, presenters on Brazil such as Raphael Moura of the ANP, Nelson Narciso, of NNF Consulting a former ANP director and Thiago Aragao of Arko Consulting were all optimistic about potential and excellence at Petrobras after the Lava Jato clean up. But they were sober about the current political moment and the October elections.  Aragao tweeted: “The positioning of candidates endorsing political interventions at Petrobras is not a positive sign for 2019.”

Mexico: Like Brazil and Colombia, the our next-door neighbor is also in the final months of a presidential campaign with the results likely impacting the energy sector.  Under the current unpopular administration of the PRI’s Pena Nieto, energy reform in Mexico advanced in an unprecedented fashion with important openings, especially in the natural gas market.  US and other foreign companies have already invested billions in Mexico’s pipeline logistics and gas distribution.  The likely victory of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is sometimes perceived as threatening this change due to AMLO’s leftist and populist programs as a presidential candidate in two previous elections.  However, the speakers and panelists were uniform in emphasizing that these changes had been written not only into law but also into the Mexican Constitution.  So it is unlikely that these changes can be reversed.  Although AMLO leads in all polls, it is unlikely that he will have a 2/3rds majority in Congress to reverse the changes that reduced PEMEX’s monopoly position in production and distribution.

Venezuela: Before the conference, the Institute retweeted a prediction of Maduro’s fall before the end of the year.  However, the Chavistas have been notoriously resillient and the consensus among Congress participants was that the regime would likely remain in power through 2018.  Still all speakers agreed that the Maduro administration has been a disaster for the oil based economy and Venezuelan society.  Hyperinflation runs at 11000% per year, thievery riddles the national oil company PDVSA, there is an accelerating decline in oil production on a month to month basis at above 4% and oil revenues will fall to less than $10 billion in 2108 or about half the revenue generated in 2017.  Venezuela’s government has stopped paying bills, is bankrupt and only survives due to grudging support from Russia and China, which still see the country as an anecdote to US presence and power in Latin America.   Although President Trump and his administration have mentioned military intervention and have imposed further sanctions, it is unlikely that the US actions will have any positive impact.  So from an energy perspective, Venezuela continues its dive to irrelevancy.

Renewable and sustainable energy have a growing presence at the La Jolla Conference and, in this context, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia gain further relevance as major sources of the raw material for lithium batteries for electric vehicles.  Personally, I found it interesting that speakers at the Conference included natural gas in the discussion of renewables alongside wind and solar.  Gas has a role in the cleantech revolution. The variability inherent in wind and solar energy plus the storage issues continue to present challenges.  It was noted that fossil fuel energy has a history dating back more than 120 years and, by comparison, the alternative clean energy sector is still in its infancy.

Once again the La Jolla Conference provided insider insights and a great opportunity for meeting and greeting in a professional but very cordial atmosphere.  Everyone is looking forward to the next conference.

Lula in Jail: Hope, Despair and Elections

LulaPresoELPaisPhoto from El Pais: Lula Arriving at Federal Police Prison in Curitiba

Former President Lula, Brazil’s best loved and most hated personality is sitting in jail, hoping for and probably expecting an early release. But it is too soon to tell when this might happen.  While the PT insists that he is their candidate, it is also obvious that he will not be allowed to run for another term as president.  The polls place Jair Bolsonaro in first place in a race without Lula. But Bolsonaro has no party and his support will likely shrink.  Marina Silva has entered the race again and will attract the green vote and some on the left.  She has to compete against the Cearense Ciro Gomes.  So in the center or center right, we have the Governor of Sao Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin.  Former Supreme Court President, Joaquim Barbosa, has also joined the race and currently ranks higher than Alckmin with 8 percent in voter intent.  Obviously, it is still early and much has yet to happen before the first round of voting on October 7.  Barbosa’s entry is fascinating as it will test Brazil’s mythical racial equality and pits him neatly against the racist/sexist epitaph spewing Bolsonaro.

Because the PT has won the last four presidential elections, there is an illusion on the left about support for the ideology of the worker’s party.  The problem is that the left did not win; Lula WON, as a populist willing to offer something for all.  While Lula’s popularity is his major strength, it has also turned into a millstone.  He is no longer acceptable to the elite and the media. This has hastened his conviction although the malfeasance of his governments is unquestionable.  His “expedited” removal from the election reflects establishment fear of his return and the rejection of PT’s statist economic policy (New Economic Matrix) as dysfunctional for Brazil.  Of course, the PT’s burden of corruption also played a role even while “morality” is only relative in contemporary politics. Trump, for example, refuses to show his tax returns and comingles business and government.  While Macron, in France, is seeking to reduce the role of the state, his administration has also been questioned for its honesty in negotiating the rail strike and his handling of his cabinet.

While the upcoming presidential election is the marquee event, it also is only a part of the puzzle.  The make up of Congress after the vote will have equal or perhaps greater weight.  Brazil’s political parties have never been about ideologies but instead personalities.  Such is the case even of the supposedly ideal driven PT, which has little support without Lula. The same applies to all other parties.  The many parties represent regional and local alignments of those wielding economic power.  Because these competing forces control Congress, funds from the central government have been essential for assuring governability.  President Temer, for example, comes from the “Centrao” or a coalition of specific economic and local interests.  He has lost his political capital trading benefits for support in escaping trial by Congress on inevitable and obvious cases of corruption.  These same politicians – in order to preserve their office and benefits – have protectively ensconced themselves.  They may voice support for reform but fail to act or promote change in party structure, the electoral process and campaign finance.  As things currently stand, the status quo will prevail in the next Congress and the new president will again be faced with having to “buy off” a venal and fractious set of legislators.

Given the popularity of the anti-corruption movement, the Lava Jato, and the demands for reform, one could speculate that there might be an opening for a new set of less tainted political actors.  However, this is not exactly the case.  Rio de Janeiro is probably the most obvious example of the systemic shortcomings, which inhibit reform.  A little over a month ago, the popular Councilwoman Marielle Franco was brutally executed by professional hit men.  Police, under army supervision, have made little headway in solving the case. In the meantime, another community leader with whom councilwoman had contact was also shot down.  These deaths come about because powerful economic forces tied to organized crime dominate significant areas of Rio. They have their hands in many activities both legal and illegal.  The weakness of public authority has allowed organized criminal gangs and interests to effectively replace it and control large swaths of voters.  In addition, lack of literacy and the inability to see through false promises makes the electorate prey for opportunists of all types including criminals.  Marielle was perceived as a threat to these interests and paid dearly.  Her example makes others fearful to enter the fray.  Overall, the homicide rate continues unabated.

Brazil needs and deserves change. It is important to note that politics as reported in the news fails to show the whole picture.  Brazil’s economy is improving after the long recession.  Civil society is alive and active in spite of the backward obtuseness of the educational system and the quasi-monopoly Globo TV holds on the mass media.  But, Brazil is bigger than its government and officialdom. The productive possibilities in the country contradict and outstrip the fiscal and employment limitations of the state.  Clearly politics and the economy interlink but anyone on the ground also knows there are degrees of freedom and multiple opportunities.  Progress is slow and halting, but it still happens.  The mood is not good but there is still life on the beach and hope for the Selecao.

 

Life and Death in Rio: Marielle Franco

IMG_0887Source: author’s photo of Veja magazine cover

I arrived in Rio on Mar. 14, 2018 the same day that Marielle Franco was assassinated. Unless you reside in Rio, Marielle was not well known. Certainly she was not the national figure that she has become since her execution. Elected to the Rio City Council with 40 thousand plus votes, she was the 5th leading vote getter and seen as a woman of great political potential. She was different from traditional politicians. Ms. Franco was born in the slums, was mixed race, and open and comfortable in her homosexuality. She received her BA from Rio Catholic University had master’s degree and had published on race, gender and human rights. On the left of the political spectrum, she courageously spoke against political and economic inequality, crimes perpetuated against the poor and black and to a significant extent against police brutality in the slums. On the night of her execution, she was returning from a meeting of black women about discrimination, struggles and the means to empowerment. In sum, she was a rising voice seeking to be heard in the cacophony of Rio’s decadent and corrupt political environment.

Political assassinations have gradually become more common in Brazil but most are related to local disputes often among feuding and traditionally powerful dominant families. Marielle’s assassination reminds us more of the killings of Chico Mendes or Dorothy Stang in the more remote regions of Brazil with the almost total lack of institutionalized systems of law and order. While Rio is certainly a crime center and notoriously dangerous, almost all of the weekly double-digit death toll is that of young black men somehow caught up in territorial disputes over drugs, arms and the control of other criminal activities. The situation in Rio reached what many considered its limits in February of this year after an even greater crime surge during “Carnaval”. President Temer, looking to gain some political advantage, declared a military intervention and the Army assumed control of public security in Rio. Given the timing, Marielle’s shooting must be viewed as a serious challenge to the Army and, indeed, the President declared that the attack was aimed at Brazil’s democracy.

Brazil is formally a political democracy with regular elections and an active and fairly open press.  Brazilians regularly reject control although many long for an imagined but totally unreal security of the authoritarian rule by the Generals (1964-1985). On the other hand, all types of inequalities undermine Brazil’s formal political system and almost all institutions are tainted and function as might be expected in a poor underdeveloped country. The elite corporations depend upon extractive industries and a highly protected internal market that barely requires increased productivity or an informed and competent workforce.

As in the United States where mass killings fail to mobilize the electorate or create a critical mass for change, it is unfortunate that this most recent stain on Brazil will have much effect. True, there have been some important public manifestations and protests here and even abroad, but still Brazil is typically more passive than aggressive. Public rage can set a tone and the streets can grab the attention of the political class but thus far the beaches are more crowded than the squares. People are upset but outside of the social media channels, there are few suggestions that this tragic death will change anything. Thus those who planned and hired this hit have sent their message. They have intimidated, they have stated their case for the status quo of uncontrolled crime, violence and malfeasance which strain, stain and sustain Brazil’s political status quo.

Some suggest that Brazil’s violence has metastasized and will eventually lead to the death and collapse of the system. The problem with this view is that fails to account for the resilience of accommodation. People continue to accept criminality, inequality, stupidity and corruption as the norm. Live with it or leave.

Brasil: Marcha Ré para o Futuro

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Sempre que chego de volta ao Brasil, tenho que acostumar com o fuso horário, mas não só. A distância física, a diferença de clima, o ambiente, a comida, as pessoas e o astral são diferentes. A impressão, sob a perspectiva norte-americana, mesmo em um mundo tomado de assalto por Trumpistas, Trumbetas e Trambiques, é que o Brasil continua sendo o Brasil e nunca perde uma boa oportunidade para se estrepar. O país que tem tudo para dar certo só tropeça.

Entretanto, a impressão de longe não é completa. Entre as duzentos e tanto de milhões de pessoas, há quem procura viver com boas expectativas e com esperança. Há ceticismo, mas também há a idéia de que as coisas podem e devem melhorar. Um dos problemas, no entanto, vem da tradição ibérica de fechar o foco apenas naquilo que se tem à mão: a família dentro da proteção das paredes. Aceita-se como imutável aquilo que parece impossível mudar ou que nunca mudou. Fecha-se entre paredes, liga-se a TV e se protege ou se aliena como pode.

Como se pode esperar, surgem as reclamações: Não há emprego, a escola está ruim e/ou chata, os serviços de saúde não prestam e o perigo mora do lado de fora, no mero malandro ou no assassino cruel ou simplesmente estúpido. A TV alardeia e os jornais vendem o sensacional, a realidade sanguenta.

E apesar de tudo, o futuro chega. E fica a questão: o que futuro? O país sai lentamente da recessão e a economia é cíclica. Mas quais são as possibilidades de trabalho para quem hoje está com 10 anos e estará com 20 logo depois da Copa em Qatar? Quais são as chances de quem egressa da escola pública? Quem pode subir se ainda tropeça no esgoto e lama das chuvas por falta de interesse no saneamento básico?

Reclama-se, mas quem faz algo para melhorar? O Presidente manda o exército para intervir no Rio e ainda faz paralelo com a participação através da ONU no Haiti. O Haiti é aqui, mas o exército não é a solução do problema de violência no Rio.

Com certeza, temos que reconhecer os movimentos sociais e as tentativas individuais e coletivas para atenuar a situação. Infelizmente, contudo, os movimentos ainda não alcançam o “tipping point” para virar a direção e alterar profundamente o quadro. A vontade que existe não basta, não atinge a massa critica.

Com o discurso direita x esquerda e apenas a identificação da corrupção como problema fundamental, as pessoas bem informadas acabam com um enfoque limitado. Intelectuais de esquerda como Vladimir Safatle, desencantado com qualquer progresso político institucional, advoga uma democracia direta que parece ser uma “solução” Cubana ou Chavista, o que, por sua vez, não vai resolver nem o problema de corrupção e muito menos o problema econômico de gerir produção. A direita, por sua vez, na forma populista de um capitão, clama por uma solução voltando para a intervenção militar mais ampla do que o atual experimento no Rio. E quem conhece ou viveu nos anos de chumbo, sabe que o governo pela armas não oferece nada de positivo e duradouro. É nada mais que falsa solução enraizada no desespero e desencanto.

A construção da democracia no Brasil, embora árdua, não é impossível ou não menos improvável do que o voluntarismo de esquerda ou de uma investida militar. Na realidade, tudo é possível. Mas espero que o caminho atual no sentido de realização de eleições abertas e da participação das pessoas na política e no mercado ainda represente a direção mais acertada. Talvez o mundo tenha implodido ou explodido antes da chegada de uma solução melhor no Brasil, mas as duas opções vislumbradas até agora são ainda menos atraentes.

Paciência e vamos para o futuro, sem um regresso indevido ao passado ditatorial. Sem retrocesso, por favor.

 

 

 

 

Abuse and Other Addictions: USA x Brazil

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Source: FrostSnow.com, Rio Gold Medal Winner Simone Biles and Larry Nassar

 

I can’t but help compare the actions of Larry Nassar, the so called Michigan physician in charge of the US Olympic gymnastics team and the many abuses that take place in Brazil on a daily basis.  Curiously, I am not thinking of sexual abuse under the guise of authority.  Maybe this type does not frighten that much.  After all, for years, Brazilian women would not go to their doctor unaccompanied under the presumption of abuse.  What I have in mind is the type of malfeasance causing furor on Brazilian social media: the current outcry over a housing stipend for judges.

The Nassar story in the US caused outrage because young girls and women were victimized for years, no one complained, a pattern of acceptance of authority prevailed and there supposedly was a reward (gold medals) at the end of the story which perhaps resulted in complicity and connivance.

In recent years, with the rise of social media, Brazilians have identified corruption as their most detested form of systemic abuse.  However, corruption is only a symptom

Brazilians are strivers and see competition and tests as a means to meeting their goals.  These public exams cover everything from being hired as a primary school teacher, a highway patrolman, a public servant, a public prosecutor, a university professor or a judge.  In the end, all of these positions are offered and controlled within the state apparatus.  In most cases, these positions offer success in that once you pass your public exam, you have job stability, with benefits and compensations for life.

On the gymnastics team, Nassar somehow created, and my feeling is that he was not alone, an image that he was instrumental to athletic triumph.  It is well known that sports involve training, physical and mental preparation and possible injury.  Nassar positioned himself as one who could help, assist, facilitate, advise, support and contribute to winning at the highest levels of competition.

The state and those in control are thus positioned similar to Nassar.  The paternalistic state authority offers power, influence and reward to those who are willing to participate and win as well as those who participate and fall by the wayside.  People make assumptions, play the game and render authority in a cavalier fashion.  The state channels and even censures, and its actions are not transparent.  Participants accept the state’s paternalistic power, a certain the invasion of their privacy and a loss of political autonomy.  All this, in the hope that the same state will offer something in return, i.e., a sinecure or a contract.

In Nassar’s case, many, if not most, of his victims were minors.  They lacked experience, knowledge, maturity, information and strength.  He apparently described his actions as necessary even as they were physically painful and mostly unrelated to anything but the satisfaction of his own perverse desires.

While the Brazilian state does not usually engage directly in sexual assault, it does consider the citizenry as uninformed, inexperienced, weak and vulnerable.  As such the individual is subject to abuse and even becomes, as with the athletes, accustomed to it.

Many in Brazil are upset that judges are abusing the public trust by accepting a housing subsidy and other largesse.  These bonuses are seen as unneeded, immoral and corrupt.  Yet most Brazilians seek public employment or public contracts with an eye to enjoying similar perks.  If we look at the many unions, associations and labor organizations in Brazil we discover that each category has its own lobby whose mission is self-preservation through gaining and protecting benefits.  Thus when one category discovers that magistrates, for example, receive a housing allowance, another caste seeks isonomy or equalization.  Brazilians are well known for being creative with taxes. They are apt to copy revenue enhancements from anywhere in the world.  What people do not know is that Brazilians also create many publically funded perquisites ranging from special commissions, “jetons”, attendance awards, repayments, special compensation, 13th, 14th and even 15th month salaries, vacation stipends and much more.  Moreover, these additional benefits are codified and as such are not seen as special favors but legally sanctioned endowments.

While this is the system, Brazilians miss the mark complaining about corruption while failing to recognize their own participation in and sanctioning of institutional advantages which are viewed (from the outside) as un warranted and immoral .  Larry Nassar is certainly a despicable individual but it is hard to believe that he acted for so many years abusing so many without institutional support and societal connivance.  Likewise, Brazilian only fool themselves if they think they will solve the systemic problem by attacking the individual housing allowance or even the beloved 13th month salary.  As the expression goes, “O buraco é mais embaixo.” (The problem runs deeper.)