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Cablegate: Civic Movement "Cansei" Generates Backlash

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SAO PAULO 000777

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PINR PGOV ELAB EAIR BR
SUBJECT: CIVIC MOVEMENT "CANSEI" GENERATES BACKLASH


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) In an attempt to tap into popular discontent with the Lula
government, a group of Sao Paulo-based professional and business
organizations recently launched the Civic Movement for the Right of
Brazilians, known informally as "Cansei" (I'm tired). Though
leaders insist that the movement is nonpartisan and not aimed at
anyone, the federal government and social movements affiliated with
President Lula's party have reacted strongly, characterizing
"Cansei" as a bunch of very wealthy members of the "white elite"
with nothing better to do than complain. Despite this public
perception problem, the movement is attempting to press ahead with
its agenda, identifying three priority areas for discussion and
development of specific proposals for education, public
administration, and public security. End Summary.

------------
I'M TIRED...
------------

2. (U) The Civic Movement for the Right of Brazilians was founded
in late July by Flavio Luiz Borges d'Urso, President of the Sao
Paulo Section of the National Bar Association (OAB), and media
impresario Joao Doria Jr, founder and president of the Group of
Business Leaders (LIDE) and related organizations. According to
d'Urso, the movement's leadership coined the slogan "Cansei"
(literally, "I got tired," but more idiomatically, "I'm sick and
tired" or "I'm fed up") for publicity purposes. As outlined on its
website and to posters, Cansei members are sick and tired of "air
traffic chaos, the parallel government of traffickers, children in
the streets, corrupting businessmen, stray bullets, so much
corruption, and of [the government] not doing anything [about it]."
(Note: The July 17 accident at Congonhas airport of TAM flight 3054
which killed 199 people appears to be the catalyst that started this
movement. End Note.)

3. (U) Many notable organizations have joined the movement,
including the Sao Paulo State Federation of Industries (FIESP), the
Federation of Brazilian Bankers (FEBRABAN), the National
Confederation of Young Businessmen (CONAJE), and the Sao Paulo
Chamber of Commerce (ACSP). In addition, on July 27, the Latin
American subsidiary of the Netherlands-based multinational Philips
took out a half-page advertisement in major newspapers announcing
its adherence to the movement, the only individual company to join.


4. (U) Cansei's first act was to urge all Brazilians to observe a
moment of silence on August 17, the one-month anniversary of the
plane crash, in memory of the victims. Cansei also organized a
ceremony at the Cathedral in downtown Sao Paulo, but several days
before the event, Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer withdrew
permission, forcing the organizers to move to the outdoor Praca da
Se. The event drew somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 participants,
including a number of well-known actors and entertainers. The
movement's leaders considered it a success in raising consciousness
and attracting members.

---------------
NO, WE'RE TIRED

SAO PAULO 00000777 002 OF 004


---------------

5. (U) Allies of the governing coalition were quick to cast Cansei
as a political movement, pointing out that Joao Doria Jr. is linked
to the opposition Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB) and helped
manage the unsuccessful 2006 presidential campaign of PSDB candidate
Geraldo Alkmin. Within a week, the Unified Workers' Central (CUT) -
a labor organization closely tied to President Lula's Workers' Party
(PT) - had founded a movement of its own, called "Cansamos" (We're
tired), whose members were reportedly tired of "slave labor, tax
evasion, child labor, media with no time for social movements,
inhumane working hours, media that criminalizes popular struggle, a
justice system that favors the economically powerful, media that
only gives space to the powerful, big company lobbies, high interest
rates, banking fees, the lack of worker rights for more than half
the population," and a host of other perceived ills. In addition,
the PT's Central Executive Committee (CEN) issued a resolution
calling on the entire party to stand up to "the new offensive that
the right and elements of the mass media unleashed against the PT
and the Lula government" in the aftermath of the plane crash and
other setbacks.

----------------------------
THE BAR ASSOCIATION EXPLAINS
----------------------------

6. (U) Poloff and Political Assistant met August 29 with Luiz
Flavio Borges d'Urso and other leaders of the Sao Paulo Bar
Association (OAB) to ask about the Cansei movement's organizing
principles and agenda. D'Urso placed the movement in the context of
the OAB's other advocacy activities. The Bar Association, he
explained, is a professional organization which by statute involves
itself in public causes, including promotion of human rights,
democratic institutions, and the rule of law, and has campaigned for
disabled, the aged, and children, and against domestic violence, to
name a few. OAB often organizes programs in conjunction with the
same business associations that are part of Cansei. According to
d'Urso, an integral part of public interest advocacy is to praise
institutions, including government, when merited but also to
criticize them as appropriate. In this case, though Cansei was
created to be constructive and to stimulate a fresh look at Brazil's
systemic problems, the movement is inevitably critical of the
government and is thus perceived as political, he explained. The
Archbishop's change of heart on Cansei's use of the Cathedral, in
d'Urso's view, was a case of bowing to pressure and was motivated by
an institutional desire to steer clear of controversy.

7. (U) Following the symbolic moment of silence, d'Urso continued,
movement participants voted to make Education, Public
Administration, and Public Security the priority areas for
engagement. The movement plans to organize roundtables to debate
action plans for the three areas to propose to the government.
Issues such as the aviation crisis and endemic corruption will be
subsumed under the Public Administration rubric.

----------------------
ACCUSATIONS OF ELITISM
----------------------

8. (U) Asked why the government and others had responded so
negatively to the movement's creation, D'Urso pleaded

SAO PAULO 00000777 003 OF 004


misunderstanding. The Cansei movement, which he reiterated was
nonpartisan and would remain so, was launched at about the same time
as family members of victims of the plane crash organized a march
from Ibirapuera park to the crash site across the street from
Congonhas airport, where demonstrators commemorated the victims and
shouted "Fora Lula" (Lula Out) and similar anti-government slogans.
D'Urso insisted that Cansei had nothing to do with this
demonstration or with "Fora Lula" events that took place in several
cities in following weeks, but the connection had been made in the
public mind. Long before the August 17 moment of silence, at which
some members of the crowd also shouted "Fora Lula" (and were
disavowed by Cansei leaders), the movement had been pegged as
anti-Lula and representative of Brazil's economic and political
elites. (Comment: Several observers noted that the government and
the PT are still smarting from the July 13 incident when Lula was
booed at the opening ceremony of the Pan American games in Rio de
Janeiro and thus are now more than ever sensitive to criticism of
any sort. End Comment.)

9. (U) An idiosyncrasy of contemporary Brazilian political culture
is that civic movements are hallowed and revered, hearkening back as
they do to opposition to the military dictatorship and the 1984
"Diretas Ja" clamor for direct democratic elections, but only
insofar as they are perceived as representative of the lowest
classes. This attitude was perhaps best summed up by the Sao Paulo
president of CUT when he said, "the poorer I am, the more Brazilian
I am." The booing of Lula in Rio de Janeiro, for instance, was
dismissed by many as merely a reflection of the middle- to
upper-class composition of the crowd, and therefore somehow not
entirely authentic or to be taken seriously. The fact that polls
published shortly thereafter showed Lula's popularity undiminished
only served to reinforce this perception.

10. (U) "Cansei" leaders did not help their cause when they tried
to tell their side of the story. Joao Doria Jr, interviewed by
mass-circulation weekly magazine Veja, complained that public
opinion discriminates against the successful and wealthy, stressing
the right of successful people to express political opinions and to
demonstrate. His self-portrayal as someone who never smoked, drank,
or used drugs; doesn't fight or use profanity; started using hair
gel at the age of nine; and works 17 hours a day, may have made it
difficult for ordinary Brazilians to find common cause with him.
Another movement leader, Paulo Zottolo, CEO of Philips Latin
America, drew negative attention to himself when, referring to one
of Brazil's very poor and isolated northeastern states, he told an
interviewer that "if Piaui ceases to exist, nobody will be upset."

----------------------
A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE
----------------------

11. (U) In a September 4 meeting with Poloff and Political
Assistant, Zottolo insisted his remark had been taken out of
context, but again, the damage had been done. Zottolo characterized
his company's decision to join the movement as a business decision.
Philips believes the company has been disadvantaged by the GoB vis a
vis Brazilian companies, and has been frustrated by Brazil's failure
to advance towards meaningful economic reform, especially in its
taxation system. The Cansei movement, Zottolo said, is not meant to
be a popular grass-roots movement, but rather an attempt by the
business community to speak out effectively about the challenges

SAO PAULO 00000777 004 OF 004


Brazil faces and to try to get things moving in the right direction.


12. (U) The sentiment of ineffective governance had been building
in the community for some time, Zottolo added, and the plane crash,
coupled with the ongoing chaos in civil aviation, merely provided
the proverbial straw. "We pay taxes, we respect the law, so we
think we deserve to be heard and respected. We made this point to
the government," Zottolo explained. He acknowledged that the
movement now faces a challenge in moving from general expressions of
discontent to a new phase of developing consensus around
constructive proposals and working with the government to implement
them. Unlike d'Urso and Doria, who both claimed to have been
surprised by the intensity of the backlash against the movement,
Zottolo claimed he and his colleagues had anticipated it. The Lula
government, he explained, is hypersensitive to any and all criticism
and almost instinctively reacts in the language of class struggle.
For its part, Philips will continue to participate so long as Cansei
retains its non-partisan character, but will withdraw if the
movement becomes an instrument of any political party or faction.

-------
COMMENT
-------

13. (U) There exists, in many segments of Brazilian society,
general weariness with certain long-standing facts of life in Brazil
that include: poor infrastructure, high taxation, a cumbersome
bureaucracy, and what many believe to be the government's inability
and/or unwillingness to stimulate or accommodate needed change.
While these issues are at the heart of what political and economic
observers see as the friction creating drag on the Brazilian
economy, many Brazilians are still doing well economically and real
incomes have improved, especially among the poor. Accordingly, the
likelihood of Cansei's attracting substantial broad-based support is
open to question. The slogan itself also appears ill-advised in
that while it may accurately sum up some people's feelings, it is
not very effective as a rallying cry. As former President Fernando
Henrique Cardoso recently commented to the CG, it's not a motto that
Martin Luther King, Jr., would have chosen to inspire his followers.
In addition, the movement's leaders, for all their sincerity and
earnestness, have made themselves easy targets for caricature.
Finally, given the fact that the government is not in much of a mood
to entertain even constructive criticism, the direct impact of
Cansei on improving Brazilian governance may be limited. End
Comment.

14. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Brasilia.

WHITE

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