Conservative Leader Makes Politically Incorrect Remarks

Would you want this man to lead your Congress?

Brazil’s ‘Anti-Lula’ a Paragon of Political Incorrectness (LAT)

Nepotism is good. Homosexuality is bad. Getting pregnant through rape is a “horrible accident.”

Severino Cavalcanti, the author of these sentiments, is on a roll. When he was but a lowly back-bench congressman, such public pronouncements might have earned him a passing sneer in a political column. Now that he’s one of Brazil’s most powerful men, Cavalcanti’s controversial declarations have landed him on front pages across the country.


When he succeeded last month in installing his son as a federal agriculture official in Pernambuco, Cavalcanti dismissed charges of nepotism, describing those who complain as “losers who don’t know how to raise their children.” Congress has since begun deliberating several anti-nepotism measures.

Critics call Cavalcanti the epitome of many of the things wrong in Brazilian politics, a system that revolves around self-enrichment and patronage.

“On the one hand, he shows a bad side of Brazilian reality, of clientelism, nepotism and attending to private, personal interests,” said Alberto Goldman, a deputy from the Social Democracy Party. But he said Cavalcanti was also “playing an important role in securing for Congress a level of independence, of autonomy, for which we’ve fought for years.”

Social activists are appalled at many of Cavalcanti’s conservative stands.

He has made derogatory comments about gays and lesbians; he reportedly once asked a gay activist in public about his sexual practices. This month, feminist groups were flabbergasted when Cavalcanti made his rape comment and advised impregnated victims to have their babies and raise them “with affection and love.”

“For us, rape is a crime and not an accident,” said Simone Diniz, founder of a women’s health organization. Cavalcanti “contributes to backwardness and intolerance, even over and against Brazilian law, which is already very conservative.”

Supporters acknowledge that Cavalcanti’s views and public statements can be awkward. But they back his vision of a more powerful Congress and a humbler government.

In its efforts to contain Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the Bush administration would be well-advised to keep a healthy distance from his rival.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Latin America, , , ,
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Ben says:

    Don’t be so quick to buy into the anti-Severino propaganda. As in the U.S. you can’t believe everything you read in the Brazilian press, especially “O Globo” which is very pro-Lula as a result of a sordid deal where they support him in exchange for the government not calling in their huge debt from various failed ventures including cable TV. Lula is much more ignorant than Severino, and most attacks on Severino stem from the fact he defeated Lula’s candidate in the election for “Speaker of the House”. Lula never even finished grade school, and in the 20 + years he was a professional presidential candidate he never made an effort to learn a language or take a course in economics. He never held an executive position and his gaffes are much more memorable than Severino’s. It is people like Severino, who in fact is a member of a party that supports the ruling coalition, that keep the radical left elements in Lula’s party from gaining too much power. There are plenty of Hugo Chavez types in Brazil, fortunately there is still enough opposition in Congress to keep them from power. But Bush would well to encourage those that oppose the “leftist populist axis” composed of Lula, Chavez, Kirchner and Fidel.

  2. You’re right that the Hugo Chavez types need to be resisted. But my point is simply that, from a domestic political standpoint, it would be very easy for Bush to get slammed if he were to seem too close to someone like Cavalcanti, who makes reckless remarks.

  3. McGehee says:

    Maybe they’d rather have Howard Dean?