Friday 21 October 2011


The TV pictures of Libyans exulting in the death of Col Gaddafi stand in stark contrast, in my mind, with events 26 years ago in Brazil. There, too, a president had died, untimely, but inconsolable grief was the national mood.

Tancredo Neves had been associated, for many years, with the movement that stood out against the military regime, and which eventually led to the return to democracy. Although the campaign for direct elections for the presidency failed, the tide had changed, powerful people changed sides and Tancredo himself, amazingly, was elected president by the electoral college in January 1985. He seemed to embody the renewal of hope for Brazil. But on the eve of his inauguration in March he was taken seriously ill, was unable to take the oath of office, and died a month later. Some saw conspiracy, some saw simply wear and tear in the body of a man who had worked tirelessly for his vision and his principles.

Brazil was distraught. For days there was nothing on the television except gentle, sombre music and graphics. The weeping indicated just how much the nation’s hope had been invested in this one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The irony was that the Vice-Presidential candidate, José Sarney, had until recently been associated with the ruling military group, before changing sides, and was one of the reasons that Tancredo was elected. However, in spite of suspicions about his real loyalties and motives, on taking over the presidency he followed on through much of the programme of national reforms that Tancredo had envisaged.

Living in Rio at the time, we shared the grief of Brazil. Today, from a distance, we understand the jubilation of the Libyans, though it seems misplaced to me to take such joy in such a sordid death, no matter what Gaddafi may have done. What stands out is the difference in legacy. Tancredo, though he never actually took office, started Brazil on the path that brought it to today. Gaddafi’s legacy, in the end, was to unite a people against him. I hope that, now he is gone, they will find something more solid on which to construct their future.

1 comment:

  1. The people are celebrating the removal of a tyrant and the relief created by a lack of oppression. That's something to celebrate.

    As for the future I wonder how well the Libyan people will fare sitting on top of all that oil under the watchful gaze of those helpful European people?

    Now if a fundemental religious government is selected by the people. Will Europe view this as a good or bad thing. A battle has been won now for the rest of the war, as ideology and tribal divisions come into play.