Senate elevator operators see lows of Brazilian politics

All day the elevator operators in Brazil`s Senate take politicians on rides, but the senators, they say, are moving the country only in one direction -- down.

AFP| Updated: Aug 27, 2016, 07:02 AM IST

Brasília: All day the elevator operators in Brazil`s Senate take politicians on rides, but the senators, they say, are moving the country only in one direction -- down.

Humble men literally rubbing shoulders with some of Brazil`s most powerful, the elevator operators have a unique window on the upper chamber, where suspended president Dilma Rousseff's impeachment trial is underway.

And what they describe seeing in the corruption-riddled institution is not pretty.

"Our politicians are very dirty," said one operator, who asked not to be identified because he feared losing his job.

"I`ve never seen the Senate or the House of Deputies ever vote something that was for the people. All I see is them fighting and shouting and thinking about themselves."

The operator, who talked with AFP when the elevator was empty then fell silent as senators and other passengers got on, said he was no Rousseff fan.

But Michel Temer -- the man who will take Rousseff`s place if she is ejected from office next week -- is no better, he says.

"What I see is a lot of dirty people judging a woman who is also dirty," he said. "Today there is no decent option for president."

A colleague manning another of the ageing ThyssenKrupp elevators in the elegant Senate building was equally scathing.

"Substituting Dilma for Temer won`t be the solution. If there was a real election, he`d never win," he said, also requesting anonymity.

The elevator men said some of the senators -- about two thirds of whom have current or past brushes with the law, according to corruption watchdog Transparencia Brasil -- treat them kindly.

"Others, not so much. With them, it`s not even a `good afternoon,`" said the second operator.Waiters in the Senate restaurant also get to see -- and hear -- the country`s rulers from close up. The experience leaves a bitter taste.

"They pass laws to suit themselves but not for the people," said one waiter, looking over his shoulder to check no one had noticed him speaking to a reporter.

"There are a few good ones who come in here, but mostly they are very arrogant and don`t treat us with respect."

Cleaners are another group of ordinary Brazilians serving almost unnoticed in this most extraordinary of institutions.

And what do they propose for Brazil`s political class? Clean the whole lot out.

"I don`t think we can have any change without new elections," a cleaner said, likewise asking not to be identified.

"Impeachment means changing the faces but things will stay the same. We need to start again, a completely new start."

The idea of new elections to bring in new blood is hugely popular in Brazil. A CartaCapital/Vox Populi poll in August found 61 percent backing the exit of both Rousseff and Temer, followed by snap polls.

Rousseff says she would back the idea if the impeachment were dropped. But few currently in power, including perhaps soon to be confirmed president Temer, are interested in upheaval.

Besides, there`s another problem, the second elevator operator noted. Who would the supposedly new, better alternatives be?

"To get that far in politics you have to be dirty," he said. "An 100 percent honest person would never make it."