Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brazil's Only "Dry Day"

Moving from Canada to Brazil, one of the biggest cultural differences I noticed between the two countries was the cultural and legal attitude toward the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Canada, though it has changed tremendously in the past 20 years, is still working its way out of the traditions of temperance and tolerance. Though it's no longer the case, when I first moved to Canada the only place to buy any alcohol was in a government liquor store, where all the stock was out of sight and you had to know what you wanted and order it from a non-smiling, bored government liquor store clerk. And every act involved in drinking, in public or private, seemed to be regulated - from the day of the week and time of day, to the size of the serving and even your body position (you had to be seated at all times while drinking).

Brazil, has always had a very different, and much more relaxed attitude to alcoholic beverages, probably a heritage of their Latin colonizers the Portuguese. There is a minimum age for drinking alcohol, 16, but other than there there are very few rules. Anyone can sell alcoholic drinks, anywhere, and at any time of day or night. If the little popcorn vendor on a street corner wants to sell beer, he or she can. Supermarkets which are open 24 hours don't have to cut off sales at a certain time. Any almost every bar in the country stays open until the last customer heads out the door - and is open when the first early-bird wants to wet his morning whistle.

Except today, October 03. From midnight last night until midnight tonight there is total prohibition. That means no sales in bars, restaurants, supermarkets, liquor stores, anywhere. The reason? It's because today is a national election, including elections for president, governors, senators, and federal deputies.

All polls indicate that Brazil is poised to elect its first female president - Dilma Rousseff (pronouced Jilma Hoosseffee in Portuguese). There is some question whether she will be elected today, or whether she will have to enter a run-off election in a few weeks, but few doubt that she will be Brazil's next president. She is the chosen candidate of outgoing president, Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known all around the world as Lula. Having completed two terms he is ineligable to run again, but he is so popular (80% national popularity ratings after 8 years in office!) that if he endorsed his pet dog, the animal would probably win. According to England's The Independent and today's New York Times, if Dilma becomes president, she will become the most powerful woman in the world. She's been in politics a long time, and was an underground guerrilla who suffered imprisonment and torture under the military dictatorship of the 60s and 70s. She has been Lula's right hand for the past four years, during most of which time she was his heir apparent. In order to win today, she must win 50% of the total vote nationally. If she wins less, she must then enter a run-off with the second-leading vote earner, likely the distinctly uncharismatic José Serra, the leading conservative candidate and formerly the governor of São Paulo state.

UPDATE: The results are in from yesterday's voting, and Dilma did less well than expected. She still was the leading vote-winner, but got only about 47% of the total votes, so Brazil will go to the polls again (and have another "dry day"!) on October 31.

So if the election results come in early tonight, supporters and candidates themselves will (theoretically) have to keep the champagne on ice until the chimes of midnight begin to toll. Being Brazil, however, I suspect that those charged with enforcing the 24-hour prohibition that the country is enduring, will look the other way.

1 comment:

  1. Too bad they can't drink on election day. Booze would have been a good excuse for electing Dilma Rousseff. You need to do some search and a lot of reading to get the facts straight. She is a thief and a murderer but you make it sound like she is some sort of hero or something, which couldn't be further from the truth.
    Other than that, I think the article is pretty good and your site has some reasonable information about Brazilian culture. By the way, I am originally from Brazil but lived in the US for the most of my life.

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