Sunday, October 3, 2010
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.
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.