Squirreled away among books and papers in a crowded congressional office, there is a man who is one of Brazil's most seasoned observers of relations between the National Congress and the president.
Henrique Eduardo Hargreaves has worked in congress since 1962 and was congressional liaison for President Jose Sarney, President Fernando Collor de Mello's predecessor.
One of President Collor's biggest problems, Mr. Hargreaves says, is that there is "no coordination among the ministries." For example, he explains, Collor once made an agreement with party leaders to pass a bill on behalf of one ministry, regarding the job status of public servants. But at the last moment, the economy minister balked, forcing the president to veto the bill.
"The president was affected by the lack of coordination, and then found it difficult to negotiate because he had lost credibility," he adds.
When Hargreaves worked with President Sarney, he created computer profiles on all legislators, based on voting behavior, relations with constituents, and attitudes toward the president. The data was updated on the basis of his personal conversations with congressmen, who were classified as "adversaries," "allies," "unknown," or "accessible." Favors were traded for votes.
The system came in especially handy in 1987, when Congress was drafting a new constitution that laid out the length of Sarney's term. "I knew the exact vote on the term, two weeks before it occurred," Hargreaves says.
"I had a whole setup, and I called President Sarney from the plenary whenever I wanted! ... Now I don't know how it all works."