2002-2012: Brazil’s stillborn dream

A version of this article was originally posted in the Katehon website.

by Leonardo Brito, with an afterword by Uriel Irigaray

An famous saying about Brazil is that it is “the country of the future”. The saying may be taken as a hopeful one, pointing at the immense potential the country has in culture, natural resources, etc; or as one of sorrow – greatness lays always in the distant future, never in the present.

Great sovereigns are a rarity anywhere in the world, and Brazil is no exception. We may easily cite two: Emperor Pedro II, who created the Brazilian Empire (as an emerging power) and preserved national unity in a continent-sized nation by crushing provincial revolts and strengthening the presence of the State, and Getúlio Vargas, who conducted Brazil into the modern industrial era. Pedro II and Getúlio Vargas ruled in the XIXth and XXth century, respectively. With all their faults, these men had a vision to fulfill the great dream of a strong, unified, respected and prosperous country, and each contributed towards that dream.

A grandiose dream: 2002-2012

We are still in the early stages of the XXIst century, but one might argue that the political cycle of 2002-2012 – during the terms of former president Lula and his successor Dilma Rousseff, both of the Worker’s Party (PT) – will in the future be remembered as a stillborn attempt towards that same greatness.  During the deccennium, Brazil blossomed through major infrastructure projects, military modernization, social improvements, steady economic growth and an unbeknownst level of international respect and credibility. The country seemed to be taking a new leap forward. The basis for this new cycle were:

Economic: huge increase in internal market, commodity exports to China, state-backed lobbying and strengthening of Brazilian trans-national companies acting in strategic locations (South America, Portuguese Africa), state-backed infrastructure mega-projects (irrigation canals, hydroelectric dams, natural gas powerplants, oil drilling sites, ultra-deep water pre-salt layer drilling, oil refineries, ports, shipyards, etc).

Social: the (liberal) negative income tax (Bolsa Família)[1], the end of extreme poverty, increased social spending in education and healthcare, opening of dozens of public colleges, huge increases in governmental student aid and scholarships etc.

Military: surveillance of the country’s dry border (Sisfron), modernization of the Air Force (FX2), nuclear submarine program (Prosub), military presence and show of force along the Amazon border (Ágata operations).

Nothing remotely similar in magnitude or importance was accomplished in the preceding decades. Let us cite a few strategic projects created or implemented in the deccenium:

  • São Francisco river transposition. Cost: R$ 8.2 billion. Over 700km of artificial canals, water tunnels, elevation stations etc drawing water from the São Francisco river for domestic use and irrigation in the vast and impoverished Brazilian Northeastern semi-arid backlands. The project was originally envisioned by the Pedro II government in the 1840s and later by Getúlio Vargas government in the 1940s. Lula began the project execution in 2007.
  • Belo Monte hydro power plant. Cost: US$ 18.5 billion. Hydroelectric dam deep within the Amazon with  11GW capacity, second greatest in the world. Construction started in 2011 under president Dilma Rousseff.
  • RNEST Oil Refinery. Cost: US$ 18.5 billion. Heavy oil processing plant with 230.000 bpd (barrels per day) planned capacity. Construction started by president Lula in 2007.
  • FX2 Airforce program. Cost: US$ 5 billion. Purschase of 36 new jet fighters. The government decided for the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen NG jets. American F-16 and F-18 were also competing in the program but were not chosen. Program started in 2006 under president Lula and the Gripen was chosen in 2013 under president Rousseff.
  • Prosub Nuclear Submarine program. Cost: R$ 7.8 billion. Brazil-France cooperation program for the construction of 4 conventional diesel-electric and one nuclear submarine. Shipyard construction started in 2008 under president Lula.

There are countless other investments, military projects, social programs and so on that we may cite in the deccenium. We must notice that all these multi-billion dollar investments were either entirely or partially state-backed. Despite their immense strategic importance, every single one of them was exhaustively attacked by the opposition, and, since 2013, by the entirety of the Brazilian media and the general public opinion. Since their conception, each project has been under siege with varied corruption allegations, and more recently within the scope of the Carwash operation (e.g. the Nuclear Submarine program had participation of construction giant Oderbrecht, now on its knees due to unrelated corruption scheme with Petrobras). The “father” of the Brazilian nuclear program and president of State nuclear power company Eletronuclear, Admiral Othon Pinheiro, was also arrested over corruption charges (again, by the Carwash operation).

Media has successfully convinced public opinion that the moronic, hypocritical anti-corruption crusade is more important than all these strategic projects that would lift Brazil to a new stage of development.

This triangle of Economic, Social and Military strategic reforms was only accomplished because there was a solid political consensus in the 2002-2012 deccennium that sustained them. The political consensus spread even to the now bloodthirsty media, which in 2009 was nothing less than in love with the federal government. Despite overwhelming facts that Brazil vastly improved in all measurable social and economic indicators during the Lula-Dilma terms, only recently (2013-2016) the daily repetition of anti-government propaganda was successful in rewriting history and convincing the public opinion that the statistics were “government lies”, or simply pretending they don’t exist.

Then and Now: from Love to Hate

How did the Lula government manage to create a political consensus so strong with a notoriously corrupt and complex Congress formed by murderers, drug dealers, pimps and other criminals? In an autocratic style which well befits the Brazilian soul, this was done by buying them out. Like spoiled children, congressmen would receive a monthly allowance and in turn would approve bills of strategic interest to the government. The PT administration in general treated Congress like a tumor or a cyst that could not be removed without killing the patient: despite being formed by murderers and thieves, it is seen as the “guardian of democracy” and so had to be protected.

Believe in the mirage and we shall reach it

What caused the implosion of this successful but short-lived model? In our series of articles “The Brazilian Circus”, we studied the emergence of a hysterical anti-PT sentiment that ultimately destroyed Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff.  The public sentiment had its inflection point in 2013, with the “June Journeys” or “Brazilian spring” protests, and reached its zenith in 2016, always backed on hysterical, miopic anti-corruption moralism.

The “modern democracy” civic mythology states that everything must be sacrificed on the altar of Morality: in the name of “fighting corruption”, we must decapitate the king himself – it does not matter if the kingdom will then burn to ashes in civil wars with several impostors claiming the throne. It is “the price to pay” for a “modern democracy”, and Brazil chose to pay that price.

How is it possible to sell this tale in a country that was continuously growing economically and enjoyed increasing international prestige? It was, in fact, very simple: exploiting the inferiority complex of the Brazilian middle and upper-class, who frown in disgust at anything Brazilian and rejoice at anything from “rich countries”, that is, Western countries, more precisely the mythological perfection of the United States. The Western, liberal model is the only possible path a nation can choose for social, economic and cultural development – and the West only achieved this because they are “less corrupt” and “more democratic” than Brazil (this extends to other non-aligned Latin American countries as well, to which the “enlightened” Brazilian pan-beating middle class scoff and frown in disgust). This is sold as an axiom and is not questioned, ever. It does not matter that, for example, on one occasion US$ 12 billion in US government cash simply vanished. Brazil is axiomatically more corrupt, and the perceived corruption must be extirpated at any cost. It does not matter that the same obscure fiscal errors Dilma Rousseff is accused of and impeached over are practiced constantly by the US Army, but in a hundredfold greater magnitude. Intoxicated by the most despicable anti-Brazilian inferiority complex, middle and upper-class Brazilians do not see that the beautiful, modern, democratic oasis with no wrongdoing that they so ardently pursue is nothing more than a mirage built by decades of careful propaganda. The destination we are heading towards is not an oasis but a cliff of political instability, international humiliation, economic depression, poverty and class hate.

However cynical and powerful they may be, the public and media outrage selectively against some corruptions while ignoring other, vastly greater corruption scandals (such as the multi-billion dollar undervalued privatizations of strategic companies under neoliberal president Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990s; the multi-billion dollar embezzlement of public funds involving international conglomerates in the construction of the São Paulo metro by liberal governor Geraldo Alckmin; the multi-million dollar international drug trafficking allegedly practiced by neoliberal defeated candidate Aécio Neves; etc) would be harmless without strong institutional support.

In an effort to conduct Brazil towards the mythological modern democratic technocracy made of “strong and independent institutions”, President Lula and Dilma Rousseff strengthened a vast network of anti-corruption government overseers, watchdogs and agencies such as the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU, created in the last days of Lula’s predecessor), the Federal Police (which investigated over 2200 cases in the 2002-2012 deccenium, against only 48 cases in the preceding 8 years of neoliberal government) and the office of the attorney general of the Republic (the attorney appointed by president Fernando Henrique and in office from 1995-2003 closed or archived 459 out of 626 cases received, 4 of which against the president himself!). Ironically, like a golem turning against their rabbi, those same institutions drag their creators and benefactors to the guillotine.

Anti-corruption is an excellent fuel for regime changes, policy shifts and the exercise of “soft power” in general because it is a tautology, and thus can easily rally the masses with the help of a little political or economical instability. This idiotic moralistic obsession, by the way, is much the same as what preceded “twitter revolutions” in the past few years: in the fallout of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution,  giddy partisans occupied president Yanukovych’s mansions and posted pictures on social networks, which quickly made their way to major news outlets. Brazilian neocon guru and astrologer Olavo de Carvalho went as far as saying that the people of Brazil “may have to follow the Ukrainian method” (see figure below).

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 09:41:50

Our role model is Euromaidan – respected astrologer Olavo de Carvalho

In a series of tweets, he said:

1) The political class has demonstrated a thousand times their total disregard for the Brazilain people. 2) They only think of themselves and of the safety of their anus-like (sic) existence, 3) If in a last effort to carry on with life support they try to implement Parlamentarism, 4) Then the Ukrainian Method [Euromaidan] will be the only alternative for the Brazilian people.

Foreign readers may find it bewildering, but astrologer and cult leader Olavo de Carvalho, who self-proclaims himself “the greatest Brazilian philosopher”, is actually taken seriously by the Brazilian right. This is not a fringe figure that we see defending neonazi-ruled, war-torn, impoverished and fragmented Ukraine as a role model – one of his books was recently among the most sold in Brazil.

lulamaluf

Lula (left), Fernando Haddad (center) and Interpol-wanted Paulo Maluf (right)

There are vast differences between Lula and Dilma which also help explain the fall of the PT government. While Lula did not have any scruples in shaking hands even with Interpol most wanted Paulo Maluf (see figure), Dilma would not even speak with notoriously corrupt ministers, running messages through errand boys instead. In 2015, then-opposition leader and notoriously corrupt congressman Eduardo Cunha started gaining momentum in the lower house of Congress against Dilma Rousseff. After intense backstage negotiations, Dilma’s PT decided not to protect Cunha against criminal corruption charges, thus losing his support in Congress. If she had shaked hands with the devil, as Lula might have, her government would likely had survived. But losing Cunha meant losing most of Congress, and thus the fate of Dilma’s second term was sealed.

An afterword: what lies ahead

Michel Temer, Dilma’s formerly-decorative VP, has been confirmed president of Brazil after Dilma’s impeachment trial, on August 31st. Temer ruled as acting president for three months during the impeachment process before the trial. As soon as he was confirmed as acting president (on May, 12th), Temer went on to act and proceed as a de jure president would, as if Dilma Rousseff had already been removed, which was not the case yet – after all she could still return, if acquitted. The very day Temer took office as acting president, he went so far as to appoint a whole new cabinet, even reducing the number of ministries from 31 to 22.

Temer also appointed Mr. José Serra as Minister of Foreign Relations, even though Mr. Serra has no diplomatic experience whatsoever. But who is Serra? He is the same politician whose campaign (for president in 2010 against Dilma Roussef – he lost) was supported by American oil companies such as Chevron and the same man who secretly promised to sell the rights to Brazil’s petroleum discoveries in the “Pre-salt” layer to those very companies, thereby reversing to model created by former president Lula[2]. As chancellor under Temer, Serra has shifted Brazilian foreign policy to a pro-American one – much more than Dilma Rousseff had already started doing (in comparison to Lula’s administration).

For now, we shall not go into details here (it would be tedious), but suffice it to say that Temer’s administration has speeded up the neoliberalizing process that had started under a cornered Dilma Roussef. If Dilma Roussef appointment of Chicago-educated Joaquim Levy as finance minister represented a neoliberal turn (with disastrous results to the economy, as is always the case with neoliberal policies in Latin America), Mr. Temer and his ministers went so far as to go on record suggesting to “review” Brazilian labour and pension laws. That is all part of Temer’s reform. Temer has cut education and social spending and, predictably, made several pro-big business and pro-banking moves [3]. We could go on.

Michel Temer, that is, apparently conspired against his own president (Dilma Roussef and Michel Temer were, after all, part of the same PT-PMDB electoral coalition) and took office, after Dilma Rousseff’s removal, to destroy her entire government plan and programs – which were, of course, the plan and programs which got him elected as Rousseff’s VP, that is, his own plan and programs! It is in this sense that many in Brazil describe the whole thing is a coup – however “legal” and “constitutional” the whole thing might have been (even that is debatable).

For a glimpse of what Brazil’s future might be if such trend continues, one might take a look at Macri’s Argentina. It is the same show: an anti-corruption, “anti-populist”, neoliberal rhetoric serving pro-big business Atlantist powers and interests. All under the mask of “modernization” and “globalization”/westernization. In a way, it is the eighties all over again. Reagan and Thatcher are back – but now they have Latin-American accents. Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton’s 1998 piece Where Marx was right and Thatcher wrong might be as good a read today as it was back then.

We’ve just mentioned Scruton. Speaking of conservative thinkers, it was the great G. K. Chesterton who wrote:

It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism. (…) so far as we are concerned, what has broken up households and encouraged divorces, and treated the old domestic virtues with more and more open contempt, is the epoch and Power of Capitalism. It is Capitalism that has forced a moral feud and a commercial competition between the sexes; that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favour of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged, for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers. It is not the Bolshevist but the Boss, the publicity man, the salesman and the commercial advertiser who have, like a rush and riot of barbarians, thrown down and trampled under foot the ancient Roman statue of Verecundia (Three Foes of the Family. From The Well and the Shallows).

It was also Chesterton, by the way, who echoed the Distributist slogan for land reform saying “Three acres and a cow” [for every citizen] and who wrote:

A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that all little girls should have their hair cut short. I mean, of course, all little girls whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are common among rich little girls, but it will be long before any doctors interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into such stinking and suffocating underworlds of squalor, that poor people must not be allowed to have hair, because in their case it must mean lice in the hair. Therefore, the doctors propose to abolish the hair. It never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the lice. Yet it could be done. (…) But what is the excuse they would urge, what is the plausible argument they would use, for thus cutting and clipping poor children and not rich? Their argument would be that the disease is more likely to be in the hair of poor people than of rich. And why? Because the poor children are forced (against all the instincts of the highly domestic working classes) to crowd together in close rooms under a wildly inefficient system of public instruction; and because in one out of the forty children there may be offense. And why? Because the poor man is so ground down by the great rents of the great ground landlords that his wife often has to work as well as he. Therefore she has no time to look after the children, therefore one in forty of them is dirty. Because the workingman has these two persons on top of him, the landlord sitting (literally) on his stomach, and the schoolmaster sitting (literally) on his head, the workingman must allow his little girl’s hair, first to be neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by promiscuity, and, lastly, to be abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his little girl’s hair. But he does not count. (…)
Now the whole parable and purpose of these last pages, and indeed of all these pages, is this: to assert that we must instantly begin all over again, and begin at the other end. I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict’s; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed (What’s Wrong With The World, by G.K. Chesterton).

Thus wrote Chesterton, the great Catholic writer –  Chesterton, the conservative. And so have writen and spoken many Brazilian patriots and conservatives and more than one Pope speaking on social doctrine. The great irony of today’s Brazil’s political circus is that many conservatives, religious folks and “pro-family” persons and groups (Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world, by the way) have been hijacked by neoliberals and by a very nasty Atlantist Right, which also includes some very corrupt Pentecostal Evangelical pastors and preachers (some of which are also Congressmen, such as the infamous Marco Feliciano, who faces accusations of rape, corruption and other misdeeds).

Many conservative Brazilians demonstrated against “socialist”/”communist” PT. The irony (again) is that the the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) is  in fact a largely Catholic party. It was launched by a heterogeneous bunch made up of some marxist intellectuals, yes, but also trade unionists and social justice militant Catholics. It was officially founded in a meeting that took place (on February, 10th, 1980) at Colégio Sion in São Paulo, a private Catholic school for girls. The PT has always been supported by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. Spanish historian Luis Mir will go as far as to claim, in his book (which is calle The Party of God), that PT is a direct child of the Catholic Church – and a very dear child.

The Catholic Church in Brazil has actually been supporting land reform for over half a century. Pope John Paull II  supported it vocally in the eighties while visiting Brazil. But this is where things get [more] complicated. During the two PT administrations (specially Lula’s) there have been some advances in that regard, for sure, but president Dilma Rousseff did cater to the big farmers [4], thus alienating her Catholic base and social movements. The truth is that most of the farming land in Brazil is in fact still owned by a tiny minority of oligarch-farmers (latifundium owners – they like to call it “agrobusiness”), many of whom are in Congress – the same gang who impeached Dilma Rousseff, by the way, although she did try to appease them. They typically take advantage of slave labour and employ armed thugs to expel or murder peasants and Natives. Sister Dorothy Stang, for instance, was murdered by ranchers (in 2005) because of her social militancy. Chesterton’s “Three acres and a cow” is a far cry in Brazil.

President Temer, in his turn (although a Catholic himself), has gotten closer to pro-Israel/pro-US Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, as well as Freemasonry (many Lodges supported the anti-PT demonstrations). He’s gotten closer to agrobusiness as well. Many in Brazil talk of a “Bible, beef and bullets” caucus.  Eduardo Cunha, Temer’s henchman and co-conspirator, is very much loved among many Brazilian Evangelicals. Mr. Cunha, by the way, has recently been expelled from Congress, in an interesting twist of events – it is the same Cunha who had a central role in Dima Rousseff’s impeachment. Both Cunha and Temer support Israeli and American interests over those of Brazil and both support the destruction of labour rights. Israel seems to be actually taking over parts of the Brazilian industry, after it was destroyed under Car Wash Operation [5].

This anti-worker and anti-family neoliberal agenda is thus “sold” to Brazil’s generally conservative population, specially the more Americanized urban middle class. Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians seem to be more vulnerable to such trap – the same way ordinary Jews, for instance, are often manipulated into supporting Israeli policies and ordinary Americans are “brain-washed” into accepting and supporting U.S. wars worldwide.

The thing is: if Dilma Rousseff’s popularity was very low, Michel Temer’s is now even lower. People seem to have realized that this “cure” is worse than the disease. But Temer can keep pushing neoliberal reforms as drastic measures needed in times of crisis – measures that will actually worsen the crisis. No wonder former president Lula still leads polls for 2018 elections; that is precisely why he and his wife are under severe judicial harassment and are now finally facing charges. The goal is to stop him from running for president. This makes things very unpredicatable. After what was left by Car Wash Operation, the entire Brazilian political class has lost the little credibility it still had. But one cannot even be sure whether there shall be a presidential election in 2018 or not. Temer’s PMDB and Serra’s PSDB parties might try pulling the parliamentarism card; there is a proposal already. That would be very much against Brazilian political culture: Brazilians are “personalists”: they vote for candidates and normally do not care much about political parties per se (in 2013, during the Brazilian Spring senator Cristovam Buarque went so far as to suggest abolishing political parties altogether).

It gets even more complicated: there is now talk of a return to monarchy among some circles [6]. It sounded insane a few months ago, but monarchists have been taking part in the street demonstrations. The Brazilian prince Luiz Phillipe de Orleans e Bragança in fact was sitting in the Senate guest’s gallery during Dilma Roussef’s trial amongst other high profile individuals who were in favour of her removal. He sat near Nilton Masi Caccaos Junior, of Sao Paulo masonic Grande Oriente (analogous to a Great Lodge) and near Kim Kataguiri, famous teenage vlogger and leader of the neoliberal MBL – but that is stuff for the Brazilian circus articles. A 2015 news report mentions the same Prince as one of the leaders of Acorda Brasil movement (Wake Up Brazil), an anti-Dilma group.

But Dom Luiz Phillipe de Orleans e Bragança is not the only Prince who got into politics to back the coup agains Dilma Roussef; Prince Dom Joao de Orleans e Braganca, the surfer Prince, also has taken it to the streets – in a slight more vocal manner than his relative. He actually urges return to the monarchy.

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Dom Bertrand in a street demonstration for the removal of president Dilma Roussef. Next to him, people are waving the old Brazilian Empire flag with its Imperial coat of arms, whose colours represent the dynastic houses of Pedro I and his Empress consort Maria Leopoldina of Austria.

 

Talks of secession have also popped up. To the average Brazilian, it might seem insane also, but a southern group has called an (illegal) referendum. Similar actions are taking place in Sao Paulo state, the Northeast and elsewhere.

In other words, the situation is one of great instability.

As many observers have noticed, Brazil was starting to rise as a world player. Temer, Cunha, Serra and his comrades (Pentecostal radio hosts, decadent Princes, corrupt Freemasons, teenager vloggers and former porn-stars) are busy tring to make sure Brazil will back down or even become a full-fledged U.S. sattelite – a neoliberal paradise like Haiti[7] or Paraguay, if it does not break down into several seceded ruined states first.

One could say, right now Brazil faces the hamletian dilemma: to be or not to be.

 

Notes

[1] The inspiration for this program as such actually comes from Milton Friedman. Ironically, many neoliberal Brazilians denounced it as “socialism”.

[2] See <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/12/14/928858>. See also: <https://tupiwire.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/wikileaks-the-this-oil-is-ours-factor/>.

[3] “The central bank board needs to be replaced. To regain confidence, it is crucial that we bring people from the market who are not susceptible to political meddling,” said a source who is part of Temer’s inner circle of advisers. The central bank, under the leadership of Alexandre Tombini since 2011, started on Tuesday a two-day meeting to decide on its benchmark Selic interest rate. The bank’s board, which is made up mostly of career technocrats with little experience in the private sector, is expected to keep the Selic on hold for the sixth straight time. The candidates for the new board includes Itau chief economist Ilan Goldfajn, former treasury chief Carlos Kawall and former central bankers Mario Mesquita and Luiz Fernando Figueiredo, as well as Goldman Sachs executive Paulo Leme, the sources said. Mesquita, Goldfajn and Kawall declined to comment while Figueiredo and Leme did not answer emails (…). Temer plans to send Congress bills to limit costly pension benefits, make the rigid labor market flexible and simplify the country’s tax system, the three sources said, declining to be named because they were not allowed to speak publicly. As part of the economic overhaul Temer will also slash the number of ministries to less than 25 from 31 currently and reduce current costs by firing of thousands of public jobs, one of the sources said“. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-politics-exclusive-idUSKCN0XN2EV>

[4] “According to official data, 1% of Brazilian large entrepreneur-farmers own almost half the good farming land in Brazil and at the other end 90.000 peasants are still camped waiting for the government to comply with the promise of granting them plots of land.” <http://en.mercopress.com/2015/01/07/land-possession-and-peasants-the-first-strong-clash-in-rousseff-s-cabinet>

[5] “The Odebrecht SA unit known as ODT has seen revenue drop after the government cut spending on its nuclear-submarine program by half as policy makers work to tamp down a widening budget deficit amid the country’s worst recession in a century. The parent company, Latin America’s largest construction conglomerate, announced a freeze on new investments in Brazil last year as a credit crunch tightened access to financing after then-Chief Executive Officer Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested in June 2015 as part of Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal. The CEO stepped down from his position to focus on his defense and remains in jail. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Elbit, which got about 11 percent of its revenue from Latin America last year, has won contracts in Brazil as the government shifts capabilities away from conventional warfare to surveillance and protection of infrastructure and natural resources, particularly in the Amazon and oil-rich offshore regions.” <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-22/israeli-drone-maker-elbit-said-close-to-buying-odebrecht-assets>

[6] See <http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-plan-to-fix-brazils-royal-mess-restore-the-monarchy-1466187675>.
See also <https://globalvoices.org/2016/06/17/as-president-faces-impeachment-brazils-royal-family-wants-to-play-game-of-thrones-for-real/> and <https://www.ft.com/content/e135da74-179a-11e6-b197-a4af20d5575e>.

[7] “Haiti is a free market economy with low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports“, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Anúncios

The Brazilian Circus

By Leonardo Brito

A version of this article was originally published in the Katehon magazine.

President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process comes as a much-expected grand finale to a spectacular surrealist theatre piece: accused of an obscure budget wrongdoing, Rouseff was tried by a Congress absolutely immersed in infinitely darker scandals, ranging from forgerybribery and embezzlement to drug trafficking, slavery, rape, pedophilia and murder.

While Dilma herself has never been accused of any kind of corruption, Eduardo Cunha, her nemesis and head of the lower house of Congress, is under trial for forgery, bribery and multi-million dollar embezzlement. Yet, he has harnessed enough support such that the impeachment request was accepted in a session that will be remembered by generations of Brazilians for the appalling, (literally) confetti-blasting speeches made by several hundred congressmen.

The Overture

The very thought of such a circus would be inconceivable even a year ago, yet now it seems as the only logical (and even possible) solution that would seal the end of the great Brazilian depression (which some commentators are calling “the worst in our history“). This scenario is only possible due to a few important factors (listed in no particular order):

  1. End of the commodities supercycle – oil, ores and soybeans are Brazil’s top exports – and China’s economic slowdown;
  2. Escalation of the Car Wash (Lava-jato) operation and its encroaching on Dilma, Lula and other PT (Worker’s Party)high officials;
  3. A tight victory in the 2014 ballot resulting in severe political compromises;
  4. Consolidation of an “economic terrorism” strategy applied by Dilma’s well-organized political opponents.

All these factors intermingle at some point: the slowdown of the economy was deeply worsened by the neoliberal cabinet Dilma appointed after a tight win, and the lack of support from both houses of Congress resulted in a complete government lockdown.

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