Brazil’s Political Crucible- Colin Burgon

A coffin is burned to symbolise Temer’s government. Photo by Fernando DK/Democratize

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s intentions to run for president again in 2018 have set in motion numerous campaigns to discredit him. Progressives the world over need to act to support him, writes COLIN BURGON

A year is a long time in politics and for Brazil, it’s been a very long year indeed. This time last year, responding to calls by right-wing senators and the powerful media monopoly Globo, protesters demanded the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT).

Through a trial by media she was deemed “the head of the snake” of widespread corruption, despite the fact that she was actually responsible for starting a national investigation into corruption and being one of the few politicians not implicated in a recent scandal.

Just months later their wishes were made true, Rousseff — elected by 54 million Brazilians — had been suspended and her impeachment process had begun.

The problem was that the impeachment was nothing to do with corruption, as the right-wing impeachers had stated, but now was solely for budgetary practices she had carried out — procedures that have been commonplace in Brazilian and US administrations past.

Alarm bells should have been ringing as Michel Temer of the “centrist” Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) was temporarily installed as president despite being implicated in corruption.

Temer then quickly set to implementing a series of hard-line neoliberal reforms overstepping his interim status and acting against the expressed will of 54 million voters. The world had been conned.

By the time the final impeachment vote took place in August, several of Temer’s all-male, all-white cabinet had been forced to resign over leaked wire taps revealing they were attempting to squash the corruption probe.

One recorded conversation even heard housing minister Romero Juca imply that the only way to protect the political elite from the spiralling corruption investigation was to remove the leftist and clearly unbendable Rousseff.

Even these revelations and the protests of thousands of Brazilians demanding new elections (something Rousseff also advocated) did not hinder the politically driven impeachment.

The upper house voted for her removal and in the words of Rousseff herself: “61 men, many of them charged and corrupt, threw 54 million votes in the garbage.” Temer was installed as president until 2018.

What has followed since has been nothing short of the overturning of 14 years of social progress from successive Workers Party governments. Under presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Rousseff the country underwent steady progress, finally freeing itself from many of the remnants of military rule.

Implementing numerous social schemes and extending access to housing, healthcare and education, Lula and Rousseff’s administrations were able to bring about historic poverty reductions and economic growth, taking Brazil off the world hunger map in the process and explaining their victory in four consecutive presidential elections.

Slashing hugely popular house building, illiteracy and medical aid social schemes was only the start for Temer’s government and it quickly set its sights on all of Brazil’s public institutions.

Announcing a massive scheme to sell off 32 major infrastructure projects including airports, railways, highways, power plants, oil reserves and mining operations, Temer revealed the full extent of his right-wing agenda with the passing of a 20-year spending freeze on healthcare and education in December.

This dangerous and irrational measure could potentially tie the hands of future governments and has left many Brazilians fearing for the future of their public health service.

In the face of these hard-line policies, the response from many Brazilians has been militant and defiant.

Thousands have marched across the country protesting against the removal of Rousseff and the actions of the conservative government, with trade unionists calling national strikes and students occupying more than 1,100 schools and universities.

The country’s most popular politician, former president and trade union leader Lula, has been at the centre of the resistance and has galvanised support from both the public, the international labour movement and beyond.

Lula’s intentions to run for president again in 2018 have set in motion numerous campaigns to discredit him from members of the political, economic and media elites.

Having been beaten at the ballot box for the last 14 years, Brazil’s right wing is not prepared to take any chances at the next election and Lula now faces the same “trial by media” that Rousseff had to endure last year alongside politically motivated harrasment that has been referred to the United Nations.

Let’s hope that the world won’t be fooled by the same trick twice — raising awareness and international support is vital.

  • You can find out more on Brazil’s crisis from the No Coup in Brazil initiative at Stand with Brazil — an evening of solidarity at Unite on February 2 2017 at 6:30, 128 Theobald’s Road, WC1X 8TN. For more info go to: http://bit.ly/brazilevening

This article was originally published by the Morning Star at: https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-8034-Brazils-political-crucible

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