Chris Williamson- In Solidarity with Lula, Against the Coup and Neo-liberalism

Lula addresses Prouni Scholars Students, photo: Ricardo Stukert/instituto Lula

Over the last year Brazil has been in the depths of the most scandalous political crisis in recent history. Despite the controversy surrounding the country, the international coverage of the fifth-biggest country in the world has at times felt non-existent.

Last year, just 62 senators overturned the votes of more than 50 million Brazilians in a “soft coup”, bringing to an end 13 years of democratically elected Workers’ Party presidents. Using public anger at the corruption of others, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached under dubious circumstances for budgetary manoeuvres which have been commonplace under previous Presidents, in both Brazil and the US. 

Michel Temer was installed as the new president and he quickly set out to implement hard line neoliberal reforms that have been consistently rejected at the ballot box for 14 years.

Tellingly, since Dilma’s removal numerous members of Temer’s all-white, all-male cabinet have had to resign over corruption, bribery and money-laundering charges. Leaked wire taps also suggested that the impeachment was orchestrated to hinder a sweeping corruption investigation involving many members of Brazil’s congress.

The controversy surrounding Dilma’s ousting and Temer’s appointment caused mass demonstrations against at the time, and these protests have grown in number since, with thousands regularly marching against privatisation schemes and social welfare reform of the conservative Government. Unfortunately, they have been met with growing police repression and brutality, with the Supreme Court recently forced to step in to protect the rights of protestors.

A 20-year spending freeze on Healthcare, Education and Social Welfare spending led to the largest protests yet with major trade unions calling for a national strike and over 1,100 schools and universities occupied by students.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Phillip Alston, called the amendment “a radical measure, devoid of all nuance and compassion” adding that “will hit the poorest and most vulnerable Brazilians harder, increasing the levels of inequality in an already extremely unequal society.”

Politicians and social movements have also come out strongly against the lengthy and severe measure since it passed in December. As the spending freeze was tied to a constitutional amendment, it will make the repeal process difficult for future Governments.

Without a vote and without a voice, public support for Temer and his policies is abysmally low and social movements and trade unions are coming together in an attempt to protect the progressive achievements delivered by the Workers Party (abbreviated to PT in Portuguese) over the last decade.

Their accomplishments include lifting 40 million from poverty, slashing illiteracy and the introduction of internationally renowned social schemes like the Bolsa Familia social welfare programme.

In particular, supporters have rallied around former President Lula da Silva, Brazil’s most popular politician. Eligible to run for President again in 2018, the right wing have singled out Lula in a concerted smear campaign aimed at discrediting him before the elections even begin, with a seemingly never ending investigation into the former President’s finances.

A number of Lula’s human rights have been abused in the process: his phone and the phones of his family and his lawyers were tapped the recording illegally leaked to the press; his home and the homes of his children have been raided; and he was deemed ‘corrupt’ by Brazil’s right wing media monopoly Globo before any evidence had been brought before him.

The International trade union Confederation have strongly defended Lula against what they call ‘a conservative campaign against him and his family’ and the UN has accepted a petition stating that Lula’s rights have been violated and are investigating the allegations against the former leader.

British progressives like myself have also come out in support of Dilma and her Presidential predecessor Lula da Silva against the actions of the coup Government publishing statements throughout the year, including the recent letter with MPs, Trade Unions and academics published in Guardian Letters.

For Brazilians, 2017 looks to be a year of great uncertainty. Secure healthcare and decent education for the poorest may have been consigned to history by a crooked regime with no democratic legitimacy while those fighting for social change are being dragged through the mud.

The rise of worldwide right-wing ideology means that the Brazilian people’s fight is our fight too. Let’s stand together in solidarity against reactionary forces.

Chris Williamson is a former Labour MP and is involved in the No Coup in Brazil initiative. Find out more on the crisis from Chris when he speaks at a dayschool hosted by the VSC on Saturday March 11 on Trump and Latin America 0 full details and register online here.

This article was originally published in LeftFutures at: http://www.leftfutures.org/2017/03/brazil-in-solidarity-with-lula-against-the-coup-and-neo-liberalism/#more-48416

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