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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/amerique-la...

by Cathy Dos Santos

Latin America: Brazil - Under the control of extreme-right authoritarianism

Translated Thursday 20 December 2018, by Hannah Mosford

Jair Bolsonaro will take office on 1st January 2019 after having won Sunday’s Presidential election. His first speech was, once again, heavily weighted with threats to the rule of law and to progressive parties.

Fireworks, shouts of joy and gunshots rang out until the early hours following Sunday’s announcement of the 38th President of Brazil. The clamour could even be heard in the depths of the indigenous region of Caarapo. Meanwhile, in self-imposed lockdown at home for “security reasons”, Jair Bolsonaro addressed his citizens via social media. In Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the army, galvanised by the extreme right’s take of 55.13% of the votes, has quick marched all over the rule of law and soldiers, perched atop their tanks, headed into the streets to celebrate the arrival of the “new Brazil”. They have been hailed as heros by the jubilant crowd, convinced of an imminent return to order thanks to the hard-line politics promised by the Social Liberal Party’s (PSL) candidate. This electoral campaign, which has been called the most violent and divisive since the return of democracy after years of military dictatorship (1964-1985), is not a mere historical blip. It needs to be considered in the context of the democratic and constitutional system that was left for dead by 2016’s parliamentary coup d’état of left-wing president Dilma Roussef and the arbitrary incarceration of her predecessor - and until recently the presidential favorite - Lula.

“Groups of agro-exporters, evangelical pastors, the head of the armed forces, Sao Paolo’s financial and economic worlds, the “republican” right-wing parties, the media; they’ve all switched their support to Bolsonaro. He is the establishment candidate, but because of this support, the message has spread that he is an alternative to the left-wing Worker’s Party (PT) although that party hasn’t been in power since 2016”, justly recalls Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, research fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS). These new developments, coupled with the economic recession, the instances of extreme violence and the legal system’s focus on criminal elements in the Worker’s Party (PT) but not in other parties, have come to demonise the Left,” he added. Consequently, Bolsonaro won a total of 57,797,121 votes compared with the 47,040,819 votes (44.87%) won by Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party (PT).

Nicknamed “The Myth” - a saviour, but for the world of fascism

As the democratic camp’s much sought after “turning point” in the run-up to the second round of presidential elections did not materialise, the former mayor of Sao Paulo has recorded an increase of nearly 16 million votes compared with an increase of 8 million at the first round of elections on 7th October. Once again, the man who his supporters call “The Myth” - a saviour, but for the world of fascism - has made a clean sweep of all areas, especially cities. The exception being the interior regions of the north-east of the country, a left-wing stronghold. The 20% of voters who abstained and the close to 10 million null and void ballots bear witness, in a way, to the extreme polarity dividing the country.

A former army captain, who was reprimanded for stirring up trouble in the ranks by attacking low salaries, has found himself at the head of the world’s 10th economic power. After praying with his loved ones and presenting the Bible as his electoral “toolbox”, Jair Bolsonaro undertook, albeit poorly, the traditional speech of the newly-elected president. Once again taking up his favourite topic of the danger of “subversion”, he declared that “the Ministry of Education will put aside topics of ideology” in favour of “family values”. “The family will be at the forefront of the ministry”, he has emphasised. A fair favour in return for the outspoken support from evangelicals which allowed him to win over an electorate on the margins which is generally black and from a more modest background. The ministry itself could fall under the leadership of General Aléssio Souto, a man who encourages the teaching of creationism, the belief that God created man.

“We could no longer flirt with communism or populism”

It will not be a question of rubbing along with his adversaries for the former Rio de Janeiro congressman, who sees them as enemies on the inside. “We could no longer flirt with socialism, communism and populism”, he has often repeated, echoing the rhetoric of the cold war. Just a week ago, he promised to “clean up” Brazil, reading lines from the book of national security, held dear by many a Latin American dictator of the 20th century. On Sunday, he spoke of “pacifying” the country, thus evoking the Duke of Caxias, one of the leaders of the Paraguayan War and that war’s tens of thousands of deaths.

The return of the military has nothing to do with nostalgia

The armed forces will be the backbone of the closely-knit future government. The Ministry of Defence is once again under the leadership of retired General Augusto Heleno, who began his career during the dictatorship. Just like the now vice-President, General Antonio Hamilton Mourao, he is well known for his speeches in favour of racial whitening and his indictment of the new republic’s constitutionality. The return of the military to the frontline of politics has nothing to do with nostalgia. “The mistake” of the years of dictatorship “was to torture but not to kill” Bolsanaro has declared, thus setting out his vision regarding the state, the issue of democracy and pluralism. The authoritarianism that he promotes will seek to quell internal opposition which, as soon as the first social and economic reforms come about, which will be gone. The protectionism and interventionism of the previous administration has been replaced by a limitless ultraliberalism which will be orchestrated by the ex-banker Paulo Guedes, a classic product of the Chicago Boys school. “He has stated that the priority will be balancing the budget. Especially revising all social policies, challenging the quotas destined to facilitate access by the majority of the black, mixed-race and Indian population to education, and social assistance in general, which according to Bolsonaro encourage inaction and laziness. He says the state has been living beyond its means for thirty years. This review is indicative of an ideological choice. It will be accompanied by fiscal changes with a flat rate of 20% and a tax reduction for employers”, explains research fellow Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky. These measures and the privatisation of large state-owned petrol and electricity companies should pass easily in both the upper and lower chambers of the new Congress, thought to be the most reactionary of recent decades. The Social Liberal Party and the Worker’s Party are neck and neck there in terms of numbers but the left remains in the extreme minority. The array of parties with seats there - more than thirty made up of large parliamentary groups from agribusiness, weapons manufacturers and evangelical and other Christian groups - are largely in favour of the president.

“We have lost, we’re sad and worried”

In the face of this one-man tidal wave, and the threats to the rule of law, progressives are taking a gamble on merging. “We have lost, we’re sad and worried. (...) But sadness must quickly become resistence”, said Manuela d’Avila, the communist candidate to be Fernando Haddad’s vice-president. “Civil rights, political rights, social and worker’s rights are now at stake. (...) We have the responsibility of presenting an opposition which places the interests of the nation above all.” asserts Lula’s former minister. Her party has already expressed its concern regarding the security of its leaders and its activists. The monsters are free, bolstered by the torrent of hate and intolerance unleashed by bolsonarist propaganda.

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