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Dossier Brazil

Tuesday 6 November 2018, by siawi3


Movements after Brazil elections: let us not be overwhelmed, the struggle continues

Sunday 28 October 2018,

by Brazil Popular Front, People Without Fear Front

Two of Brazil’s major people’s fronts released a statement on the result of the country’s presidential elections.


The election is over, but the fight is just beginning:

We hold our heads up resisting for Brazil!

We lived an entirely atypical electoral process. Since the end of the military period, we have not had the political imprisonment of a leader, such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was unjustly convicted and whose candidacy was contested by the Superior Electoral Court. A process in which forces that had so far operated in the undergrounds, have emerged in the presidential dispute provoking a great wave of hatred and violence against the Brazilian people.

Our candidacy was a democratic response to arbitration that has contaminated the political scene since the parliamentary coup that overthrew President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. We faced abuses and scams practiced by networks committed to petty anti-popular, anti-democratic and anti-national interests.

The election of Bolsonaro represents a political rupture, whose signs are represented in the murder of Marielle, of Moa Katendê - black leader, capoeirista in Bahia, Charlione - a young man from Ceará who was taking part in an election parade in support to Haddad’s candidacy. They threaten our lives because we fight for an equal and just country.

Even under bullets, we have resisted defending national sovereignty, raped in so many ways in the last two years. Protected by sectors of the judicial system and the monopoly media, the candidate Mr Bolsonaro was left free to finance his lying machine with clandestine money, incite violence against his opponents, escape public debates and circumvent electoral rules.

These forces, through deception and truculence, with maneuvers still subject to investigations, arrived at the Presidency of the Republic.

Despite so many obstacles, our alliance organized a powerful resistance throughout the country, which led to the realization of the second round and a formidable movement in defense of civilization against barbarism, democracy against dictatorship, love against hate.

In this second round, which ended yesterday, men and women from all quarters have expressed their support for the constitutional pillars of our country. This journey would never have been possible, however, without the dedication and courage of the social movements and democratic sectors of society.

We will continue to defend the Constitution, social diversity, the rights of all, a Brazil for all and fight the danger of dictatorship, the elimination of social achievements, the sale of public assets, the delivery of national wealth, racism and misogyny, homophobia and the threat of institutionalized violence.

At the moment, it is essential to remain together and cohesive around democracy, national sovereignty and rights.

We must not let ourselves be overwhelmed by fear, for we have each other. Different from what they think, the Brazilian people will know how to resist.

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo. MST Brazil, October 29, 2018:



After Brazil Presidential Election – The MST: “We have to go back to doing grassroots workâ€

Monday 29 October 2018

by João Pedro STEDILE

Landless workers’ leader spoke with Brasil de Fato on the next steps for the left after Jair Bolsonaro’s victory.

“We leave this process with closer ties and organized capacity and strength to resist this professed fascist offensive,†said João Pedro Stedile, from the national coordination of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) about the result of Brazil’s 2018 presidential elections.

In an interview to the Brasil de Fato Radio immediately after Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the runoff election, Stedile pointed out that, despite the defeat, progressive forces won politically, as a strong unity has developed over the past few weeks. In his opinion, Bolsonaro’s government, which will start on Jan. 1, 2019, will be similar to the Pinochet regime in Chile in its fascist nature.

"It’s a government that will continuously use repression, threats, intimidation. It will unleash the reactionary forces that exist in society. On the other hand, they will try to give complete freedom to capital in a neoliberal program. However, that formula is not viable, it does not provide social cohesion, and it does not solve the population’s basic problems,†Stedile said.

Read the interview below.

Brasil de Fato: What can you say to the more than 46 million people who voted for candidate Fernando Haddad, who was endorsed by the MST?

João Pedro Stedile: We are still in the heat of the moment [after the results came out] and, first and foremost, we have to keep calm and understand the context of class struggle, and not feel defeated by this result. The ballots may have legitimized Bolsonaro, but that does not mean he had the support of the majority of the people. There is a high level of absenteeism, 31 million [voters]. Haddad had 45 million [votes]. That’s 76 million Brazilians who did not vote for Bolsonaro.

Therefore, the Brazilian society is divided. Even the results of the election, from what I could see from previous opinion polls, it was clear that those supporting Haddad’s platform are the ones who earn less, between two and five minimum wages, those with low level of education. And clearly the richer and wealthier voted for Bolsonaro.

But there is also a clear difference between regions in the elections. When we look at Brazil’s map of elected governors, 12 progressive candidates who won [out of 27 states] support people’s organizations, from Pará state [in the North] to governor Renato Casagrande in Espírito Santo [in the Southeast]. The Northeast and all that area in the Amazon are a hub of resistance in terms of regions, which clearly shows the people there do not want to follow the paths of Bolsonaro’s fascist project.

Finally, as a brief analysis, everyone is talking about it, aside from the election results, last week consolidated a political victory for the left and people’s movements. We had numerous demonstrations of all organized forces. Unions, intellectuals, students, universities.

Never in Brazil’s history have there been more than 500,000 women all over the country, in 360 cities, taking to the streets to say “Not Him,†“No to Fascism,†so I believe the analysis is that it is not a political defeat. We suffered an electoral defeat, but we leave this process with closer ties and organized capacity and strength to resist this professed fascist offensive.

Despite Bolsonaro’s braggers, we know the institutions have limits. He has said that he plans to designate the MST and the MTST [Homeless Workers’ Movement] as terrorist organizations. Do you see this as a real possibility?

I think Bolsonaro’s government will be similiar, if we draw a parallel, to the Pinochet regime in Chile. Not in the way he came into power, but for its fascist nature. It’s a government that will continuously use repression, threats, intimidation. It will unleash the reactionary forces that exist in society. On the other hand, they will try to give complete freedom to capital in a neoliberal program. However, that formula is not viable, it does not provide social cohesion, and it does not solve the population’s basic problems.

Brazil is going through a serious economic crisis, which is the root of all this process. Since 2012, the country has not grown. And as it does not grow, as it does not produce new wealth, social, economic, and environment problems increase.

With his ultra neoliberal program, where he only stands for the interests of capital, he may help banks, make banks continue to profit, help transnational corporations to hijack what is left of what we have here, but, as they will not solve people’s real problems in terms of employment, income, labor right, pension, land, housing, that will intensify contradictions.

That will lead to social chaos that will allow people’s movements to go back to the offensive line, with mass mobilizations. And, deep down, in addition to what is in the Constitution – which he will not respect very much –, what will protect us is, not running to hide. What will protect us is the ability to bring the people together, keep fighting with the masses in defense of rights, of improving living conditions. And people’s mobilizations will protect our activists and leaders. Let us not be scared. The contradictions they will have will be much bigger than the possibility of repressing with impunity.

There is another struggle, which is related to the elections, but has been put on the back burner since the election process started: ex-president [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva]’s illegal, unfair imprisonment. What is the prospect for people’s movements for this other battlefield?

We’ve all seen what happened, president Lula was kidnapped by capital through a court system that is completely subservient to these interests. He was illegally imprisoned. There are many others – not only politicians, but ordinary citizens – who remain free pending trial, as stipulated in the Constitution, which only allows imprisoning someone after their conviction is no longer appealable.

In Lula’s case, it is still pending trial with the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) and then with the Supreme Court. Then they did not let him run for president when he was registered as a candidate. Other 1,400 candidates could run with the same conditions as Lula, but he was banned from running, and finally, they forbid him from speaking [with the media], while any ordinary criminal [in jail] can grant an interview to Globo [Brazil’s largest media conglomerate]. But they banned Lula from speaking to the people. Actually, they knew Lula is the major people’s leader that could bring massive forces together with the Brazilian people, and that would lead to a debate about projects. It’s clear that part of Lula’s voters, who believe in Lula, are workers who were tricked by a campaign based on lies, and they ended up voting for Bolsonaro.

For the left and people’s movements, we have a huge challenge from now on, to organize people’s committees all over Brazil, organize a truly massive movement, and organize a truly international campaign for his release and his nomination for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize, as this is the campaign spearheaded by Nobel Peace Prize [laureate] Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

We are going to have a huge task to organize these committees and make this campaign a people’s banner. Obviously, there will be other challenges that we, the left and people’s movements, will have to face in the coming cycle in order to come together as it has been suggested, we have to turn the Brazil Popular Front, the People Without Fear Front, maybe bring everyone together in a People’s Antifascist Front for Democracy.

It could be an even broader instrument than Brazil Popular Front itself. We have a lot to fight for from now on. This is class struggle. It looks like a soccer game in a long tournament. You lose match, but can win another one. But the key is to gather strengths and organize our people. That’s what changes the correlation of forces.

How is the left after this battle? Parties, movements, Fernando Haddad himself?

I was personally engaged, as well as our movement and the Brazil Popular Front, and what we clearly witnessed over the past two weeks gave us new encouragement, a new interpretation to what is happening in Brazil. A lot of people were mobilized, regardless of parties and movements, which means there is energy in society and we will be able to resist fascism.

Now we cannot reduce things to parties and keep wondering what will happen with one or the other. It’s not about people. Class struggle is about class, so it’s the dynamic of class struggle that changes the correlation of forces and that will solve people’s problems. Amid class struggles, new leaders and new references emerge. We cannot cling onto these interpretations.

“Haddad has the means [to run] in 2022.†“Ciro has the means.†Ciro Gomes did well in the first round, but then he threw all that away when he decided not to get involved in the political battle in the second round. Ciro’s [political] lifespan lasted three weeks. That’s how class struggle works.

I think the left and people’s movements who have very specific causes, women, housing, land, unions, we have to be collected and look into things, with critical assessments and self-criticism, and restore our historical working class agenda to face the challenges of life and history.

This campaign made one thing clear: we have to resume grassroots work – Mano Brown [renowned Brazilian rapper] said it and he was right. If we had had the patience, over the past six months, to go door to door on the outskirts, where the poor people live, I believe we would have had a different election result. People understand, but no one is going there to talk to them.

We have to understand that what changes the correlation of forces is not a speech, is not a WhatsApp message. What changes the correlation of forces and solve people’s real-life problems is organizing the working class and the people to engage in mass struggle and solve their problems.

If we lack jobs, we have to fight against unemployment. If LP gas prices are too high, we have to fight to lower them. That requires mass struggle. Likewise, the left stopped its political education work. People were tricked by the lies of Bolsonaro’s WhatsApp campaign. Why? Because there is no political awareness to know what is a lie and what was part of that game. That can only be tackled with political and ideological education. When people are aware and have knowledge, they can make up their own minds and don’t wait for anyone’s guidance.

We also have to further strengthen the beautiful work you do here at Brasil de Fato, with a radio station, newspaper, compact newspaper, online. Strengthen our people’s outlets. Now is the perfect time for it.

Finally, we have to start a new conversation in the country, about a new sovereign project for an equal, fair society. Because this campaign was based on lies and on the fight against lies, we did not talk about platforms, we did not talk about a structural project for the country. Now we have to bring that converstation back, and rebuild, over the next months and years, a people’s unity around a project. A platform of solutions for the people, because the government will not do that.

MST Brazil. Monday, October 29, 2018:



Brazil is on the verge of electing a Duterte-style fascist. What can the left do?

Thursday 25 October 2018,

by Walden BELLO

Dear friends:

I’m writing to you on the eve of your going to the polls to determine the future of your wonderful country.

I think it’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of Brazil hangs in the balance. It’s also hardly hyperbole to assert that the election will have massive geopolitical significance, since if Brazil votes for Jair Bolsonaro, the extreme right will have come to power in the Western Hemisphere’s two biggest countries. Like many of you, I’m hoping for a miracle that will prevent Bolsonaro from coming to power.

When I visited Rio and São Paulo in 2015, I observed that the political rallies mounted by the opposition to then-President Dilma Rousseff contained a small but vocal fringe element calling for a return to military rule. Little did I suspect then that that fringe would expand into a massive electoral movement in support of a self-proclaimed advocate of strongman rule.


It’s amazing to many of us here in the Philippines how similar Bolsonaro is to our president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has spoken about how he wished he’d raped a dead female missionary. Bolsonaro told a fellow member of parliament that she didn’t deserve to be raped by him. Duterte has spoken in admiration of our dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos and decreed his burial at our heroes’ cemetery. Bolsonaro has depicted the military rule in Brazil over three decades ago as a golden age.

A friend asked me a few days ago, only partly in jest, “Is there a virus going around that produces horrible boils like Bolsonaro and Duterte?†I thought about her metaphor and thought there was something to it, but rather than being the result of a communicable disease, I think that authoritarian figures emerge from internal suppuration in the body politic.

Before I go further on this, however, let me just give you a sense of what’s happening in the Philippines, since this could very well prefigure Brazil’s future if Bolsonaro gains power, as the polls now indicate, on October 28.


Our lovely Philippine president promised to “fatten the fish in Manila Bay†with the cadavers of criminals if he got elected.

He may not have delivered on his promises to improve the economic and social welfare of our people, like ending contractual employment or banning mining, but on this promise he has delivered: The number of the alleged drug users and dealers he’s murdered, mainly through extrajudicial execution, is between 7,000 and 20,000, the actual figure being toward the higher end.

Even if we just take the lower end, the number of those killed would place the Duterte anti-drug campaign as one of the most murderous enterprise in the recent history of Southeast Asia—with first place going to the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s, and second place going to the Indonesian military’s massacre of Communists and alleged Communists in the mid-1960s, both of which claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.

Underpinning Duterte’s anti-drug campaign is an eliminationist perspective based on the president’s view that shabu—the local term for meth—“would shrink the brain of a person, and therefore he is no longer viable for rehabilitation.†These people are the “living, walking dead,†who are “of no use to society anymore.â€

Elsewhere, I have described Duterte’s approach as “blitzkrieg fascism,†in contrast to “creeping fascism.†In the latter, the fascist leader begins with violations of civil and political rights, followed by the lunge for absolute power, after which follows indiscriminate repression.

Duterte reverses the process. He starts with massive, indiscriminate repression—that is, the killing with impunity of thousands of alleged drug users—leaving the violation of civil liberties and the grab for total power as mopping-up operations in a political atmosphere where fear, coupled with a desire to cozy up to a strongman, has largely neutralized the opposition.

In the past 30 months, the president has removed the chief justice of the Supreme Court; achieved undisputed control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; imprisoned his chief political opponent in the Senate and is about to imprison another; forced most of the media into self-censorship mode; gained the support of most of the rank and file of the military and the acquiescence of the high command; and put a third of the country under martial law. There’s been little outcry from the public on these moves; indeed, his popularity ratings remain quite high.

This last item, the continuing popularity of the president, leads me to the subject of what Brazil and the Philippines have in common.

One cannot explain the emergence of Duterte without taking into account the terrible disappointment with the record of the liberal democratic republic that came into existence with the ouster of Marcos in 1986.

A deadly stranglehold on the democratic process came about owing to several developments. One was the elites’ hijacking of the electoral process as a mechanism to compete among themselves while perpetuating their collective class rule over the people. Another was the combination of the absence of land reform and the imposition of Washington’s neoliberal structural adjustment policies, which produced continuing high levels of inequality and poverty.

When you add to this witch’s brew a third ingredient—the failure of successive administrations to address the crime problem—then it’s not surprising that more than 16 million voters, some 40 percent of the electorate, saw the tough-guy, authoritarian approach that Duterte had cultivated for 30-plus years as mayor of the southern frontier city of Davao as precisely what the country needed.

As the novelist Anthony Doerr said of pre-war Germans, Filipinos were “desperate for someone who can put things right.†Our middle class, it must be pointed out, was the sector that was most enthusiastic about Duterte, the same middle class that 30 years earlier had led the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.


Brazil has experienced the same dreary descent into democratic crisis. Liberal democratic politics became mainly a means by which the entrenched elites protected their wealth and power.

Even the progressive President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva dared not put in place measures of social and economic reform, but tried to perform an end run with a state-financed cash distribution program for the poor, the Bolsa Família, which, while alleviating poverty significantly, did little to change Brazil’s status as one of Latin America’s most unequal countries. Also, through anti-democratic parliamentary shenanigans and judicial manipulation, the center and center right impeached Rousseff and made sure Lula would not again become president.

Corruption there has been as pervasive as in the Philippines, but here one cannot simply blame the right. One of the biggest disappointments for progressives, not only in my country but globally, was the way your Workers’ Party (PT), which had caught people’s imagination in the 1990s as an insurgent force against corruption, became itself enmeshed in corruption, notably the $3.7 billion Petrobras kickback scandal, in which so many members of the PT were involved.

In this regard, a pro-PT friend told me during my visit to São Paulo, “The PT rose to power as a party known for our militant stance against corruption. Now we’re made to look as if we invented corruption.†I can understand his dismay, but the PT has only itself to blame. Engaging in corrupt practices, even when the aim is to gain votes to push progressive legislation in parliament, as some PT supporters justified it, ends up destroying the moral compass of a progressive party.

When you add to right-wing intransigence and the PT’s succumbing to the system’s pervasive corruption the failure to meaningfully address escalating drug-related crime, especially in Rio and other major cities, then Bolsonaro, like Duterte, becomes less of an enigma.

You know all of this, of course, but I simply repeat it to underline the fact that liberal democracy has lost the confidence of vast numbers of people in both our countries, and they have voted—or are about to vote—into power people who have essentially promised to end it. If there’s anything pro-fascist forces the world over have learned from Hitler, it’s that one can come to power through democratic means. But once in power, make sure you never provide the electorate with the opportunity to snatch it from you.


How can the left respond?

The first line of defense for pro-democracy forces is to ensure that the extreme right doesn’t come to power. Having failed that, we now face the challenge of how to remove these forces from power—of course, through democratic means.

Allow me to propose some steps that we can take to regenerate the appeal of democracy.

First of all, the times call for a progressive politics that goes beyond demanding a return to the old discredited elite democracy, where equality was purely formal, to one that has as its centerpiece the achievement of genuine economic and social equality, whether one calls this socialism or post-capitalism. This program must call for stronger state and civil society management of the economy—one that moves it beyond capitalism, with a strong dose of radical income and wealth redistribution, while championing democratic processes, secularism, diversity, and the rights of minorities.

Secondly, while a great many people, especially from the middle classes, share what we might call, to borrow a term from Antonio Gramsci, an “active consensus†supporting authoritarian politics, a great many of the poorer and more marginalized classes either keep the extreme right at arm’s length or limit their support to “passive consensus.†We must focus our counter-mobilization on these sectors.

Third, while we must strive to educate the public on the roots of crime and people’s participation in the drug trade in poverty and inequality, democrats must not be seen as insensitive to people’s concerns about crime. We may not agree with his solution, but we cannot ignore Thomas Hobbes’s insight that one of the reasons the state came into existence was in response to people’s desire for protection of their life and limb. Moreover, while it is the middle class that is most afraid of crime, it is the poor who suffer most from it.

Fourth, right-wing parties and personalities, like Duterte and Bolsonaro, are strongly misogynistic at a time when women’s struggles for their rights are on the ascendant throughout the world. So it is very critical that women in great numbers play a central role in the politics of the anti-fascist movement. Women, when mobilized, are one of the strongest bulwarks against fascism.

Fifth, many progressive and liberal personalities and parties that played key roles in the old liberal democratic political arena have been discredited, along with the liberal democratic system. The Philippine liberal icons Cory Aquino and her son Noynoy Aquino belong to the past, just like the PT figures Dilma and Lula. Thus, while we must construct broad coalitions, it is imperative that new faces, new political formations, and new ideas come to represent the progressive response to fascism. The youth, one must emphasize, are a central battlefield in this conflict, and we’re losing ground among them.

Let me end this missive by repeating what I told a recent conference on human rights here in Manila:

The world we are in today is one that is pretty much the same as in the 1930s, when forces of the extreme right are on the offensive and the fate of progressive democratic politics hangs in the balance. The last few years have buried Francis Fukuyama’s deterministic idea that liberal democracy was every country’s future, just as before Fukuyama momentous events buried the equally deterministic notion that socialism was the wave of the future. The future emerges from the clash of movements and ideas, one that is marked by great uncertainty and contingency. There is no guarantee that our side will prevail, but we will certainly lose unless we resist in a way that combines determination, passion, and wisdom.

In solidarity,

Walden Bello, Manila, Oct. 25, 2018

Joint publication of and Foreign Policy In Focus.

Walden Bello, a columnist at Foreign Policy In Focus, is the author or co-author of 23 books, including the forthcoming Counterrevolution: Origins, Dynamics, Consequences (spring 2019) and The Fall of China? Preventing the Next Crash (spring 2019).