Brazil took another step towards an institutional coup in the Senate last Thursday, May 12. In his first speech as interim President, Michel Temer (PMDB) spoke of “trust” and the “vitality of democracy,” in a speech negated by his first official measures: privatizations under the guise of public cost cutting, while real spending cuts curtail strategic social programs and the fight against inequality and oppression. His plan is called “A Bridge to the Future,” but its design, perhaps crafted by contractors involved in kickbacks, opens roads that lead to the past, back to extreme neoliberal times in the 90s and even further back, to the civilian-military dictatorship.
Even limited doorways opened by PT presidents Dilma Roussef and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have now been slammed shut. Ministries responsible for Agrarian Development, Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights were eliminated. Their budgets had never been enough to meet the needs, but they allowed Brazil’s social organizations and movements, including FASE, to push hard for policies that were truly in the public interest. Recently, for example, more than 60 institutions published a manifesto to defend family farming and agroecology. They opposed the dismantling of the Technical Assistance and Rural Extension program (Ater), the Food Procurement Program (PAA) and the National School Meals Program (PNAE), which had helped take Brazil off the global Hunger Map.
Other areas that are key for intensifying democracy were also swept away overnight, like Culture and Communications. The national motto “order and progress” is invoked to signal the priority of economic recovery, with the “unification of Brazil” for its “national salvation.”
Such nationalistic rhetorical throwbacks illustrate well the thrust of institutions unable to include a single person who is not a “white man” in the upper echelons of the new administration, utterly shutting out the 75% of Brazilians [DH1] (according to official statistics) who are women and/or black. Indigenous peoples, as always, have no representatives at all amongst these “representatives of the people.”
The corporate media also plays an important role in criminalizing “politics.” Newspapers, magazines, the TV and radios, all concentrated in a few hands, constantly reduce the movements to “red demonstrators,” as if they all necessarily defended Dilma and her policies. Is this the “free press” exalted by Senators as they cast their impeachment votes? A press that polarizes, drowns out other voices and promotes intolerance? Of course the PT’s members, sympathizers and voters have been in the streets, but the movement deserves a closer look. The very day she was removed from office, the President herself recognized that groups critical of her government had also come out to defend democracy.
Two left-wing coalitions of movements have organized demonstrations nationwide: the People’s Brazil Front and the People Without Fear Front. From differing analytical standpoints, they have shown the importance of unity in diversity at this historic moment. When the Senate voted to open impeachment proceedings and remove Dilma for as much as six months, People’s Brazil stressed that “the people’s vote was usurped by members of Congress willing to ignore the people’s vote and storm political power to create an illegitimate government.” People Without Fear, meanwhile, emphasized that the coup underway “was essentially led by the former Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, implicated in countless corruption scandals.” In addition to these two coalitions, other groups are fighting back in a variety of arenas. For FASE, what matters is the dialog among these forces, to block any further regression.
We must also block budget cutbacks and the commodification of rights like education, health and transportation, while resisting a coup that can have negative impacts throughout Latin America, to the sole benefit of “free” trade with the US, China and Europe. With our oil and other natural resources also at stake, we must now expand the debate on Petrobras’ control over our Pre-Salt oil to examine alternative forms of development that favor the people rather than transnationals. In addition to the “Light for All” expansion of electric power to poor farmers, we must diversify our sources of energy, to be able to leave the oil, gas and minerals underground while allowing biodiversity to flourish in all the country’s biomes, along with those whose lives depend on that diversity.
We shall continue to criticize bankrupt policies of class conciliation in the name of “governability” which feed widespread aberrations that even Operation Carwash, with its narrow and partial approach, will be unable to set right. Our repudiation of corruption, however, does not make us allies of the coup mongers. Dilma claims to have committed no crimes, but only mistakes. We insist that his has nothing to do with so-called fiscal shenanigans. A succession of governments has forgotten about land reform, let the pesticide industry do what it wants, exposed communities to huge development projects such as the Belo Monte hydropower complex in Pará and works for the World Cup and Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and several other States, the Suape ocean port in Pernambuco, and others.
We have suffered setbacks around our continent, in Africa and even in Europe, with its refugee crisis and reactions to it, and more austerity policies. We draw the attention of our overseas allies to the importance of international solidarity in response to the deviant path taken by our young democracy. It is vital that left-wing forces mobilize worldwide to make sure this process underway in Brazil, a key geopolitical target, does not spill over anywhere else. May history tell the true story of this attack on the Democratic Rule of Law in our country.