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Brazil and its democracy


Current President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, with ex-president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva. (2011) Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR under a Creative Commons Licence

The attempts to push the current President Dilma Rousseff out of power echo the country’s dark past, writes Bruno De Oliveira.

Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva was placed at the disposal of justice. A police apparatus was set up to coerce the former Brazilian president to testify under the cross-hairs of the mainstream media outlet Globo, which, in the past, supported the 1964 coup and subsequent dictatorship. Referring to the country’s history, Pedro Serrano, professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and constitutional law scholar notes that this action against Lula is already the biggest crime committed against a former president since the military forcibly removed Joao Goulart from office on 1 April, 1964. Serrano says that Brazil is now a lawless country where fundamental rights are overlooked for particular citizens and where only one political area is opportunistically investigated.

The operation known as ‘Car Wash’ (Lava Jato) – which was designed to force Lula to testify – was leaked to the Globo television network in advance so that their helicopter could hover over the former president’s house before the federal police arrived. During the night, Epoca magazine’s editor-in-chief (which belongs to the Globo media network) tweeted about the actions that would take place the following morning. This demonstrated the media’s power to manipulate public opinion with a noticeable coup-driven agenda.

Federal judge Sérgio Moro has become the high-profile face of the campaign against the PT Party (the Worker’s Party), Dilma Rousseff and Lula. Rather than being a saviour, Moro is more like the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, known for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, trying to stop a leader from gaining power. Moro is playing a political role designed to halt the former president Lula from running again for the presidency in the 2018 elections.

RELATED: Country profile: Brazil , New Internationalist magazine, April 2016

Whatever difficulties her administration may have faced, the impeachment of President Rousseff has nothing to do with corruption and that is the reason why it needs to be seen as a coup. The argument used by her opposition is based on ‘fiscal pedalling’; a routine public budget management practice which occurs at different levels of government, federal, state and municipal. It is important to note that the practice was applied during previous presidential mandates of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula and it was considered okay at the time. Rousseff commonly placed the government owned Caixa Economica’s federal money into social programs. It wasn't for Rousseff 's personal benefit as has been widely noted.

In contrast, Eduardo Cunha, president of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, and who is responsible for impeachment proceedings, has allegedly received more than $14 million in deposits placed in secret accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens. Most recently, the leaked Panama Papers have implicated Cunha to bribes linked to offshore companies involved in the country’s Petrobras state oil scandal. Media have pointed out the hypocrisy of Cunha’s role against Rousseff in allegedly rooting out corruption.

There is a great deal of debate in Brazil over the idea that these moves against Rousseff were orchestrated to strengthen the course of a coup against the Brazilian democratic system.

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Brazil is experiencing the return of an old ghost which haunts its cultural, social and political life, the conflict between the master’s ‘Casa-Grande’ (colonial mansion) and the slaves ‘Senzala’ (quarters). Sociologist Gilberto Freyre has explained the important role of the Casa-Grande and the Senzala in Brazilian social-cultural reproduction. His classic book, Casa-Grande and Senzala (Masters and the Slaves) emphasizes the formation of Brazilian society in the context of miscegenation among white, mainly Portuguese, blacks of various African nations and different indigenous tribes that inhabited Brazil.

The architecture of the Casa-Grande expresses Brazil’s form of social organization and political system. That is, politics was traditionally only a domain for the Casa-Grande. Brazilian corporate media, especially Globo, has supported that cultural perspective for generations. Globo media is ethically comparable to the Daily Mail in Britain. The Brazilian political crisis is fuelled by predominantly white upper-middle class attitudes toward the predominantly black working-class and its access to redistributive social welfare programs.

It is this powerful press which chooses the heroes and the victims, designating public enemies from its class opponents. It creates the defendants and supports the judges who say that penalties should be applied regardless of the legal apparatus because in their application they can always twist, distort and remake the law.

The Casa-Grande will most certainly change labour laws to the detriment of workers, introduce paid education into federal universities, repress social movements and freedom of expression on the internet, support agribusiness to retake ownership of indigenous lands and eliminate Brazil's steps be dictated by foreign policy.

Most human development indicators show that 2008-2014 marked the best period in Brazilian history. For example, economic inflation ranged between 4.31 per cent and 6.5 per cent, considered optimum for an economy. The unemployment rate in 2014 was 4.8 per cent, the lowest ever recorded. The PT party enacted laws requiring that 50 per cent of all students enrolled at public universities are from low-income backgrounds and primarily Afro-Brazilian, in accordance with their representation level in the general population. Before the PT took office, this indicator hovered around 5 per cent. Brazil’s foreign reserves are still 10 times higher than they were before the PT took office. However, the mainstream media is not designed to reveal, but to cover up or even to fabricate news.

Brazil experienced the first impact of the global economic crisis in 2009, when the Brazilian GDP suffered a decline of 2.5 per cent in the third quarter of that year. However some mainstream media bizarrely decontextualize this moment by ignoring the wider context of the global economic crisis unfolding at the time.

Rousseff’s administration increased the minimum wage to $252 for 2016. This represents a real increase, above inflation, of 77 per cent since 2003 and will inject $16 billion into the economy. This income increase promotes a better redistribution of wealth, reduces poverty and provides a return of $8.5 billion in revenue with taxes.

The reactionary singsong of the media is one of its instruments of manipulation. It is most effective when it comes to the ideological struggle. A democracy in Brazil needs to be controlled and validated by Globo or it is not a democracy. Globo has a long and dirty history when it comes to defending its political interests against Brazilian regimes that historically enacted strong minimum wage policies. The media outlet continues its tradition against Lula and Rousseff.

Similar to many countries throughout Latin America, this is a critical moment for democracy in Brazil. In the last election the Brazilian people decided its president, as their constitution clearly states they should. #NoToTheCoup.

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