A momentous week in Brasil was also one where the dominant international narrative shifted from widespread depiction of a “Heroic Impartial Anti-Corruption Campaign” (If you question the method you’re defending thieves) & “Spontaneous, Popular, Patriotic Anti-Government Uprising” (If you question mass media incitement & foreign funding you’re denying agency) to one which described that what was actually happening – in all its complexity – amounted to a power-grab, an attempted Judicial/Mediatic Coup d’état in progress.
The shift also coincided with the Odebrecht list, a document containing over 300 Politicians – recipients of bribes (mixed with legal campaign donations) – which made Globo and Right Wing media’s focus on Lula & Dilma all the more untenable – the pair were not even on it.
Operation Lava Jato Judge Sergio Moro then, perhaps sensing a strategic error, re-sealed the document, as if the Internet didn’t exist.
It was also the same week that a foreign-funded student group harassed the family of a Supreme Court judge Teori Zavascki for his role in removing Former President Lula’s case from Sergio Moro’s juristiction. Omission of the documented foreign funding for Anti-Government groups in Brasil has been one of the most significant failures of international media the last year or so – it finally appeared on PRI a week ago. That this crucial component to Brasil’s political situation didn’t appear in any major Anglo newspaper in the last 12 months shames them all.
The wind changes direction
On the 18th March, The Intercept published this piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and Brasil resident, Glenn Greenwald, along with Andrew Fishman, David Miranda & Cecília Oliveira, called “Brasil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption — and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy“.
“Last night, NBC News’s Chuck Todd re-tweeted the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer describing anti-Dilma protests as “The People vs. the President” — a manufactured theme consistent with what is being peddled by Brazil’s anti-government media outlets such as Globo”
“That narrative is, at best, a radical oversimplification of what is happening and, more often, crass propaganda designed to undermine a left-wing party long disliked by U.S. foreign policy elites. That depiction completely ignores the historical context of Brazil’s politics and, more importantly, several critical questions: Who is behind these protests, how representative are the protesters of the Brazilian population, and what is their actual agenda?”
“To believe that the influential figures agitating for Dilma’s impeachment are motivated by an authentic anti-corruption crusade requires extreme naïveté or wilful ignorance.”
“The effort to remove Dilma and her party from power now resembles a nakedly anti-democratic power struggle more than a legally sound process or genuine anti-corruption movement. Worse, it’s being incited, engineered, and fueled by the very factions who are themselves knee-deep in corruption scandals, and who represent the interests of the richest and most powerful societal segments long angry at their inability to defeat PT democratically.”
“In other words, it all seems historically familiar, particular for Latin America, where democratically elected left-wing governments have been repeatedly removed by non-democratic, extra-legal means.”
A day later 19th March, the day after huge Anti-Coup demonstrations across the country, Germany’s Der Spiegel published this commentary by Jens Glüsing, the first major foreign newspaper to refer to the situation as a de-facto Coup or Kalter Putsch (Cold Coup). Previously the word Coup had been confined within inverted-commas in any mainstream international coverage, if featured at all.
Also on the same day, Al Jazeera English published this video piece, detailing the role of mass media, in particular TV Globo, in fomenting what one interviewee called a Soft-Coup in the country.
21st March saw a flurry of similar pieces appear around the world.
India’s The Hindu one of the country’s most influential English-language newspapers remarked that “Coups need not come from the barracks any longer – the Media is sufficient.”
French correspondent Lamia Oualalou asked if what was happening in Brasil was a “Cold Coup”, echoing the language of Der Spiegel. Dave Zirin, sports editor of US magazine The Nation and regular commentator on Brasil published “How the Rio Olympics Could Cement a Brazilian Coup“. Brasil Wire itself published this translation of a text from PSOL Politician Jean Wyllys accusing TV Globo of propaganda over the disparity in treatment of Pro and Anti Government demonstrations. Neighbouring Argentina’s Buenos Aires Herald published this Op-Ed talked matter of factly about Brazilian coupmongering, in relation to Argentina’s own experiences.
A day later, March 22nd – The Nation ran again with a comprehensive piece by Latin American expert Greg Grandin “Millennials Are Taking to the Streets to Defend Democracy in Brasil” in which he talks about “…the millennials who came out on the streets on March 18, who are calling the “anti-corruption” campaign for what it is: a coup.”
On March 23rd, US Left publication Jacobin published this important piece by Professor Alfredo Saad-Filho, which had originally appeared on Brasil Wire a day previously.
“Under neoliberalism, coups d’état must follow legal niceties, as was shown in Honduras, in 2009, and in Paraguay, in 2012.
Brasil is likely to join their company, but not just now: large sections of capital want to restore the hegemony of neoliberalism; those who once supported the PT’s national development strategy have fallen into line; the media is howling so loudly it has become impossible to think clearly; and most of the upper-middle class has descended into a fascist odium for the PT, the Left, the poor, and blacks.”
Glenn Greenwald was back on the 24th, speaking to Democracy Now which featured translated quotes from both Lula and President Rousseff calling events a Coup in no uncertain terms.
Those who call me to resign show the fragility of their conviction of the process of impeachment, because, above all, they are trying to instate a coup d’état against our democracy. I can assure you that I will not cooperate with this. I will not resign for any reason whatsoever. … I have not committed any crime under the constitution and law to justify an interruption to my mandate. To condemn someone for a crime that they did not commit is the greatest violence that can be committed against any person. It is a brutal injustice. It is illegal. I was victim to this injustice once, under the dictatorship, and I fought to never be a victim again, under democracy. – President Dilma Rousseff
The current attempt against Dilma is a coup. There’s no other word for it. It is a coup. And this country cannot accept a coup against Dilma. If there was one last thing I could do in my life, it would be to help Dilma turn this country around, with the decency that the Brazilian public deserves. – Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Greenwald himself went on to remark: “what you’re now seeing is, unfortunately, the judiciary, which has been pretty scrupulous until now about being apolitical, working with the plutocrats of Brasil to try and achieve a result that really is a subversion of democracy, which is exploiting the scandal to remove President Rousseff from power through impeachment, even though there really are no grounds of impeachment that would be legal or valid as a means of removing her from office.”
“In Brasil, like in so many countries, they had a democratically elected government in early 1960s, which the United States disliked because it was a left-wing government—not a communist government, but a left-wing government—that was devoted to the distribution of wealth for the social welfare, for opposing United States’ capitalistic interests and attempts to interfere in Brasil. And the Brazilian military, in 1964, staged a coup that overthrew that democratically elected government, and proceeded to impose on Brasil a really brutal military dictatorship that served the interests of the United States, was allied to the United States for the next 21 years. Of course, at the time, the United States government, U.S. officials, before Congress and in the public eye, vehemently denied that they played any role in that coup. And as happened so many times in the past, documents ultimately emerged years later that showed that not only was the U.S. supportive of that coup, but played a direct role in helping to plot it and plan it and stage it and then prop up that dictatorship for 21 years. That dictatorship used very extreme torture techniques on the nation’s dissidents, on the Brazilian citizens who were working to undermine that right-wing military dictatorship, among whom was the current president, Dilma Rousseff, who in the 1970s was a guerrilla, essentially, working against the U.S.-supported military dictatorship. She was detained and imprisoned without trial and then tortured rather severely. And the documents have revealed that it was the U.S. and the U.K. that actually taught the military leaders the best types of torture techniques to use.”
France’s Le Figaro joined the list of publications critical of Sergio Moro’s methods and on the 25th, São Paulo based Shoban Saxena rounded off the week with this excellent piece on The Wire India called “A Coup Is In the Air: The Plot to Unsettle Rousseff, Lula and Brasil“
A Cordial Invitation
A week after these first high profile cracks in the narrative began to appear, president Rousseff called a special press conference for 6 selected representatives of international media.
There were some very notable absentees from the Press Conference invitations, perhaps a more interesting list than the attendees:
Washington Post – unsurprising given its habit of presenting US interest and State Department talking points as journalism.
Reuters – Their facade of impartiality in Brasil was virtually wiped out in 2015 by the #PodemosTirarSeAcharMelhor (Can take this out if you think better) scandal where the implication of Former President Cardoso (PSDB Opposition) in Petrobras corruption was removed – the editors note was accidentally left in the published text, revealing all.
BBC – A slight surprise, but perhaps the Brazilian Government consider BP’s potential influence on it an issue, given what is in store for Petrobras should the Coup succeed.
CNN’s omission speaks for itself, it is consistently poor in its reporting on Brasil, has cheerleaded Anti-Government street demonstrations, and Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour is well known for parroting the State Department line.
No financial press made it at all.
Of those who did get the nod, NYT & Guardian, though by no means perfect when it comes to Brasil were essential inclusions for the Anglo world. This account was the better of the two, from the Guardian.
The quotes from Rousseff are a rare instance where she has been quoted directly in Anglo media.
Le Monde, Die Zeit, El Pais were deemed the best European outlets, assumedly given that Der Spiegel had already ran with its ‘Kalter Putsch’ (Cold Coup) headline.
There have been 3 British editorials published in recent weeks which were in favour of Brazilian “Regime change” – be it through Rousseff’s resignation or otherwise – from Economist, Telegraph, Observer.
One can only imagine the media uproar in the UK if Brasil’s Valor Economico Magazine ran an editorial imploring Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.
One day before Rousseff held her press conference, US President Barack Obama held his own on his visit to Argentina, appearing with newly elected and Vulture-Funded President Macri where they stressed the need for a “Strong Brasil” yet omitted to mention the actual President, Dilma Rousseff.
Semantics until it is all over
Against this growing shift in international narrative, there remains a dwindling core of mainstream foreign commentators, with no apparent unique insight or access, insisting with total certainty that the situation is not a Coup – the argument being that actual legal impeachment of a President is not a Coup (which is of course true, but see above), and also the quite preposterous “media doesn’t affect public opinion” (these arguments reflect those being used by the Brazilian Right).
There is so much more to this Coup than a single impeachment effort (and so little actual basis for a legal one), that such a position is looking increasingly like one which will find itself on the wrong side of history. And it will likely become a lonelier place over the coming weeks and months, regardless of if the Coup succeeds.
Paraguay 2012 and Honduras 2009 weren’t defined back then as Coups by the international media. However, many Brazilians at that time called the former “Golpeachment” (Golpe = Coup), before seeing that the country was suspended from Mercosur as a result of it. Even Brasil in 1964 was called, and still is, by some conservatives a “Revolution”. The obfuscating semantic debate about what constitutes a modern Coup is over – Call it Regime Change, call it Democratic Subversion, or more the descriptive Judicial/Mediatic Coup.
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