Brazilians take the fight for its Democracy & Sovereignty to AS/COA HQ in New York

On the morning March 2, 2018, a small but determined group of protesters braved the New York rain, sleet and snow to demonstrate outside the Park Avenue headquarters of Americas Society / Council of the Americas (AS/COA).

Inside, an event was being held featuring guest speakers from across the region about what AS/COA, publisher of Americas Quarterly magazine, has championed as an “Anti-Corruption Movement” in Latin America. In these previous articles Brasil Wire has exposed the US roots of this “War on Corruption” which date back to 2002, the shadowy history of AS/COA itself, and its role in manipulating political narratives on Latin America in the interests of its corporate paymasters – particularly in the promotion of Brazilian Anti-Corruption Operation, Lava Jato, which has already helped topple a democratically elected president and with that, splintered and demoralised the country’s centre-left. Amongst the speakers were former Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who in 2017 told assembled billionaires at Davos World Economic Forum that Lava Jato was “Pro-Market” – a clear political position it was not supposed to have. The main guest at the New York event was Lava Jato’s leader, the prosecutor judge Sergio Moro, who has close and well documented connections with both the State Department and US Think Tanks.

The demonstrators reflect a large body of opinion in Brazil which considers the operation both politically motivated and working in the interests of foreign capital.

Other demonstrators posed as AS/COA employees and handed out welcome envelopes to those arriving, containing background information on Lava Jato, the David Rockefeller-founded organisation hosting him, and suggested questions that both Janot and Moro could be scrutinised with during Q&A.

Meanwhile AS/COA’s self-image as a benign organisation whose concern is the welfare of Latin Americans is under more open scrutiny now than at any point since its formation in the 1960s as “Business Group for Latin America”. An early version of Business Group was set up by Rockefeller on the instruction of John F. Kennedy, in order to influence Brazil’s 1962 election, and then went on to form and fund organisations working to destabilise President João Goulart, leading directly to the April 1 1964 Military Coup.

Its involvement in the Chilean Coup of 1973 is even more well documented, yet somehow AS/COA is a blindspot for mainstream journalists, some of whom regularly contribute to its magazine Americas Quarterly. AQ’s editor is former Reuters Brazil head Brian Winter, who left the country in 2015 following a scandal where he was considered to have been censoring US-backed PSDB party’s involvement in the Petrobras bribery scheme which pre-dated Lula’s presidency. That scheme was the basis of Operation Lava Jato, which Winter now enthusiastically champions, in complete disregard of its negative effects on the economy, stability, and sovereignty of the country.

Sergio Moro is rumoured to be leaving Brasil for the United States once Operation Lava Jato is concluded.

Following the protest, a lecture event organised by another group, BRADO-NYC, was held that evening called ‘The struggle for Democracy in Latin America‘ which dealt with similar topics. Brasil Wire spoke to one of the Defend Democracy in Brazil organisers, Nadia Comani.

What do you know about the role of the US Government and Wall Street in the disruption of Brazilian democracy?

The role has been known for decades, from support to the military in the 1960s, against the João Goulart government, to support to economists in the 1980s, and in the past decade, being the backbone of the education of many Brazilian judges, who are now practicing different tactics learned in the US of intervening indirectly, such as in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff – making the illegal proceeding appear legal and to maintain a sense of normalcy of the institutions, while the Institutions themselves are crumbling through defunding, privatisations and destitution of rights and social services to the most needed.

The consolidation of the Left in Brazil and the BRICS presented a big threat to the North American hegemony. The desire to dismount this shift of power is the motor behind this time’s intervention by the US Department of State and Department of Justice. We live in a very fluid time, so all this influence is often happening in the vein of the transferring of information, or creating the stage so that the American companies, from Wall Street to Healthcare, can slowly start to acquire assets in the Brazilian territories, thus weakening our own market, and threatening Brazilian autonomy and democracy. This is such a vast subject, with so many ramifications… The examples in the democratic period Brazil lived from 1988-2016 range from the privatisations started by Fernando Henrique Cardoso to the recent moves to defund public programs such as SUS (Brazilian’s Universal Healthcare system) and Housing (Minha Casa Minha Vida), which affects negatively millions of people.

Because our committee Defend Democracy in Brazil is a diverse group acting together, we observe different aspects of this Coup to the Brazilian Democracy. For example, one of our members who is a nurse observed specifically that United Healthcare, one of the biggest companies in this field, opened an office in Brasilia just after the coup and the company is advising Temer’s Minister of Health.

In speaking simply about the current event we protested, the American companies, US government agencies, and even academic institutions that sponsor lectures and meetings with Judges like Sérgio Moro, and other members of the judiciary like Dallagnol and now former Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, are trying to make it appear normal that, for example, a Judge can lecture on an ONGOING investigation and Operation that is particularly targeting the political forces that the US wants to see very far from public offices, in particular, the PT (Workers Party).

That’s only a glimpse on why we protest a private think tank like the Americas Society, as well as academic institutions such as Columbia University, the New School for Social Research, and the Wilson Center at George Washington University.

What do you think about Americas Society / Council of the Americas?

The Americas Society for years has been instrumental in the dismounting of Public Institutions in the name of corporations and in the interest of further privatization and the selling of assets to private US corporations all over Latin America. As activists in New York from different professions, we have noticed the minute role they have in promoting events with Latin American figures such as private investors, scholars, politicians, public officials, and now judges (!), who serve this purpose, against their own countries’ interest most of the time, and towards a political and economic agenda that embraces US neoliberal thinking.

They also promote art exhibitions that present a limited, targeted view on the role of art in Latin American societies. Their members are big capital companies who have interest in Brazil. Brazil is  a very complex country  and AS/COA is a kind of organization that attempts to do the intellectual and political networking work for their members.

AS has influence and power with some of the biggest investors in Latin America, and as such, it has also sponsored the investors event when Temer was in the US for the first time after he took office illegitimately, in September 2016, while in New York for the UN General Assembly opening.

The difference between PT’s governments of Lula and Rousseff and the neoliberal government currently in power in Brazil is that Temer also serves their members interests: a Head of State’s event with private investors sponsored by Americas Society is far beyond the role that a think tank should have in a country’s sovereignty. AS/COA should simply stay out of Federal business in Latin American countries.

Do you think Sergio Moro and Rodrigo Janot have acted in Brazil’s own interests?

No. Not at all in the interest of Brazilian people.

As we stated in the letter that we distributed to participants of the event, the real effects of Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) are now clearly seen: and they are devastating. More than 24.5 million people slipped under the poverty line since the legitimate President Rousseff was ousted, as part of this Operation; the current military intervention in Rio de Janeiro is targeting the poorer, black population, for no reason whatsoever; and Lula, the front runner Brazilian presidential candidate in the 2018 elections has been convicted by Judge Sérgio Moro in one of the worst politically motivated trials to be recorded in judicial history, making use of Lawfare, and without any evidence against the defendant. These are to mention just a few, pivotal, consequences of the fake crusade called Lava Jato.

Both Moro and Janot, as a great majority of the judiciary, have acted in the interest of a few: their own, the actual government of Brazil led by Michel Temer and the minority white neoliberal elite that it represents, and in the interest of the U.S. capital. The absurd here is that they are supposed to be fighting corruption but in fact, Moro practices Lawfare, and Janot for years as Attorney-general practiced what we call “Selective justice”. For some time, they have deceived the people, but a lot more people now sees the truth, and that the Lava Jato stands for a very particular agenda of advancing what results in cuts of social programs, violations of Human Rights, and social injustice.

What happened during your demonstration at AS/COA?

We knew ahead of time that it would not be able to get inside the event “Battle Agains Corruption in Latin America; next steps”– the registration was restricted to members of AS and press only. We would do a protest outside, as Defend Democracy in Brazil always does, and we did it in what was the public part of the sidewalk of Park Avenue, with a lot of rain and snow, but even that already called a lot of the attention of the participants arriving. Many were executives and did not expect it, some stopped, read the signs. We also could be heard on the second floor with sayings that “Car wash is a fraud”, “Moro sells sentences”, “Moro’s housing benefits is 5 times minimum wage” (and for the record, he owns his house, so he does not need this benefit- a total scandal for someone who says he fights corruption). This caused discomfort to the organisers, but we were not disrupting the law, they could only send their security guard outside.

But we wanted to also bring some real questioning about this so-called “battle against corruption” inside the event. We had to be creative. We have members who are artists, and so we created a performance in which our own activists dressed up in suits would distribute materials to conference participants, as to give out information about the real role of Lava Jato and Americas Society in this setting, but in a way unlikely to be refused. So these could not be flyers.

We distributed envelopes that had such information, but we also took the opportunity to include questions that could in themselves instigate curiosity and doubt in the participants, and show a side of Lava Jato that wasn’t being presented to them. Our member-artist described it like John Cage’s “Chance Operations”, which she called  “Truth operation” [laughs]. With a hope that someone would open the envelope, read the content, and ask one single question of the 10 questions we distributed.

We learned through the press reports and the webcast, that at least 3 questions were asked! Two examples: one question was to Moro about his Housing benefit, and he refused to answer. The other about damaging the Brazilian Economy through Lava Jato’s consequences, he deferred it to the benefits for businesses in the country, mentioning Watergate, and clearly showing his bias and conflicts with his position as a Federal Judge – serving economic and political agendas, instead of what should be his impartial job description.

So we consider that the demonstration was very successful. The attendees and the organizers did not expect it. We feel that we succeeded enormously in bringing awareness to this one more fake propaganda of the Lava Jato Operation, and the repercussion in both the independent media and the corporate media was immediate, even before Moro had finished his presentation. Any bit of awareness that we can bring towards the fact that the Lava Jato is connected with the whole political, economical, legislative and media Coup that was enacted against our democracy is a gain to our movement and efforts. We hope that a larger number of people starts to see the fallacy of the Lava Jato and start to fight against the selling of Brazilian interests and to reinstate our democracy.

Main photo: Sergio Moro and AS/COA’s Brian Winter at the March 2 event.

DEFEND DEMOCRACY IN BRAZIL/ NEW YORK is a committee composed of Brazilian citizens from all regions of Brazil, and American friends and supporters, residing in New York City. Formed in February 2016 by artists, scholars, representatives of human rights movements, women’s groups, political parties, activists of environmental movements, and sectors of health services, among many others.

Our aim is to support initiatives that defend the real rule of law and democracy in Brazil, uniting the Brazilian community and supporters to our cause in New York, and to articulate the international media outlets.

We  have led more than 40 protests, flash mobs, performances, media advocacy works, meetings, networking events. We currently have more than 13000 followers on FB, and try to always post bilingually. In April 2017 we organised an event to join Dilma Rousseff in her tour to American Universities to denounce what had happened. Our event was a partnership with the Murphy Institute for Labor Studies and Workers Education of the City University of New York, and the only one with union leaders, members of the Brazilian and American community outside the university, with political allies, community leaders and journalists. 

Facebook/Instagram: Defend Democracy in Brazil

Twitter: @Brazildemocracy