7 possible outcomes of Brazil’s shameful election

If they wanted to stop the return to fascism, the hegemonic political forces that seized power in 2016 would have already done so because the danger was clear. I wrote an article warning about this in February, 2017. They did not stop it. They did not want to do it. They built him up and then washed their hands of it all.

by Marcelo Zero

What is most surprising in Bolsonaro, and in the neofascism that took over Brazil and defeated democracy, is the total lack of shame. He and his followers speak openly about the most barbaric acts, without shame and without hesitation. Worse, they speak with emphasis and stridency. They pride themselves on their own bestial nature, their crude truculence and their patent stupidity. They boast of their total lack of decency and humanity.

They are content in the thick mud of their hatred of the different, the poor, the blacks, the women who say no, the “indolent” indigenous peoples, and the “communists” who they intend to banish, imprison or exterminate. They enjoy the abject cult of torture, dictatorship, weapons and violence.

Nobody has ever openly defended torture or dictatorship the way Bolsonaro does. Not even Pinochet. Even he tried to keep up appearances. He tried to disguise the aggression and keep a veneer of civility. Asked about the character of the Chilean regime, he declared: “This has never been a dictatorship. It’s a dictablanda.

The same happened in the Brazilian dictatorship which started in 1964. Even our hard-line generals tried to disguise it in public. People were not kidnapped, they “disappeared.” They were not tortured, they were “subjected to interrogations”. They were not murdered, they “committed suicide” as in the case of journalist Vlademir Herzog.

In Nazi Germany, the extermination camps were presented as “work camps”. Goebbels produced propaganda showing smiling Jews working happily in these idyllic camps.

Some say that the barbaric acts Bolsonaro defends are just idle words. However, the politician is built on words. He is a person who basically speaks, argues and debates (not with everyone). The word is the politician’s weapon. Therefore, it is important do be very careful with it. It is the word that defines the politician’s identity and what incites and mobilizes his supporters. Authoritarian and violent speech generates authoritarian and violent followers.

But what causes this shameless political obscenity? In addition to prejudice, impunity is a certain factor. Bolsonaro knows that it would be difficult for the institutions to hold him to account for anything. They will probably not do anything, as took place in Germany. He understands Brazil’s current institutional and democratic bankruptcy. After all, he rose up out of this this process of progressive destruction of Brazilian democracy that was started with the coup plotting in late 2014.

If they wanted to stop the return to fascism, the hegemonic political forces that seized power in 2016 would have already done so because the danger was clear. I wrote an article warning about this in February, 2017. They did not stop it. They did not want to do it. They built him up and then washed their hands of it all.

The PT and its historical allies were left alone in the anti-fascist trench. The few other political leaders who supported the democratic cause did so at the last minute, in a shameful manner, without effective engagement with the campaign. This kind of social support, though significant at the end, was not enough to stop this disaster foretold.

In these conditions, if he has any problem implementing the ultraneoliberal project that the great internal and external forces have entrusted on him, Bolsonaro will call his followers, dressed in seleçao yellow, to frighten the delegitimized institutions such as the Congress or the Supreme Court.

He also knows that he will be able to rely on the current guardianship of the Armed Forces over civilian power that was established in the Temer government. He could try the “coup in the coup”, as he has already promised, and at the same time invalidate the regular workings of the democratic institutions.

This authoritarian sham, however, is not the greatest risk of electing a candidate for dictator. There are concrete and imminent threats, some of which are listed below.

1) The political crisis will be considerably aggravated

Today’s Brazil desperately needed someone who was soothing and conciliatory, capable of rational negotiations with all sectors of society. Bolsonaro is the exact opposite. He will make the Brazilian political scenario much more tense and troubled.

2. He will probably respond to challenges with threats and repression.

Instead of dialogue, he will initiate Bonapartist authoritarianism. Instead of seeking to strengthen the democratic institutions, he will try to weaken them even further and instrumentalize them to advance his objectives. He will definitely not be the Chief of a Republican State. With this, Brazilian democracy could enter into its terminal stage, with the political system losing its capacity to arbitrate conflicts, and tensions will go out of control. Therefore, the most likely scenario, if Bolsonaro does what he promised, is that Brazil transforms into a large, ultra-conservative Venezuela, with one significant difference being that here the Head of State will not hesitate to promote massive, violent repression against opponents.

3. The economic crisis deepens and becomes chronic

Bolsonaro’s economic agenda is to implant a raw ultra-neoliberalism. Although at first the market will show signs of optimism, the tendency will be for the economy to continue with the same mediocre performance indicators as the Temer government.

Without redistribution of income, without cheap credit and State investments, it is very unlikely that the Brazilian economy will get out of its hole. To the contrary, the tendency of these eternal adjustments and pro-cyclical policies is to weaken the vectors that can spur development in Brazil.

Of course we may have a fleeting burst of growth, but we will never have a sustained and sustainable development process with this destructive model.

4. The social framework will greatly deteriorate

The combination of savage ultra-liberalism with a repressive state could lead to a serious deterioration of the already fragile social framework. Bolsonaro is a radical social Darwinist, a declared enemy of labor rights, social policies and the Welfare State. It is important for him to end what he calls, “poor thing-ism”, in other words all policies which benefit the poor, Afro-Brazilians and other marginalized groups.

Due to the budget restrictions imposed by Constitutional Amendment 95, he will have to compensate for his plan of increasing military spending by making funding cuts for things like retirement, education and public health. Due to this, he is talking about things like instating distance learning in the public school system and charging tuition at public universities.

His team is already promising the markets that it will impose “radical pension reforms” by implementing the failed Chilean model which gives elderly retirees around 40% of the minimum wage.

The inexorable trend, therefore will be an increase of chronic unemployment and underemployment, a sharp rise in inequality, a return to hunger and the spread of poverty. There will also be contractions in free public services and the privatization of essential State functions.

5. Brazil will be put up for sale

Besides the pre-salt petroleum reserves, the strategic resources of the Amazon Rainforest will join the market’s dance. He will also try to privatize banks and all remaining state-owned companies, including at least a significant part of Petrobras. After all, this is why he was put in office in the first place.

His statements against the environmental agenda and against indigenous and quilombola reservations are aimed at facilitating this sale and freeing the investors, including foreign ones, who he hopes to attract for the sale of Brazil.

6. Brazil will be come a geopolitical nonentity

From the geopolitical point of view, the promised automatic alignment between Bolsonaro and Trump will be of great interest to the USA. The US’ current priority is the big power game against China and Russia. Bolsonaro, who is promising to give the Alcantara rocket launching base to the Americans and privatize everything, will be the base for US interests in the region, intervening in Venezuela and countering Russian and Chinese objectives in South America.

With this, Brazil which abandoned its active foreign policy that elevated us so highly on the world stage and transformed us into a diplomatic dwarf under Temer, will be on path to become a glorious geopolitical nonentity.

Furthermore, his promise to close the embassy in Palestine and his alignment with Israel will cause immeasurable prejudice for Brazil in its relations with the Middle East. His open racism will limit any policies in Africa. His clear subordination to the US will weaken us in the BRICS and his lack of commitment to regional integration will compromise Brazil’s leadership role in regional integration in Latin America.

7. Brazil will have a terrible international image

Under Temer Brazil’s image abroad greatly deteriorated. But nothing compares to the damage that the election of this candidate for dictator will cause. The entire civilized world, including the civilized right, sees Bolsonaro with immense political disdain and moral disgust. Outside of Brazil, people are shocked at the barbaric statements that he has repeatedly made. His election will not contribute to soften this deeply negative image following the Brazilian government’s disrespect for UN rulings on Lula’s political imprisonment and his disastrous declarations that Brazil will withdraw from the United Nations and the Paris Agreement. Brazil, which had Lula, a highly respected world leader, will now have Bolsonaro, a primitive fascist. This says everything you need to know about the situation in the country.

Despite these serious threats, the defeat of democracy in this election is not final. It never is. Democracy is a process. After the elections, a significant part of Brazilian society reacted to the horror that is approaching. It is imperative not to lose this political momentum and for democratic forces to unite against the serious threat that is coming to power. More than ever, the democratic opposition must unite and strengthen itself. It is never too late for people to join those who are on the right side of history. The democratic forces were defeated this time, but paraphrasing Darcy Ribeiro, it would be detestable to stand alongside the regressive forces that are threatening to implant a shameless dictatorship.

We will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Brazilian independence with a fascist entreguista in power and with Lula probably still being held as a political prisoner. This is a huge embarrassment.

But Brazilians who have any sense of shame will not run, will not accept being exiled. They will not accept injustice and arbitrary actions. The PT and all of those who have a real commitment to democracy and to the people will not disappear. We will fight.

Tomorrow will be another day

Marcelo Zero is a sociologist, international relations specialist and technical advisor to the Partido dos Trabalhadores Senatorial leadership.

Translated by Brian Mier


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.