Time is ripe for progressives to help Brazil

The joint US/Brazil Car Wash investigation destroyed the Brazilian economy and political system and led to the return of fascism. Nevertheless, progressive gains in Congress provide a moment of opportunity for building spaces of solidarity and resistance.

by Brian Mier

In 1988, after a brutal war which led to 50,000 deaths in the tiny Central American nation of Nicaragua, congressional democrats managed to overturn the Reagan administration’s funding for the right wing Contras mercenary army, despite 47 party members siding with the Republicans. This would prove to be one of the last moments when a significant difference was shown between the Democrats and Republicans regarding Latin America. From the Clinton years forwards, Democrats and Republicans have consistently worked together in favor of corporate interests and against those of the Latin American working class, favoring predatory free trade bills like NAFTA over initiatives that would enable sovereignty and development. In short, they may have squabbled over policy differences at home, but they put up a bipartisan front to support regime change efforts against left and center-left governments in countries like Venezuela, Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras and Brazil, which tried to implement redistributive polices and maintain some levels of control over their natural resources.

Therefore, although it is true that the impending return of fascism to Brazil is supported by Trump and has the racist stamp of approval of Steve Bannon, the Koch Brothers, and the rising international alt-right, Bolsonaro’s ultra-neoliberal economic platform represents total continuity with the current, illegitimate government of Michel Temer. Temer’s illegal rise to power was normalized by the Obama State Department and its hegemonic media allies and actively supported by the US Department of Justice through a lawfare operation which deliberately paralyzed the Brazilian construction sector in 2015 and helped destabilize the economy in preparation for the parliamentary coup which removed Dilma Rousseff – with no legitimate justification – in 2016. Now that Operation Car Wash leader Sergio Moro – treated for years on the pages of the New York Times, Americas Quarterly and the Washington Post as an impartial anti-corruption hero – has revealed himself as  future Justice Minister to the neofascist rival of the man he arrested, the connection between the Obama-backed judge and Trump-backed President-elect has revealed itself to the world. Once again, party differences within the United States have evaporated during the ruin of another 3rd world country in the name of US corporations’ petroleum, mining and agribusiness interests.

If most Democrats have sided with the Republicans on Latin America policy since NAFTA then why should anyone in Brazil care that the Democratic party just took back Congress? I believe that there is some reason to commemorate. This is because of the growing influence that a group of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is wielding within the Democratic Party. Whereas most Democrats ignored Dilma Rousseff’s illegal impeachment, a small group of around 30 progressive congresspersons led by people like Mark Pocan, Ro Khanna and Maxine Waters have ignored the regime change apologists in the hegemonic media and has consistently joined the AFL-CIO in denouncing it as a coup, complaining about the subsequent dismantling of social and labor rights for the Brazilian people and demanding freedom for Lula.

Furthermore several new progressives will take office next year, such as Ayana Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will hopefully force centrist democrats to reevaluate their strategies and swing further towards the left. Although not all members of the Progressive Caucus have gotten on board with solidarity for Brazil yet, there is growing concern that fascism is a threat that has to be fought internationally. This is why Bernie Sanders recently announced the creation of a new international progressive front to fight the rise of the far right and Brazil is now on the front lines. With Trump in power and in control of both the House and Senate, it seemed like there was no hope in building up any kind of power base in the US to counter the imminent violent threats that Bolsonaro and his facsist supporters are making against Afro-Brazilians, Indigenous people, LGBTQs and leftists. If American progressives build a coalition of 80-90 democratic congresspersons committed to fighting fascism in solidarity with the Brazilian people, it could be enough to weaken Bolsonaro’s attacks on human rights, education, free speech and the environment. If you are a US citizen and would like to show solidarity for the Brazilian people for Brazil, now is the time. Please call your newly elected representatives and tell them that you expect them to side with the progressives of their party against Bolsonaro, and that you expect them to work to free Lula. Remind them that the Democrats beat the fascists once and they can do it again.


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.