Brazil is not for beginners

“O Brasil não é para iniciantes” (Tom Jobim)

“Brazil is not for beginners” (Tom Jobim)


by Marco Consolo.

Brazil is a continental country full of coups and lies. When the military regime overthrew the democratic president Joao Goulart, in 1964, he promised to restore the institutional order in just 1 day. The regime remained in power for 21 years. The first editorial of the newspaper O Globo, after the coup, sentenced: “democracy reappears”.


In the street demonstrations of 2013, and later during the political campaign in overt violation of the democratic state of law in Brazil to dismiss the legitimate President Dilma Rousseff, components of Brazilian fascist extreme right defended the return of the military dictatorship, fomenting a climate of hatred and intolerance towards the left, liberals, democrats as well as the rights of the most vulnerable and excluded sectors of the population.

The situation has worsened with the decision of the Judicial Powers in Brazil to persecute the PT and arrest former President Lula in a clear attempt to delegitimize the party.

The dual objective of Lula’s arrest has been to prevent his candidacy in the presidential elections of October 2018, and “normalize” the parliamentary and mediatic coup which dismissed President Dilma in 2016.

The fragile Brazilian fragile democracy is being openly attacked.

There has been an increase in violence against social activists and left parties. On March14th 2018, Marielle Franco, PSOL councilor, defender of Human Rights and critic of the widespread police violence ravaging the country, was executed in Rio de Janeiro along with her driver, Anderson Gomes.  Evidence of this murder was later distorted in social networks by the same fascists that attack the left, the PT, Lula and Dilma.

In the south of the country attempts were made to prevent former President Lula from conducting his electoral campaign in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná including a very serious episode with a violent gun attack on his caravan, which only by chance did not cause fatalities.  These fascist militias, linked mainly to rural landowners in the region, also attempted – with firearms, knives, stones, whips (symbol of nineteenth century slavery) – to block the caravan’s access to the cities of the region, assaulting mainly women with the connivance of the state police.

An intolerant and undemocratic minority is trying to impose its rule by violent means in Brazil, aided by an environment characterized by constant violations of rights and increasing poverty, under Temer’s coup government. An already seriously compromised political environment, accentuated by the illegal overthrow of President Dilma and the selectivity of “exception” against Lula – has been transformed into hatred, armed violence, aggression against the defenseless, occupation of roads and stoning of political caravans. .

Such fascistic and illegal actions have been seen before throughout the history of the world and of Brazil. They are not “confrontations”, (as most of the traditional media presents it) but rather acts of physical aggression, carried out under police protection, on one political faction engaged in legal activities, by another faction.

In this scenario, the left has to increasingly struggle to maintain democratic spaces open, as the right-wing seeks to close them, either by persecution of PT candidates, or by “casuismos” [1] which distort popular will, and the end of obligatory voting, amongst other strategies. Greater democracy, along with broader and more legitimate popular participation, leads to more chances of victory for the left and the defeat of the right-wing.

Fundamental to the democratic strategy is the right of Lula to be a presidential candidate. The right-wing knows this and thus has concentrated its mediatic hatred and violence on him. On the 11th of April 2018, PT confirmed its decision to present Lula as a candidate for next October’s presidential election.


The Santa Fe documents[2]  divide power in the present stage of the economic and political development of the capitalist system, into “permanent powers” and “temporary powers”.

Permanent power is the synthesis of a complex, contradictory, dynamic struggle for hegemony between ruling class groups, who nevertheless share the vital interest of guaranteeing the permanent reproduction of the prevailing social system. Increasing concentrations of capital have meant that permanent power has ceased to be national and has become transnational, a qualitative change identifiable in the 1970s. The subject governing permanent power is the transnational financial oligarchy, composed of oligarchies of the United States, the European Union and Japan, to which the dominant classes of each country are subordinated.

Temporary power is exercised by the political force that occupies the executive power of the state (the governments), during a determinate period, subject to alternation or continuity through periodic elections, as established in the Constitution and laws.

Each nation presents a scenario of the interaction between permanent power and temporal power [3]. An essential function of bourgeois democracy, and its division of powers, is to ensure that temporal power is exercised in correspondence with the dictates of permanent power. Other elements operating to this end include the military, economic forces and the media. Thus, the political force occupying the government exercises temporal power with greater discretion the better is its correlation of forces in the parliament and the courts, and the greater its support from the factual powers.

The unfavorable correlation of forces that has developed in recent years concerning the governments, the progressive and left-wing political organizations reaffirms an old, often forgotten, truth: the spaces of state power conquered by the left are fragile and ephemeral if they are not based on the construction of hegemony and popular power. There is a profound gap between rhetoric and reality. Hegemony and popular power are not built “from the top down”, but in fluid interaction “from the bottom up” and “from top to bottom”.


It is necessary firstly to note that the apparatus of the national state in Brazil has always been strongly controlled by the private interests of the dominant economic strata. Its patrimonial character, present since its formation, has been reproduced by Brazilian late capitalism. It is a “privatized” State, very permeable to the pressures of capital, but resistant to the incorporation of the demands of the popular sectors in its policies and decision-making process. The organized social movements have been  criminalized with alarming frequency (even in the period of Brazilian re-democratization), in line with the repressive logic of the “Old Republic” (of the early twentieth century) of treating the social question as a “police matter”, and exercised once again in the recent coup d’état against Dilma Roussef. These limitations and characteristics of the Brazilian political system are also found in political parties, which were largely formed, “from top to bottom” and have a low degree of organic insertion in society, as well as a reduced level of political and ideological definition. Rather, they are quite fragile, having been formed to serve the specific concrete interests of dominant groups, which are often already embedded in the State apparatus. In other words, in the Brazilian party system there is a high degree of pursuit of personal advantages through politics, the so-called “physiologism”.

Such lack of sedimentation of an organic party structure, well rooted in social movements and classes and with a clear political identity, combined with a State that still has an essentially patrimonial character, limits Brazilian democracy and its ability to carry out long-term political projects that respond to its many strategic challenges. However, the PT is an exception to that rule.

Unlike many Brazilian parties, the Workers’ Party has its origin in the specific struggle of the working class for better living conditions, in the resistance to the dictatorship and for the re-democratization of the country.  It arose from a struggle which brought together different political organizations, militants of social movements, popular sectors of the church and intellectuals.

In fact, from 1964 until 1985, Brazil experienced a military dictatorship that exercised a tight control over the whole life of the country. The progressive forces that had supported the last civil government of João Goulart (1961-1964) and its basic reforms, such as the Agrarian Reform, were largely ignored whilst the leftist organizations conducting the armed struggle (in which President Dilma Rousseff participated when she was very young), were decimated by systematic torture, murder and “disappearance”. The same fate awaited the militants of the organizations that opted for mass struggle as a strategy of peaceful resistance to the regime and a tight censorship was extended to the media and culture. Political and civil rights were suspended. More than two thousand unions were subject to interventions and their leaders were replaced by bureaucrats co-opted by the military regime, popularly called “pelegos”. In addition, the legitimate economic and political demands of the population were harshly repressed and did not have adequate channels to express themselves.

In the political-institutional field, there were only two parties. The Alianza Renovadora Nacional (ARENA), the political wing of the dictatorship, and a consensual legal opposition party, the Movimiento Democrático Brasileiro (MDB), later called the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). The latter, in those harsh circumstances, developed into a wide political front. Although marked by deep contradictions and ambiguities, it gave its contribution to the re-democratization of the country within, however, quite evident limits.

The international economic crisis arising from the oil shock in 1973 impacted on the social and political base of the dictatorship and the Brazilian student movement began their first protests against the intervention of the dictatorship in the universities and for the democratization of the country in the years following.

Almost simultaneously, the workers’ movement concentrated in the so-called ABC of São Paulo [4] moved against the repressive blockade of the military dictatorship and carried out major strikes which, although focused on typical economic demands (such as wage increases and better working conditions), were also clearly political. Defying the regime’s anti strike legislation, they called directly for greater democratization of the country.

In was in this context that the leadership of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva emerged. As union leader, he embodied a new unionism, not only more combative and politicized, but also more independent from the State, questioning the archaic Brazilian trade union structure, inherited from the 1940s and partially inspired by the Italian fascist state laws, which used trade unions as an instruments of political cooptation.

This new unionism, which would later lead to the structuring of the Single Confederation of Workers (CUT), was successful in its campaigns and in the articulation of the interests of Brazilian workers, mainly those linked to the most modern and competitive sectors of the economy, but also rural workers, public servants, teachers, transport and civil construction workers, among others. In a short time, Lula and his companions began to attract the attention of several left political organizations committed to the struggle against the dictatorship.

There was thus a confluence of interests between the new unionism, some left-wing political organizations (operating in semi-clandestine conditions to resist the dictatorship), representatives of social movements, members of the Catholic Church inspired by the Theology of Liberation, intellectuals and student leaders, which led in 1980 to the founding of the Workers’ Party.

This historic initiative gave Brazil a different kind of political party, free of the patrimonial vices of the regime and closely linked to the new unions and the social movements. In short, it was a matter of creating a “bottom-up” party based on the concrete practice of union and social struggles. According to Gleisi Hoffmann, President of the PT, “The innovative characteristics of the PT produced at its origins have been maintained over time.

A) Plurality. The PT is a multi-tendency party incorporating different political-ideological organizations and currents, as well as the diverse interests of unions and social movements, which have always played an important role in the party project. Later, resistance to late neoliberalism would also become a common denominator…This plurality made the PT a site of widespread open debates, leading to the definition of its fundamental positions rising from these discussions held at base level…

B) Commitment to democracy and its deepening, through the struggle against the dictatorship and for the democratization of the country… The PT defined itself as both socialist and democratic, aiming at a substantive democracy that assured all citizens full enjoyment of political, social and economic rights. In the internal life of the party, PT respected the “right of tendencies” and proportionality of the lists of candidates in the composition of the party’s leadership.

C) Connection of the PT to the praxis of the union struggle and of various social movements. Given its plurality, it was that practice that dictated the course of the party… The PT never had a final and definitive theoretical model, like other leftist parties and its guidelines were elaborated in a complex process, in which the union and political struggle of the workers were decisive.
For that reason,… the Workers’ Party was… capable of generating innovative responses to the tactical challenges resulting from different political scenarios, combining the institutional action with the social struggles in the factories and in the streets”


The fragile and atomized Brazilian party structure has led what has been called “coalition presidentialism“, a composition of multiparty forces that ensures the necessary majority in Congress to give political and legislative support to the executive power. Frequently, however, these contingent alliances have been made on basis of the satisfaction of immediate interests in the occupation of the state apparatus.

It was the resistance to this type of alliance which contributed significantly to the three successive defeats of the PT, despite being the main opposition party at the time.

However, the collapse of the neoliberal model in Brazil, which had been implemented by President Collor de Mello and, especially, by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), created an opportunity for the PT to finally win the election. The second government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy – PSDB), began in 1999 with the collapse of the exchange anchor and the crisis of the Real Plan (launched in 1994 to fight hyperinflation). The currency was devalued suddenly, inflation accelerated and the economy went into recession. Brazil, very fragile and with high levels of indebtedness, was forced to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which responded with its known orthodox recessive recipes. The interest rates, already very high, were further increased, which aggravated the fiscal crisis and the levels of indebtedness. The entire second period of government of the PSDB was, thus, in a crisis with recession or low growth, increased unemployment and informality and general worsening of the social conditions.

This negative scenario was also aggravated by the so-called “blackout” of 2001 [6]. The popularity of the FHC government entered a strong downward spiral. In the political arena, the evident failure of the neoliberal policies, which had promised modernization and the improvement of the living conditions of the population, began to create fractures in the block supporting their power, creating space for the emergence of an opposition candidacy.

According to Emir Sader, “since assuming the neoliberal model, the right-wing has had a moment of popular support when it convinced most Brazilians that the central problems of the country’s crisis were State spending. For a decade – in the Collor and FHC governments – governments were using fiscal adjustments to control inflation, promising that the resumption of development, the generation of jobs, would come as a consequence of adjustments. When that promise was not fulfilled, the right-wing was disarmed as proposals, lost four elections faced with an economic development project with income distribution, loosing popularity. It was this situation that promoted the mismatch between the Brazilian right-wing and democracy, a framework in which popular participation led to their defeats” [7]. 


In 2002, the collapse of the neoliberal paradigm in Brazil, evidenced by the very low approval rates of the government of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and the clear deterioration of economic and social indicators, created a unique historical opportunity for the PT, to finally win the presidential elections and offer the country a viable and transformative political alternative.

To achieve this goal, the PT decided to implement a new policy of alliances, which until then had only included other left parties. In addition to the left allies (Communist Party of Brazil-PcdoB; Brazilian Socialist Party-PSB; Democratic Labor Party-PDT), they engaged with centrist forces of the Liberal Party (today the Party of the Republic -PR), of the nationalist senator and businessman José Alencar, who would become the Vice President of the Republic. This alliance allowed PT to have influence in more conservative segments of the national public opinion, an important element in the victory in the presidential elections of 2002.

Their public commitment to “monetary and economic stability” was also relevant to that victory and to the attraction of a wider electorate. Manifested in the “Letter to the Brazilian People” (launched in July 2002),  this pledge helped neutralize the conservative “fear campaign”  against the PT and its allies, which argued that Lula would scare off investors and entrepreneurs and plunge the country into chaos and recession. It is ironic to observe that, in the Lula government, the economy grew again and entrepreneurs from all economic sectors made substantial profits, due to a broader market of mass consumption, in sharp contrast to what had happened with the previous conservative governments.

“Hope overcame fear” was the slogan of the second round of the presidential elections, which resulted, for the first time, in a worker Presidency for Brazil.

Lula and the PT were immediately faced with the vicissitudes of the aforementioned “coalition presidentialism” , in a difficult initial scenario of economic crisis and extremely fragile balance of trade as well as a very unfavorable correlation of forces in the parliament, especially in the Federal Senate.

Lula’s government was committed to the implementation of its social projects, and faced a tough conservative opposition in Congress to any significant change in previous neoliberal policies.

Thus, Lula’s minority government ended up relying on a broad party spectrum, including the old allies of the left and new center allies, especially the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), among others (although with dissidence in its caucus), in addition to the already mentioned Party of the Republic.

5.1) The government program and its implementation

The program, “Another Brazil is possible” presented during the 2002 presidential campaign and based on the successful experiences of local governments and widespread debate within the party, served as the basis for the Lula government.

One of its central propositions regarding development concerned the transformation of the social axis into a structural axis of economic growth, via the constitution of a broad domestic market through income and social inclusion policies. This would generate a new dynamic for accelerated growth, in addition to the scale and productivity necessary for an increment in globalized trade, by boosting exports and consolidating the trajectory of sustained growth.

The government program sought to articulate three axes: the social, the democratic and the national in advocating a break with neoliberal policies, which were already showing profound weaknesses throughout Latin America. In addition, the program put forward three levels of public policies: environmental sustainability; the regionalization of government policies; and, above all, social inclusion, with the guarantee of human rights and the promotion of solidarity among citizens.

Thus, the government program assumed, in short, a fundamental commitment to the constitution of a broad market of mass consumption, which promoted the inclusion of millions of Brazilians, by universalizing basic social policies and solving the historical drama of concentration of income and wealth.

However, the severe macroeconomic fragility of the country, aggravated by the scare mongering strategy carried out by  the candidate for the continuity of the PSDB government regarding the uncertainties generated by the eventual victory of a popular-profile candidate like Lula, prompted a powerful financial speculative attack against the Real, which increased in momentum throughout the electoral campaign of 2002. Capital flight and increasing devaluation led to an increasing diminishing   of exchange reserves and the consequent inflationary pressure threatened what was left of the precarious economic stability. It was in this phase of the campaign that the PT launched the “Letter to the Brazilian People.”

In the “Letter to the Brazilian People,” the commitment to economic stability was presented as non-negotiable, and the regime of inflationary goals, the fluctuating exchange rate, the primary surplus and the respect for contracts were clearly incorporated into the government program. However, Lula made it clear that “fiscal balance is not an end, but a means”. For the PT, only growth could lead the country to have a consistent and lasting fiscal balance.

After stating that the stability and control of public accounts and inflation were a patrimony of all Brazilians, obtained with great sacrifices of the neediest, the Letter sentenced: “There is another possible way. It is the path of economic growth with stability and social responsibility. The changes that are necessary will be made democratically, within institutional frameworks. We are going to order the public accounts and keep them under control. But, above all, we are going to make a Commitment for Production, for Employment and for Social Justice” [8].

Given the predominance of the neoliberal paradigm in that period, despite the importance of the victory against hyperinflation obtained through the Real Plan, this was not enough to reverse the country’s growing fragility.

However, Lula’s presidential campaign in 2002 brought together the main political forces that opposed neoliberalism and thus consolidated the commitment to the resumption of a new project of national development.  There were undoubtedly some successes in this regard.

From Lula’s government until the first part of the Rousseff government, according to Gleisi Hoffmann, both were able   to combine, in an unprecedented way:

Sustained economic growth, with an average rate of expansion of the GDP that was (during the Lula government) almost double the historical average of the last two decades, apart from the rapid resumption after the momentary interruption of growth caused by the global economic and financial crisis;
Economic stability, with an average inflation within the limits established by the goals system and lower than that of the FHC government period, containment of the public deficit and reduction of the extreme vulnerability of the economy;

Income distribution, with the best indicators of the 60-year history of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE),   highlighting the exit of 40 million people from poverty, if we include the first two years of the Rousseff government ;

Consolidation of democracy, with full respect for the democratic state of law, full freedom of the press, separation among the powers, increasing transparency and social control of the institutions, and social participation in the elaboration and implementation of public policies;

Leadership in the international environmental agenda, in the generation of renewable energies, by the relatively clean energy matrix, by the enormous biodiversity, by the abundance of strategic natural resources and, above all, by the daring commitments related to the reduction of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions established in Copenhagen;

Growing international prominence, revealed by the active presence of Brazil in all important world forums, by the ability to articulate the interests of developing countries and by active affirmation of national interests [9].

For all these reasons, at an international level, many respected intellectuals, including conservative economics journals, began talking of the “takeoff of Brazil”, the “Brazilian miracle” and of the country’s perspective of becoming the fifth world economy.

The great attention paid by  the governments of Lula and Dilma Rousseff  to low-income populations brought about 30% of the families living in that condition out of poverty. Extreme poverty was almost eliminated, and Brazil exited the FAO “Map of Hunger”.

Accelerated economic growth generated the formal registration of around 20 million new jobs, almost quadruple of those generated in the period 1990-2002. The wage bill grew, in real terms by 30.7%. The Bolsa Familia and the other income transfer programs protected 72 million people, more than 1/3 of the population of Brazil.

The recovery effort of the state economic mechanisms, particularly those related to support for the national productive sector, also played an important role in the recent Brazilian development. Petrobras (one of the largest companies in the petroleum sector worldwide) discovered the largest oil fields in the history of the country in the Pre-salt [10], projecting Brazil as a late oil power.


The new foreign policy adopted by Lula’s government contributed to increasing participation in world trade and to obtaining large commercial surpluses, which were fundamental for overcoming the external vulnerability of the economy. The country evolved from the status of large debtor to that of international creditor, with an accumulation of almost US $ 380 billion in exchange reserves playing a decisive role in the international financial crisis unleashed in 2008. Brazil also became, in clear contrast with the neoliberal period, creditor of the IMF itself. In addition, the new foreign policy strengthened and expanded MERCOSUR, laid the foundations of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), changing the level of integration of South America, and articulated the interests of developing countries in international forums and increased international prominence.

In the environmental area, paradigmatic advances were made at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, where Brazil took a leading role in voluntarily taking on ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions. At the Rio + 20 Conference, Brazil demonstrated its firm commitment to major environmental issues and its leadership in promoting an international agenda that effectively reconciles environmental balance and sustainable economic and social development.


In the second Lula government, after the consolidation of economic stability and macroeconomic fundamentals, which laid the foundations for sustained growth, the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) was launched. This program, coordinated by the Minister of the Civil House, Dilma Rousseff, represented the resumption of the strategic planning of the State, the coordination and monitoring of public investments, the improvement of the association with the private sector and the implementation of projects, with great regional impact. The PAC (together with other incentive programs for production and innovation, such as Inovar Auto) sought to increase investment rates, complementing the increase in consumption generated by the revitalization of the mass consumer market.

It should be remembered that all these advances took place in a context of the reduction of the ratio between public debt and GDP (from 60% to 34%) and of strict control of inflation. It is noteworthy that the relative reduction of public debt was obtained without privatization of public assets or the creation of new taxes.

The new policies were implemented within the framework of an attempt to bolster Brazilian democracy. Administrative transparency and the independence of the State powers were strengthened and there was no weakening of the Legislative and Judicial powers.

In short, Brazil increased its economic importance in the post-crisis scenario, in contrast to the experience of more developed nations.

The constitution of a consistent set of social policies and programs, built through the creation of a number of innovative programs also aimed at distributing income, generating opportunities and promoting social inclusion (ProUni, ReUni, Solidarity Economy, Light for All, Territories of Citizenship, My House My Life, etc.) resulted in an exponential increase in the scope and effectiveness of the state social policy.

The centrality of the policies of income distribution and social inclusion was  completely new. The previous view, according to which social problems would be essentially solved by economic growth and by the labor market, supplemented marginally by compensatory policies and by isolated investment in the universalization of education, was replaced by systematic action.

The massive and conditional transfer of income, access to credit for consumption and production and land, the systematic and substantive expansion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage, facilitated access to popular housing, investment in public services destined to the popular sectors, like Luz para Todos, the expansion of opportunities in the educational area, in addition to many other aspects of social policy, contributed decisively to the strong dynamism of the internal mass consumption market, which played a decisive role in leveraging aggregate demand and driving economic growth. This strong dynamism of the internal market, built by a broad and consistent social policy, represents a historical singularity in the development process of Brazil. In Lula’s government, economic growth was accompanied by a substantive, conscious, systematic and successful effort to redistribute income, incorporation of the excluded into the consumer market and expansion of opportunities for the poorest segments of the population.

6.1) Pre-salt and investment in education

The Pre-salt oil reserves are estimated as containing about 176 billion recoverable barrels of crude, and despite recent investments in alternative energy sources, they are of great strategic importance for Brazil. Because of this, PT governments introduced a new framework for new areas, with exploratory regimes based on distributions, a strategic option with profound consequences [11]. The new regulatory framework also established that Petrobras would be the majority operator of the Pre-salt, permitting them to face the challenges related to the increase in refining capacity, fundamental for the balance of the Brazilian hydrocarbons trade balance, and the substitution process of imports of equipment destined to oil production (such as expensive and sophisticated maritime platforms), as well as investments in gas pipelines and in the production of Post-salt areas. The investments Petrobras made to render the Pre-salt feasible (platforms, ships, new ports, gas pipelines, etc) also had a hugely positive impact on national industry, especially the naval sector, as well as on the generation of cutting-edge technology in several areas. In addition, the governments of the PT adopted the historic decision to channel 75% of the royalties of that wealth to finance education and 25% to meet the health expenses of its population.
The governments of Lula and Dilma both made extraordinary efforts to expand technological education and higher education.  In thirteen years they accomplished what the other governments had not been able to do between 1909 (when the first technical schools were created) and 2002.

The greatest changes occurred in higher education with the universities ceasing to be a reserve of the elite and becoming accessible to the sons and daughters of farmers, domestic workers and civil construction workers.


The opposition to the Dilma government did not recognize her legitimate victory in 2014. They proceeded in conjunction with the media and big capital, to obstruct and destabilize her second term in every way possible and the defeated candidate duly fulfilled his promise, made in a speech in Parliament, to prevent the president from governing.

Thus, immediately after the 2014 elections, faced with the need to alter the fiscal target, the opposition to the Dilma government began to speak of “impeachment” and criminal responsibility related to tax issues. The opposition and the hegemonic media began a systematic deconstruction of all the results of the previous periods, in terms of growth, income distribution and even fiscal sustainability initiating a long period of political instability, boosted in 2015, with the election of Eduardo Cunha as the President of the Chamber of Deputies. In that chamber, the famous “bomb patterns” were approved, which increased public spending without criteria, and rejected important measures that could have alleviated the crisis that was beginning.

Economic programs, especially so-called fiscal adjustments, need political stability to produce results. No economic program, however efficient, can operate in a political environment of extreme instability and low governance, such as that experienced by President Dilma in her second term. An aggravating circumstance, in 2014 was the introduction of the so-called Operation Lava Jato, a police and judicial operation initially dedicated to investigating deviations in Petrobras in favor of high-level officials and suppliers, but which very soon became a political-party operation, driven by the Red Globo de Televisión and all anti-PT media. In addition to criminalizing the PT government, Lava Jato dismantled the productive chains of the oil and gas sector, the naval industry, heavy construction and the export of services, which were fundamental for the country’s economy.

Another factor in the crisis was the brutal drop in the prices of commodities -especially oil and iron ore-, which reduced the profits of companies and government deposits, contributing even more to the depreciation of the currency. The change in the monetary policy of the United States also affected the economic environment.  The fact that the United States raised interest rates again, after years of low rates, contributed decisively to the exchange rate devaluation, with inflationary effects, and to the economic slowdown in the short term.

Added to this was the slowdown in the Chinese economy and in addition, Brazil suffered the greatest drought of the last 80 years, especially in the Southeast and the Northeast.

Finally, we must note the strong fiscal contraction carried out in 2015. The Federal Government, seeking to conquer governability eroded by the deteriorating political situation, imposed an orthodox fiscal management of austerity, by promoting the greatest containment of discretionary expenses (R $ 79.5 billion) since the approval of the Fiscal Responsibility Law.

Given this scenario, in July, the government sent the proposed change of target to the National Congress, reducing the surplus of the consolidated public sector from R $ 66.3 billion to R $ 8.7 billion. In October, the government further reduced the projection of the surplus, due to the insufficiency of the reduction, basically derived from the changes in the estimated economic parameters, both by the government and by the market.

It was this attempt to relax the fiscal goal, in a scenario of total inability to reverse the fiscal result through more cuts, which ended up being used as a pretext for the impeachment coup.
Thus, unofficially, in October 2014, the third electoral round began: a campaign aimed at overthrowing a popular government project.

A reliable modern voting system, praised throughout the world and a source of pride for Brazil was subjected to ridiculous attacks. Later, the PSDB also tried to prevent the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, minutes before the official ceremony, based on the questioning of campaign expenses, which had already been approved by the Electoral Justice.

The fiscal crisis, which could have been faced with the support of the congress at the beginning, became the terrain of a political and communication battle. All the initiatives to recover the accounts were sabotaged by the Congress dominated by the coup plotters and their allies, while the PSDB fed the campaign for impeachment.

A conjugation that included the Court of Accounts, part of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and even judges of the superior courts changed the rules of account analysis to accuse President Dilma of using budget funds illegally in 2014 and 2015; ignoring that so-called “fiscal pedaling” had been considered a  valid practice valid until then. On that basis, lawyers hired by the PSDB presented in the Chamber an unprecedented request for impeachment without a crime of liability.

Eduardo Cunha, powerful president of the Chamber of Deputies, was one of the architects of the coup[12], using his influence to generate a climate of impeachment within Congress, months before advancing the process against Dilma. The first defense of the president (more than a thousand pages), showed that the government had not committed irregularities or violated the Fiscal Responsibility Law and the Annual Budgetary Law. It also showed that “pedaling” were common practices in public administration, exercised even in previous governments. What had changed, opportunistically, was the court’s interpretation.

While Eduardo Cunha brokered agreements with the opposition to start a process at the most opportune moment, Michel Temer went from vice president to treason. First, he resigned as coordinator with Congress, then he published a letter with criticism of Dilma, and finally launched a neoliberal government program diametrically opposed to the one that had been approved by the polls.

On December 2, 2015, hours after three members of the PT in the Ethics Council voted in favor of opening a proceeding against Cunha, the President of the low Chamber, using an exclusive prerogative of the office, determined the opening of the impeachment process, as a clear act of revenge.
Stimulated by television, marches were held in favor of the impeachment on weekends during March and April. On April 17, 2016, the world witnessed a pathetic vote where the federal pro-impeachment deputies explained their votes making dedications to their families with reasons for anniversaries, births, deaths, moral content and religious foundation, including an apology of torture and an invocation to a torturer, made by the fascist Jair Bolsonaro.

Thus, the coup organizers were left with a serious global image problem. And it was the Senate’s turn, in the final vote of the impeachment, to try to give an appearance of normalcy to the coup, alleging obedience to the procedural rites, but also without being able to indicate any crime of responsibility of Dilma Rousseff. On August 31, 2016, by 61 votes to 20, the Senate consummated the impeachment coup.

According to New York Times “from 1980 to 2013 Brazilian economy grew just about 0,2% per capita. Lula took charge in 2003 and Dilma Roussef in 2011. In 2014 poverty diminished 55% and extreme poverty 65%. The real minimum wage grew 76%, salary in general grew 35%, unemployment reached lowest records and the infamous inequality finally was going down. But in 2014 a deep recession started and the Brazilian right-wing took advantage of the economic slowdown to put on the stage what many Brazilians consider a real parliamentary coup d’état” [13].

The coup was the explicit confession that the right-wing were unable to recover the government through democratic means. The resumption of the old fiscal adjustment programs confirmed that it had nothing to propose that could gain popular support and thus win back the elections.


For Washington, the coup d’état had 3 main targets:

A) Retake the control of Brazil

B) Sabotage the Latin American autonomous integration (Unasur, Celac, Mercosur)

C) Sabotage BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa)


A) Retake the control of Brazil

The continuing coup’s first target was representative democracy, the popular vote. A year and a half after the definitive expulsion of the legitimate president by the Senate, thanks to the actions of a gang led by Eduardo Cunha and Michel Temer, Brazil is in an accelerated process of the destruction of all its social legacies including those of the Citizen Constitution, which instituted the Brazilian Welfare State, and even the social legacy of Labor, enshrined in the protection of the Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT). Moreover, Constitutional Amendment No. 95 will impede public investments in education, health and social security, returning Brazil to the last century, in terms of public services. Combined with the cruel Pension Reform, which will make the pensions of the poorest citizens unviable, this amendment will destroy any possible Welfare State created by the 1988 Constitution and a whole set of associated social rights. The Labor Reform, by “flexibilizing” the labor protection ensured in the CLT, returns to the times of the Old Republic, when the “social question” was a mere police matter.

All the relevant social programs are being destroyed or weakened by the unelected government: Popular Pharmacy, My House My Life, More Doctors, Science without Borders, Electricity for Everyone, Family Bag, etc., none escapes the criminal scissors of the putschist austerities.

Such massive and persistent destruction is expressed, among other indicators, in the fact that more than a fifth of Brazilian households (15.2 million) no longer have income from work, formal or informal. It also manifests itself in the ignominious return of poverty and inequality, and tragic return of Brazil to the Map of Hunger.

However, the greatest economic damage was perpetrated by the mechanisms used to leverage development. Thus, Petrobras and its local content policy, which had recovered both the naval industry and heavy civil construction, were now sold and dismantled. Pre-salt wells, post-salt wells, refineries, gas pipelines and others were sold at auction prices and the platforms and vessels that previously created jobs in Brazil now generate jobs in the Netherlands and Singapore. Public credit (particularly that of the BNDES, which was fundamental to overcoming the 2009 crisis), is now suffocated by a government that fails to contain its deficits caused by the constant drops in reserves and economic activity.

With the austerity driven refusal to resume public investments and the impossibility of a return to national private investments, the coup managers have resorted to the predatory sale of public assets to international capital and the destruction of sovereignty as a last resort to maintain itself and to temporarily cover its gigantic financial holes, baited by one of the highest interest rates in the world.

The golpe put Brazil on sale, at sale prices. In addition to the transfer of Petrobras and the Pre-salt,  land , the Amazon and its vast strategic resources, mineral wealth, ports, airports, public banks, the strategic Eletrobras, one of the largest electricity companies in the world and even the Casa de la Moneda, responsible for the manufacture of the currency, are all for sale. In the end, it is a return to colonial Brazil, which will be integrated into the “global productive chains”, as a mere producer of commodities, without adding any value and without developing its own science and technology.

B) Sabotage the Latin American autonomous integration (Unasur, Celac, Mercosur)

From a country with a prominent role in all regional and global forums, with Lula having become a world leader, Brazil has become a pariah of international relations. From a country that affirmed its own interests in regional integration, in South-South geopolitics and in the articulation of the BRICS, it has become a mere satellite of the interests of the United States and its allies.

In spite of all this, the coup did not destroy, and will not destroy, Brazil’s greatest asset: its people and their immense capacity to fight. They have clearly rejected the coup government, which consistently fails by more than 80% in all polls. It is the Brazilian people who send their message of hope by supporting the return to democracy and the rule of law, the restoration of national sovereignty and rights, and free and democratic elections, with the participation of all forces. It is the Brazilian people who want to elect Lula president once again, so that Brazil can once again be a country of opportunities and social justice.

C) Sabotage BRICS alliance (Brazil, India, China, South Africa)

As the Santa Fe document pointed out many years ago, “China is the most annoying strategic problem facing the United States. It combines all the multiple dimensions that any serious strategic observer should consider. For those who start, we note that it has a very important internal dimension. China, both communist and Taiwanese, has insinuated itself into our domestic situation from the economic point of view, the political one – at all levels, from the White House, to the local level – and is becoming increasingly compromised from the cultural point of view” [14].

As it is well known, imperialism has no principles, only interests. This was clearly expressed by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, when, in support of the coup d’état against Joao Goulart in Brazil, in 1964, he proclaimed the doctrine that bears his name: “The United States prefer to have safe allies, than democratic neighbors” [15]. Through the application of the Johnson Doctrine, USA imperialism has returned to erase progressive and leftist governments from the map, not through traditional coups, but through the “destabilization of the full spectrum” and the “new type” coups.


Brazil created, despite all its political and economic limitations, an interesting cycle that was able to combine growth with income distribution, poverty reduction and expansion of opportunities.

It managed, in a short time, to modify the structural profile of the society and to reverse the stagnation experienced in the country since the beginning of the eighties.

Although other countries in Latin America and Asia also went through similar processes of economic growth with reduction of inequalities, the Brazilian experience had some important singularities that deserve to be highlighted.

A) Brazilian social experience took place in the context of an economic policy that, although divergent from the dogmatic orthodoxy, maintained the macroeconomic balance, the control of the inflation and strict respect for contracts. It eliminated extreme poverty and reduced historical social inequalities while at the same time substantially reducing domestic debt and inflation rates. It built high commercial surpluses and accumulated voluminous reserves, thus overcoming the historical external vulnerability of the economy. This is an important difference, in a global scenario of uncertainties and acute questioning, which tends to inhibit investments and the resumption of growth.

B) It developed in the context of a continuous improvement of a young democracy and its republican institutions. In contrast to events in other important emerging countries, Brazil enjoyed democratic fulfillment, with complete freedom of the press, separation and balance between the powers and increasing strengthening of administrative transparency and control bodies.

C) Growing regional integration, with positive repercussions for neighbors and the creation of an atmosphere of peace and prosperity throughout South America, including the consolidation and expansion of MERCOSUR, which led to the definitive cessation of tensions with Argentina, was an ongoing achievement.

D) Development in this last decade has been combined with an increasingly substantial reduction of deforestation in the Amazon and a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. With the reduction of forest fires and with the voluntary international commitment, assumed at COP-15, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 36% and 39% until 2020, Brazil became one of the countries most committed to the fight against global warming.

All these are important differences, distinguishing the recent development of Brazil from similar experiences in other emerging countries. Brazil’s differential was in the quality of its development, and not in its growth rates. It is crucial to study these differences, particularly in the present context of worsening global crisis, in which orthodox austerity policies have both failed to restore growth and made functioning democracies unviable.


The right-wing has tried to resolve the impasse through conservative political reform, judicialization of politics and criminalization of social mobilization. The latest wave of military police violence against poor and black youth on the outskirts of major cities and against social movements, especially in the States of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, must be seen in this context.

According to the researcher Dina Alves  [16], in Brazil there is “a real genocide of the black population”. Drawing on data disclosed by the report “Atlas of violence”, edited by the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada [17]  “It is not by chance”, she continues, “that the majority of the dead and prisoners are black. When the police kill, they do so on behalf of the State”.

According to the “Atlas of violence”, out of 100 people murdered in Brazil, 71 are black.  Although recently, in the Senate, a parliamentary commission of inquiry has denounced State violence and used the term “genocide” it is obvious that the State is not able or does not want to protect some of its citizens.  Given the daily racism of MPs of the Brazilian right-wing as well as that of journalists of the O ‘Globo network, (the main chain of the Brazilian media oligopoly which has never hidden its sympathy for the dictatorship in power from 1964 to 1985), it is not surprising that rampant racial discrimination is widespread, from the social exclusion of blacks to the increasingly frequent cases of murder.

Brazil was the last country in Latin American to abolish slavery, in 1888 and blacks continue to earn 29% less than whites, despite the fact that the Constitution guarantees equality before the law. It is very similar to countries at war or under dictatorship regarding violence and black deaths but no serious policies have been adopted to contrast this. Repression has been the only response. In an interview with the Argentinean newspaper Página 12, Josuma Werneck, director of Amnesty International Brazil who worked extensively in the favelas of Río de Janeiro, said that President Michel Temer ordered another eight thousand soldiers to be sent to restore “law and the order” [18].


Almost twenty years after the first election of Hugo Chávez to the presidency of Venezuela, Latin America today offers us a very different picture of how political regimes are being implemented.

Neoliberal in economics, these regimes are authoritarian and security oriented in politics as we can see with the present military intervention in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The objective is twofold: confiscate and reduce social and democratic rights and repress, in various forms, any form of opposition. One of these forms is the “prosecution” of the opposition. That legal issue – lawfare– has become a weapon for the elimination of opponents.

The method can be summarized in 3 steps: the reorganization and activation of the judicial apparatus; charges with high impact and little or no content; most importantly, the crucial role of the media.

Latin America is the laboratory of this type of regime that we see emerging everywhere. This subject is underestimated in Europe, or even unknown and there is a concrete risk that it could soon spread to other regions of the world.


As the new elections approach, the right wing is facing an acute dilemma. Submitting the terrible track record of the current government to the popular vote with the reiteration of the promise of continuity of the neoliberal model is a sure path of defeat. In this context the role of the media and social networks appears fundamental.The fascistic climate in Brazilian social networks should not be underestimated. Two characters are especially pernicious here: the federal deputy for Rio de Janeiro and pre-candidate for the presidency, Jair Bolsonaro (Partido Social Liberal – PSL / RJ) and the relentless diffuser of conservative ideas through internet, the astrologer Olavo de Carvalho. This climate, with some parallels to the alt right networks in the USA, is exacerbated by the day-to-day life of most of the population (especially the urban and peripheral majorities living in the 30 Metropolitan Regions) which is imbricated by State violence, the extended control of criminal factions and precarious civil rights.

The second source of alarm is the dizzying growth of neo-Pentecostalism. These business-shaped and highly competitive “churches” capture financial liquidity (with large donations) and membership in the grassroots of society. They too have their media exponents including “bishop” Edir Macedo (and his nephew mayor of Rio de Janeiro for Partido Republicano Brasileiro, Marcelo Crivella, PRB / RJ); the pastor and federal deputy for São Paulo Marco Feliciano (from the Avivamiento/Revival, a branch of the Assembly of God and mandated by the Partido Social Cristão -PSC / SP) and the best polemicist and the most aggressive leader of the majority wing of the Assembly of God in Brazil , the pastor and psychologist Silas Malafaia.

These two phenomena (police and para-police violence and conservative neo-Pentecostalism) in such a context have contributed to popular support for illegal repressive practices, even extrajudicial executions. Another factor known the “Venezuelization of Brazilian politics” emerged at the end of 2014 with   angry marches in Sao Paulo of 20,000 people, called by pastors and the Bolsonaro clan, contesting the election results. This was concomitant with the maturation of the new generation of neoliberal militants, whose foremost exponent is the company with the acronym of MBL (Movimento Brasil Livre) [19] and an incredible technical capacity to create political facts from digital factoids and the consequent persecution of their disaffected targets.

Today, observers of the new cybernetic right-wing operating in Brazil perceive a tendency for the separation between “liberals” and “conservatives”, with the former having sympathies for MBL and the latter under the leadership of Bolsonaro. The two groups may find common ground, as they have common enemies, similar motivations, the same incidence of values ​​and symbolism as USA neoconservative politics, and a huge potential to generate controversial facts and “fake news” through social networks.

The propagation of  hatred is becoming authorized and the largest communication companies, including Globo itself, are getting involved – at least in the open network and in conservative opinion forums – after the murders of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes (on March 14, 2018).

The situation is very difficult and the murders of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes are emblematic. In other circumstances, these crimes would have been seen within the terrible context of Rio de Janeiro, with its para-militarism, territorial control and the violence of extra-legal executions. But the murders took place under Federal Intervention and were followed by a flood of Fake News against the honor of the PSOL militant in a manner reminiscent of the Trump presidential campaign.

To conclude, on one hand there are clearly undemocratic currents, such as those represented by Jair Bolsonaro, with their militias and the violent actions of the “ruralistas”, the “blackshirt” strategy.
On the other hand, the unfolding of the coup has developed with judicial, police and media action, attempting to disqualify Lula and the other potential PT or left candidates. Lava Jato, Federal Police and the Public Prosecutor are the agents of this right-wing action, with ongoing support from the media.


TV Globo has exerted enormous pressure on the Supreme Court to deny ex-president Lula’s constitutionally guaranteed right to defend himself in liberty against illegal and unjust accusations with no proven crime or evidence, made by Sergio Moro and aggravated by a pre-arranged decision in the 4th regional court (TRF-4). On the 4th of March 2018, as Globo’s Jornal Nacional news program came to an end, its anchorman read a declaration by the Army Commander, General Villas Boas, about the Supreme Court ruling on Lula’s habeas corpus.

It is highly unusual in a democracy for military leaders to make public statements on political or legal matters. It is becoming common in Brazil. It is perhaps even more disquieting that comments made on the social media by General Villas Boas  be disseminated and manipulated in an edition of the Jornal Nacional News program, which dedicated 23 minutes of airtime to publicly pressuring the Supreme Court Ministers to rule against Lula.

Defense of the Constitution implies recognizing the presumption of innocence, as defined in Article 5.

In its official statement, the PT parliamentary group declared: Globo is trying to repeat what it did in 1964, when it incited military leaders against the constitutional government of Jango Goulart.  Now it is doing it to incite pressure against on the Supreme Court. Globo is a historic poisoner of Democracy….

Trained columnists in the press, spokesmen for fascism and even officers of the Reserve have begun threatening a new military coup against the recognition of Lula’s legal rights.  They are the voices of fascism and intolerance [20].

13.1) Current understanding of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) does not require prison compliance after a decision of a collegiate body. In fact, what the STF decided in 2016, was that the courts can determine the anticipated fulfillment of the sentence, after confirming the sentence by a collegiate body, but such a decision is not obligatory, and it is necessary to evaluate case by case. It is precisely this interpretative margin that has caused “great confusion” in the legal and political media.

On the other hand, numerous jurists and associations (such as for example the Association of Judges for Democracy – AJD) affirm that article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which states in one of its paragraphs that “no one shall be guilty until penal sentence conviction” is clear and does not allow interpretation. The STF should act as guardian of the Constitution, and not interpret or reinterpret what the Constitutional power decided.

 13.2) Imprisonment in second instance favors mass incarceration

In June 2016, when the current Supreme Federal Court (STF) understanding was not yet authorizing arrest in second instance, Brazil was already in third place among the countries with the highest prison population in the world, totaling 726,712 prisoners. Of these, about 40% are provisional prisoners, that is, they do not yet have convictions.


13.3) Lula could still be a candidate.

The candidacy of the former president will depend on a decision by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which has until September 17 to judge all applications for presidential nominations, and possible requests for impugnation based on the Lei da Ficha Limpa (Clean Sheet Act).

Lula’s arrest means that the coup that removed Dilma Rousseff from the presidency is advancing
With the withdrawal of constitutional safeguards, with no possibility of appealing to higher courts, the judicial offensive can move forward against social movements, trade unions and political leaderships that are not aligned with the political and economic forces that came to power through the “impeachment coup” of 2016.

There is uncertainty at all levels. And it will be deepened given the sentence (on the 4th of April) of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) which decided to send Lula to prison, whilst not having exhausted all judicial instances.



Apart from Brazil, according to Roberto Regalado,  there are two formidable challenges that Latin American left is facing:

  • to avoid being expelled from the system
  • to avoid being assimilated by the system

Can the Latin American left face these two challenges successfully?

Can it avoid being assimilated by the system, as social democracy was throughout the 20th century?

Will it be able to successfully conclude the process of successive partial ruptures with capitalism that social democracy abandoned [21]?

Future will tell us.



[1]  the legislative maneuvers implemented by the military government, modifying the rules of the electoral process, with the sole purpose of obtaining electoral benefits.

[2] Marta Harnecker: “Haciendo posible lo imposible: la izquierda en el umbral del siglo XXI (Page 194, note 124) – De Santa Fe I a Santa Fe II: El imperio y America Latina” (Bogotà, Colombia Nueva, 1989, p. 77 y 81)

[3] Roberto Regalado: «Poder permanente y poder temporal en América Latina: un debate pendiente», (, 30‑1‑2018 (consultado 26‑2‑2018).

[4] ABC is made up of municipalities in the greater São Paulo that housed the most competitive and modern industry in the country

[5] Gleisi Helena Hoffmann in “Los gobiernos de izquierda y progresistas en América Latina: apuntes para un debate y un balance necesarios” by Roberto Regalado

[6] In that year, privatization without prior regulation and planning, the chronic lack of investments in the electricity sector, aggravated by a period of low rainfall, forced all consumers Brazilians to cut their electricity consumption by 20%, from one moment to another, by the serious risk that the entire country would run out of power.

[7] – Website consulted on 26th of march, 2018

[8] (consulted on 13th of April)

[9] Gleisi Helena Hoffmann in “Los gobiernos de izquierda y progresistas en América Latina: apuntes para un debate y un balance necesarios” by Roberto Regalado

[10]  The Pre-salt is a geological formation on the continental shelf that is below the layer of salt on the seabed, located about 300 km off the east coast of Brazil, in the Santos and Campos basins, off the coasts of the states of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina. The total depth of the findings from the sea surface to the oil reserve below the salt layer can reach more than 7,000m. The Pre-salt region has commercially declared reserves that are estimated at 16,600Mboe. The Tupi field, located in the Santos basin, would have between 5,000Mboe and 8,000Mboe, while Guará would contain between 1,100Mb and 2,000Mb of light crude oil (30 degrees API) and natural gas.

[11] In the concession regime, oil, once the process of extracting the subsoil begins, becomes part of the concessionary company. Under the pay-as-you-go regime, the State maintains ownership of reserves and oil. In this case, the State has a much greater flexibility to plan and make the investments that it considers a priority for sustained development, as well as to establish the pace of exploitation, observing the technical limits for this.

[12] On 2nd of April 2018, Cunha was sentenced with 15 years for corruption in the Lava Jato trial

[13] (23d of January 2018)

[14] De Santa Fe I a Santa Fe II: El imperio y America Latina (Bogotà, Colombia Nueva, 1989, p. 77 y 81)