So there was a coup d’état in Brazil

By Emir Sader on September 1, 2016

brazil - DilmaThe dream of the Brazilian right-wing, since 2002, has come true. Not under the earlier forms that were attempted. Not like when they tried to overthrow Lula in 2005, with an impeachment that failed to prosper. Not with electoral attempts such as in 2006, 2010, 2014, when they were defeated. Now they have found a short-cut to interrupt the PT (Labor Party) governments; which they need all the more, as they will continue to lose the elections, with Lula as the next candidate.

It was through a bloodless coup, for which the coups in Honduras and Paraguay have served as laboratories. Defeated in four successive elections, and with an enormous risk of continuing to do so, the right sought the short cut of impeachment, without any grounds for it, counting on the treason of the vice-president, elected twice under the winning (PT) programme, but determined to apply the programme that was defeated four times in the elections.

Taking advantage of the parliamentary majority, elected to a large extent with funding raised by Eduardo Cunha (until recently, President of the Chamber of Deputies), a man unanimously recognized as the most corrupt among all the corrupt Brazilian politicians, the right-wing overthrew a president re-elected by 54 million Brazilians, without bringing together any motive for impeachment.

This is the new format that the rightist coup d’état is taking on in Latin America.

It is true that democracy does not have a long tradition in Brazil. In the last nine decades, there were only three civilian presidents, elected by popular vote, who have completed their mandates. Over nearly three decades there were no presidents chosen in democratic elections. Four civilian presidents elected by popular vote were unable to complete their mandates.

It is not clear whether it is democracy or dictatorship that is the parenthesis in Brazil. Since 1930, in what is considered contemporary Brazil, with the revolution of Vargas, practically half that time the presidents were elected by popular vote and the other half they were not. More recently, Brazil saw 21 years of military dictatorship, plus 5 years of the government of José Sarney, who was not elected by a direct vote but by an Electoral College named by the dictatorship — that is, a period of 26 years without a democratically elected president — followed by 26 years of presidential elections.

But in this century, Brazil was living in a democracy with social content, approved by the majority of the population in four successive elections. Just when democracy began to gain social consistency, the right demonstrated that it could no longer stand this.

So they staged a “white” (bloodless) or institutional or parliamentary coup, but a coup nonetheless. In the first place because no valid motive has been found to terminate the mandate of Dilma (Rousseff). Secondly, because the vice-president, when still as interim president, began to implement, not the programme under which he was elected as vice-president, but the programme defeated four times, in two of which he was vice-presidential candidate.

This is truly taking power by assault, perpetrated by the most disqualified band of corrupt politicians that Brazil has ever known. Politicians, successively defeated, become ministers, president of the Chamber of Deputies, something that would not be possible through the popular vote, but only via a coup.

What can Brazil expect now?

In the first place, an immense social crisis. The economy, already in recession for at least three years, will suffer the hardest effects of the worst fiscal adjustment that the country has known. The phantasm of stagflation has become a reality. A government without popular legitimacy, applying a harsh adjustment in an economy in recession, will produce the biggest economic, social and political crisis that the country has known. The coup is not the end of the crisis, but its entrenchment.

It is a defeat, ending the political period that was opened with the first victory of Lula in 2002. But even though they have recuperated the State and the initiative that this allows them, the Brazilian right has very little strength to consolidate their government.

They face not only the economic and social crisis, but also a reinvigorated popular movement and the leadership of Lula. Brazil is becoming the scenario of great political mass disputes. The putschist government will attempt to stay in place until 2018, with the country ruined, trying to prevent Lula from being a candidate and with widespread repression against popular movements. The popular movement needs to revise its strategy and its platform, develop broad and combative forms of mobilization, if the coup-based government is to become one more parenthesis in the history of the country. 

(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)

– Emir Sader, Brazilian sociologist and political scientist, is the Coordinator of the Laboratory of Public Policy in the State University of Río de Janeiro (UERJ).