democraciaAbierta: Opinion

2020 saw the physical and moral disintegration of Brazilian society

The failure shown in the face of the pandemic is repeated monotonously in all plans and areas of action of a government that is content to watch the physical and moral disintegration of Brazilian society.

José Luís Fiori
5 January 2021, 4.46pm
The Caju cemetery, in Rio de Janeiro, used to bury Covid-19 victims. December 2020
Ellan Lustosa/Zuma Press/PA Images

In this situation that Brazil is experiencing, one may ask the institutions and the people: who is really thinking about the good of the country and future generations and who is concerned only with personal interests?

Gal Eduardo Villa Boas, in Animus, Consultor Jurídico, November 11, 2018,

The sum of the facts and figures leaves no doubt that the Brazilian government's response to the coronavirus pandemic was absolutely disastrous, if not criminal; and its vaccination plan is chaotic, if not deceptive.

There are already 7.5 million infected Brazilians and about 200 thousand have died so far, and the authorities keep on acting clumsily, as if they were a bunch of irresponsible and mocking clowns. And despite all this, General Eduardo Pazuello continues to act as Minister of Health, without understanding pandemics, planning or logistics.

Simply because it is just another nullity of a government that does not exist, that has no goal or strategy, and that is unable to formulate public policies with a beginning, middle and end.

For this reason, failure in the face of the pandemic is repeated monotonously in all plans and areas of action of a government that is content to watch, with an air of mockery, the physical and moral disintegration of Brazilian society, while promoting division, hatred and violence among citizens. It is the same neglect and disregard for life that this government shows in the face of the ecological devastation of the Amazon, the Cerrado and Pantanal Region, with numbers that have sent shockwaves worldwide.

We just have to look at the numbers to gauge the size of the disaster, starting with the economy, which had been stagnant since before the pandemic. Brazil's GDP for 2020 is expected to decrease by about 5%, although it had already been struggling in 2018 and 2019, when it grew only 1.1%. But more importantly, the investment rate, which was 20.9% in 2013, dropped to 15.4% in 2019 and is expected to decrease much more in 2020, according to forecasts by the main national and international financial agencies. To make matters worse, the country’s capital outflow, which was 44.9 billion reais in 2019 – the highest since 2006 –, almost doubled in 2020, reaching 87.5 billion reais, indicating a growing distrust and aversion of international investors toward the government of Mr. Bolsonaro and his minister Paulo Guedes, despite their celebrated labor and social security reforms.

As a result, Brazil was excluded from the 2019 Kearney Global Foreign Direct Investment, which names the 25 most attractive countries for foreign investors, the same index according to which Brazil occupied the 3rd position in the years 2012/2013. At the same time, the participation of industry in the national GDP, which was 17.8% in 2004, fell to 11% in 2019, and is expected to fall further in 2020/2021; and unemployment jumped from 4.7% in 2014 to 14.3% in 2020, and is expected to continue to rise this year.

The new reality created by Mr. Guedes' ultra-liberal fanaticism has already been reflected in the Human Development Index: Brazil has dropped five positions, going from 79th to 84th place between 2018 and 2020

Brazilian industry is facing a shortage of raw materials and the country accumulated an inflation rate of 12.14% in food prices in 2020, most directly affecting low-income families, according to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socio-Economic Studies (DIEESE). Also, experts predict widespread power outages for 2021, as the ones that happened in the state of Amapá last year. And now, Brazil is operating on energy deficit, seeing the need to import energy from Uruguay and Argentina, which explains the expected surcharge for consumers in 2021.

Still regarding the state of the country's infrastructure, the National Transport Confederation has been warning that the general state of Brazilian highways worsened in 2019, and 59% of the paved road network has serious maintenance and circulation problems. Finally, as an inevitable consequence of this physical destruction, the Brazilian economy underwent one of the greatest reversals in its modern history, going from being the 6th or 7th largest in the world in the 2010s, to 12th in 2020, and should dip to 13th in 2021, according to the Center for Economics and Business Research published by The Straits Times, Singapore.

The social consequences of this economic destruction were predictable and inevitable: even before the pandemic, in 2019, 170,000 Brazilians returned to the state of extreme poverty, where approximately 13.8 million people already lived, a number that is expected to grow exponentially after the “emergency aid” ends, increasing even more the unemployment rate in 2021.

The new reality created by Mr. Guedes' ultra-liberal fanaticism has already been reflected in the Human Development Index: Brazil has dropped five positions, going from 79th to 84th place between 2018 and 2020. In the same period, Brazil became the country with the second highest concentration of income in the world, behind only Qatar, and the eighth most unequal in the world, only behind seven African countries.

Finally, it is impossible to complete this balance of the governmental rubble without mentioning the destruction of Brazil's international image, conducted in an explicit and insulting way by the biblical and delusional fool who occupies the Chancellery.

The one who commanded the tragicomic “humanitarian invasion” of Venezuela in 2019, ahead of his failed Grupo de Lima; the one who failed in his attempt to imitate the United States and promote a change of government and regime in Bolivia, through a coup d'état; the one who has already fought with at least 11 countries in the international community that were former partners in Brazil; the one who launched a beatific war against China, Brazil's largest international economic partner; the one who managed to defeat, in a few weeks, two Brazilian candidacies in international organizations; the one who managed to get Brazil to be excluded from the International Climate Conference held by the UN in December 2020; and finally, the one who celebrated with his subordinates at Itamaraty, the fact that Brazil was transformed, under his management, into an “international pariah”.

This is something truly unprecedented and that needs no additional comment, coming from a dazzled big boy who was practically named by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the “hawks” who have led Donald Trump's foreign policy for a few months.

Even the “market” seems increasingly dissatisfied with the Minister of Economy, who in other times had been considered the Joan of Arc of the ultraliberal revolution in Brazil

At the end of the second year of this government, we can easily understand why most of those who participated in the 2016 coup d'état, and who later supported Mr Bolsonaro's government, are jumping ship and moving on to the opposition. The young “Curitiba crusaders”, having fulfilled their mission and after their five minutes of fame, are fleeing or returning to their anonymity, while sinking into the mud of their own corruption.

The large conservative press has changed and today is dedicated to attacking the government daily, while the traditional center and center-right parties, which have been together with Mr. Bolsonaro since the 2016 coup, now move away and try to build a parliamentary opposition group. And even the “market” seems increasingly dissatisfied with the Minister of Economy, who in other times had been considered the Joan of Arc of the ultraliberal revolution in Brazil.

Thus, now the government only has the political support of the physiological underworld of the National Congress, which the press delicately calls centrão (“big center”), the same world in which Mr. Bolsonaro vegetated for 28 years in absolute anonymity in nine different parties. This parliamentary group has always been and will be hung in any government that offers advantages, but it never had and will not have the autonomous capacity to form or sustain a government on its own account. That is why, after two years of disgrace, there is a question that will not remain silent: how, after all, does this amateur government sustain itself, despite the destruction it is leaving behind?

It used to be more difficult, but today the answer is absolutely clear, because as other relevant partners moved away, what was really left was a simulacrum of military government, absolutely amateur. We must just look at the numbers, since everyone knows that the president and vice president are military - a captain and a retired general, respectively. But in addition to them, 11 of the current 23 government ministers are also military, and the Minister of Health is a general on active duty, all at the head of a veritable army of 6,157 active and reserve officers who hold key posts in several government levels.

It seems that the time is coming for Brazilian society to dispose of these “savior myths” and return its military to their barracks and constitutional functions

According to unofficial data, there are 4,450 from the Army, 3,920 from the Air Force and 76 from the Navy, a number that may be even greater than that of the official PSDB and PT activists who held government posts during their governments in past decades. Therefore, after two years it is difficult to dissimulate and try to separate the Armed Forces from Mr. Bolsonaro, not only because of the extent and degree of personal involvement of the military inside the Alvorada Palace, but also due to the level and intensity of regular meetings held in the last two years between retired generals and officers and those on active duty, inside and outside the government, especially between the upper echelons. After all, it would be like trying to separate two eggs from a single eggnog.

That said, the failure of this government is expected to weigh heavily on the prestige and credibility of the Brazilian Armed Forces, putting a shovel on the myth of the military's technical and moral superiority over the common mortal. It is now becoming absolutely clear, and once and for all, that the military has not been trained to govern. Its geopolitical manuals and gymnastics and war exercises are one thing; the other is the entirely different knowledge and accumulated experience indispensable for the formulation of any type of public policy, especially to propose to govern a country with the size and the complexity of Brazil.

Furthermore, it has also become clear in recent history that the military's presumption of moral superiority is only a myth because the military is as human and corruptible as any other homo sapiens. Just remember the recent episode of the irregular request of “emergency aid”, aimed at the poorest people, by hundreds of military personnel in the first phase of the pandemic in Brazil. It is estimated that there were more than 50,000 irregular grants reported by the Federal Court of Auditors and that they had to return the amount to the public safes. But even after the return of the irregularly acquired values, this episode teaches us that there is no reason to believe that soldiers are above suspicion or that they are immune to "worldly temptations".

In fact, there is no more exemplary case of the failure of this belief in the superiority of military judgment than what happened to the former Commander-in-Chief of the Brazilian Armed Forces, who is self-convinced of his “strategic genius” and his great “moral wisdom” decided to endorse on behalf of the Armed Forces, and personally oversees the operation that led to the presidency of the country an aggressive, crude and despicable psychopath, surrounded by a bunch of rascals with no moral principle, and true ideological buffoons, who together pretend to have ruled Brazil for two years.

May it serve as an example so that these people who consider themselves superior and enlightened, with the right to decide on behalf of society, do not repeat themselves, be they in uniforms, togas, cassocks or pajamas.

In the 20th century, the military made an important contribution to the industrialization of the Brazilian economy, but they also contributed decisively to the construction of an extremely unequal, violent and authoritarian society. And they castrated an entire progressive generation that could have contributed to the advancement of the democratic system installed in 1946. Even so, now in the 21st century, the new generation of activists, much more mediocre, is dedicated to destroying the best they had done in the last century.

It seems that the time is coming for Brazilian society to dispose of these “savior myths” and return its military to their barracks and constitutional functions. To assume, once and for all, with courage and with your own hands, the responsibility of building a new country that has your face, and that is done in your image and likeness, with its great defects, but also with its great virtues.

May it be a proud and sovereign country, more just and less violent, that respects differences and all beliefs, and that it becomes more human, more fraternal and more fun. And that Brazil will once again be accepted, admired and respected by the rest of the world. These are at least my wishes for the year 2021.

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