Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert on Facebook Lula.
After more than two years of a coup d’état government in Brazil, a democratic solution has not yet become clear. The powerful factions responsible for organising the coup without a winning candidate failed in overcoming the political crisis and reactivating the economy, and are still questioning whether to knock on the door of the army barracks to continue their rein under even less democratic circumstances.
Elections are due to take place in October of this year. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been in jail for around 3 months and sentenced in a process without evidence, keeps on winning.
The results of the latest opinion poll by IBOPE published on the 28th of June confirm the same trends that previous polls had set, that voter intention for Lula is 33%. As usual, he has more than double than that of his closest contender, ex-military extreme right politician Bolsonaro with 15%, and than third place contender Marina Silva of the centre-right with 7%.
The crisis and a way out
Brazil has been embroiled in a 4 year-long crisis that originally began as an economic crisis but is now also social and political. Without growth for almost 4 years and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now back on the UN FAO hunger map.
Without growth for almost 4 years and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now back on the UN FAO hunger map.
Additionally, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), poverty increased 11% in the past year, and for the first time in the history of the country, informal workers (37%) outnumber those who are employed under the law. Inequality also grew, as did the Gini index.
None of the recent government measures have been able to lift the country out of its current state of crisis, and the lack of economic growth has also been detrimental for the instigators of the coup who have not achieved the increase in profit rates they were hoping for.
Even if the coup government have managed to implement almost all the policies that they sought out to, leaving the public without any guarantee regarding their rights and rolling the country back to where it was decades ago, it has still not been able to reform pensions (halted by mass mobilisations and a huge national strike a year ago), to privatise Eletrobras, and to sell of parts of Petrobras.
The protests have continued at varying intensities. For more than 10 days in May, truck drivers almost brought the country to a standstill.
They demanded an end to the constant increases in diesel prices (which are 16 times higher since the coup took place), however the issue of cooking gas and petrol which affect the majority of the population was not addressed. In a country where minimum wage is $250 and a gas cylinder costs around $20, many have turned to alcohol or wood as an alternative.
Immediately after, petrol workers announced a day-long strike protesting the management of Petrobras and the local prices that were pegged to the market price, the announcements of privatisation and the fact that refineries were being used at 70% of their capacity due to the importation of by-products.
The initial forecast was for a three-day long strike but a daily fine of $500,000 detained the mobilisation, one of many examples of the power of the Brazilian judiciary.
New mobilisations have been announced against the sale of Electrobras, currently on hold due to a decision by the magistrate of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, who declared legislative authorisation is required for this privatisation to take place.
The president of Petrobras had to resign, but the policies regarding fuel prices, tied to international prices, continues to be relevant even though its application has been halted for two months. The truck drivers, whose demands were not satisfied in the end, could provoke another standstill.
New mobilisations have been announced against the sale of Electrobras, currently on hold due to a decision by the magistrate of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, who declared legislative authorisation is required for this privatisation to take place. Many other marches have additionally taken place in support of Lula winning the next presidential elections.
Operation Lava Jato
Around the beginning of June, the president of the Workers Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffmann, her husband Paulo Bernardo Silva (previously a government minister), and businessman Ernesto Kugler, were declared innocent against accusations regarding the supposed involvement of illicit finance in electoral campaigns made by an informer due to there being no evidence against them.
The magistrates Ricardo Lewandowski, Dias Toffoli and Gilmar Mendes, of the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court, freed José Dirceu de Oliveira (previous minister of Lula), who had been charged in second instance (the appeal process) in the context of the Lava Jato operation. This decision is what led many to believe that Lula, also sentences in second instance and caught up in the appeal process, could be freed.
These are the first signs of a slight change in direction of the Justice Party, formed by the federal police, the public prosecutor, and the federal judiciary that have used Operation Lava Jato to apply ‘lawfare’ in order to neutralise and get rid of the political opposition. Those accused and sentenced are mostly from the Workers Party.
Very few members of other parties who have been caught up in corruption scandals and who have evidence against them have been tried, included in those are Aecio Neves, senator and ex-presidential candidate, various ex-ministers of Michel Temer, and the very president himself. These individuals have not received sentences let alone have been processed for their crimes.
However, a new appeal procedure in defence of Lula that was due to be judged on the 26th of June did not occur. The Second Chamber should decide on the legality of the condemnation of the ex-president and his current prison sentence.
The defence maintains that judge Sergio Moro was not competent to judge the case, that the trial was not impartial, and that Lula’s detention on second instance before exhausting all legal procedures is illegal.
The procedures were not dealt with by the Second Chamber. Its president, Edson Fachin, calculated they would lose, as was the case with Dirceu, and accordingly, added a request to block Lula standing for the presidential elections that must be dealt with in plenary session by the first instance of the Supreme Court.
According to current Brazilian law, Lula can still put himself forward as a candidate for the presidential elections despite being held in prison. His candidacy can be contested until the 15th of August, but due to the duration of the proceedings of the Supreme Electoral Court, there would not be enough time to remove his name from the ballots before the election date.
The difficulties of the coup government on selecting a presidential candidate are related to the fact that the movement, which was successful from the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff until the municipal elections of October 2016 in which they gained a large majority, is currently divided.
Now there is a possibility that the court approves Fachin’s procedure and prohibits Lula’s presidential candidacy. It is possible that a political negotiation takes place in order to free Lula so that he can not only participate and win, but also assume the powers of the presidency. It is also possible that he is freed and loses the elections.
In the case Lula cannot participate he will designate a successor, however it is difficult to determine if that individual could win on the sole basis that they are backed by the ex-president. Names such as Fernando Hadad, ex-mayor of São Paulo, and Gleisi Hoffmann, have cropped up. There has also been talk that in order to avoid another unjust Lava Jato proceeding, the name will be kept secret for as long as possible.
The stance of the left and popular movements so far has been to support the candidacy of Lula, claiming elections without him would be fraudulent.
Ciro Gomes, who has gone through 7 political parties throughout his career ranging from the left to the centre-right, opens up a space within the centre-left as the only political force able to defeat Jair Bolsonaro in Lula’s absence.
The political force of the coup government that also includes the hegemonic media outlets, especially Red Globo, does not have a definitive candidate and none of the names put forward to this date (Geraldo Alckmin, Henrique de Campos Meirelles) gain more than 8% of the intended vote.
Without a strong left-wing candidate, Bolsonaro, with his extreme right views and his attacks against the human rights of the poor, black communities, the LGBTQ+ community, and peasants could prove useful if they scare moderate voters and tip the balance in favour of the candidate of the right, whoever it may be.
It must be acknowledged that the difficulties of the coup government on selecting a presidential candidate are related to the fact that the movement, which was successful from the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff until the municipal elections of October 2016 in which they gained a large majority, is currently divided.
The betrayal of businessman Joesley Batista in May 2017, that incriminated Temer among others was one of the main factors that created this divide.
The sale of Electrobras, together with the partial privatisation of Petrobras, will without a doubt present an incredible business opportunity for those who decide to invest in shares that will be sold at 10% of their true value.
In the face of such uncertainty, the shadows of a military coup have not yet distanced themselves entirely. Despite the international conditions not appearing favourable, the coup of 2016 was carried out because the elites did not wish to wait until winning the elections this year. They are now in a rush to apply all the measures they planned, completing the submission of the country to the international market, and establishing neoliberal policies as the only form of governing.
The sovereignty of Brazil is at stake, as is the wellbeing of the people and the protection of Brazil’s natural resources. The sale of Electrobras, together with the partial privatisation of Petrobras, will without a doubt present an incredible business opportunity for those who decide to invest in shares that will be sold at 10% of their true value.
In the case of the first, many of the biggest hydroelectric firms have already had their debt written off, so the profits would be astronomical but would remain in private hands. They would no longer be used for social programs which is what occurred during the majority of the PT’s reign.
Democracy is also at stake, and elections are the only democratic means to end the coup that began in April 2016 and that has brought with it profound suffering and an overwhelming crisis to Brazil.
This article was originally published by La Línea de Fuego and can be read here.