Brazil a legal ‘coup d’etat’


On 12 May 2016 the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to start impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff, halting 13 years of politically fragmented coalitions led by the Workers’ Party (PT). Vice President Michel Temer, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) under investigation for allegedly receiving more than $1.5m in illegal campaign contributions, has taken on the interim presidency, even though impeachment proceedings against him were also ordered the same day as those against Rousseff. His first coalition cabinet of 13 May was made up of 23 white males, despite the majority of the population being of African descent.

Polling shows the majority of the country wants Temer impeached. WikiLeaks revealed him to be a US Embassy informant since 2006. Temer’s finance minister is Henrique Meirelles, former chief executive of the Bank of Boston. Ilan Goldfajn, from Brazil’s largest private bank Itaú Unibanco, is the new central bank governor. The new Minister of Agriculture is Senator Blairo Maggi (Party of the Republic), ex-Governor of Matto Grosso State, who received Green Peace’s ‘Golden Chainsaw’ award for deforestation in 2005.

Brazil, the sixth biggest economy in the world, has seen its sovereign debt downgraded to junk bond status as the world market value of its raw material and agricultural products fell. Brazil is now suffering its worst recession since the 1930s. The country is a source of mouth-watering plunder for foreign investors, but in the current global crisis, prices and thus wages must be forced down absolutely if global profits are to be maintained and reinvested. Any weakening of political forces that either shelter or defend the working class is a boost for imperialism. Brazil is thus vital to imperialism’s strategy to reverse the political gains made in Latin America this century. Venezuela’s President Maduro has called Rousseff’s removal ‘a mockery of justice and popular will’.

The deepening economic crisis, with unemployment at 9.5% this last quarter, and inflation of about 10%, provides the background for a middle class reaction against the government. The plutocrats running the major media organisations have worked to whip up a frenzy among them against the Workers’ Party over the Petrobras bribery scandal. The result was the 13 March 2016 demonstrations, led by the largely white middle class. They took place the day after the PMDB prepared to abandon the Workers’ Party coalition. On 16 March the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) also abandoned the government.

The ‘charges’ against Rousseff

The main opposition party, Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) asked Congress to impeach Rousseff. It claimed she benefited from bribes and political kickbacks. Yet the speaker of the Lower House, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), who led the charges against Rousseff, has now been suspended for obstructing investigations into his own alleged bribe-taking. The leader of the PSDB, Aécio Neves, and 32 other sitting politicians are under investigation for links with the Petrobras scheme. Paulo Maluf, involved in preparing the impeachment charges, is convicted for corruption offshore and is wanted by Interpol. The current PSDB leader in the Senate voting against Rousseff, Cassio Cunha Lima, is accused of hoarding corrupt funds in Swiss bank accounts.

The charges against Rousseff are a clear political fix. She is not accused of a criminal act, or criminal personal enrichment. She was charged with misusing her power to hide budget shortfalls with state bank loans, a practice often used by previous presidents. The ‘hidden hand’ of imperialist interests have again resorted to their legal removals scheme, practiced on the Honduran and Paraguayan presidents, President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and Fernando Lugo in 2012, respectively.

Ex-President Lula, also subject to concerted legal smears, remarked that the prosecutors in charge of the case: ‘think that with the press leading the investigative process they are going to re-found the republic. We have a totally cowardly supreme court, a totally cowardly high court, a totally cowardly parliament…a speaker of the house who is fucked, a president of the senate who is fucked, I don’t know how many legislators under threat, and everyone thinking that some kind of miracle is going to happen’.

The extent of corruption is so great that the bourgeoisie are struggling to ‘reinvent’ themselves through the current show trial. In February João Santana, Workers’ Party campaign strategist, was arrested for receiving $7.5m in bribes. On 15 March, Workers’ Party Senator Amaral, accused of hydro-electric dam contract kickbacks, accused the then Education Minister Mercadante of trying to buy his silence over the Petrobras scandal.

More than a third of the representatives in Brazil’s two houses of congress are under investigation for corruption or other illegal acts. Temer’s government includes seven ministers who have been directly cited in the Petrobras corruption investigations. Three are under formal investigation including new Planning Minister Romero Jucá (also PMDB), who was forced to step down on 23 May after tapes revealed he aimed to quash corruption investigations that implicate his party. He says he received ‘guarantees’ from military commanders that they could prevent disturbances from radical left-wing groups such as the Landless Workers Movement. Similarly Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes previously suggested challenging the independence of the state prosecutor’s office.

The Temer government has revealed a record primary fiscal deficit of 2.3% of the GDP in the year to March 2016. Brazil saw its economy shrink 3.8% last year. Temer aims to cut spending and privatise many sectors controlled by the state.

In reality, unless a mass working class party can seize power and impose a rational and effectively planned economy, a dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, which would stifle their lunatic freedom to plunder the people and the land so that a few can live in absurd and deeply offensive luxury, the kind of dreadful impasse in Brazil that we see today can only drag the masses deeper into tragedy. 27.5% of current Brazilian senators collaborated with the military dictatorship, and the outspoken right-wing Progressive Party federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, is on record as saying that the ‘major error [of the dictatorship] was to have tortured but not killed [its opponents]’.

Alvaro Michaels

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 251 June/July 2016