Brazil: renewed onslaught against the poor

brazil temer

The October 2016 Brazilian municipal elections saw the bloodiest campaign in the country’s democratic history, set in the worst recession in Brazil since the 1930s. At the same time the largest anti-corruption investigation in history has been running, inflaming the fractious impeachment process against former President Dilma Rousseff, which reduced the electoral campaign from 90 to 45 days. At least 20 candidates have been murdered since August. The state of Rio de Janeiro leads the list of places where candidates were shot at, threatened and killed.

These elections, in the 27 states with more 144 million voters in over 5,500 municipalities, confirmed the strength of the reactionary mass media campaign directed by a ruling class in the grip of international capital. The demonisation of the Worker’s Party (PT) by the millionaire mass media has had a profound effect. By the second round of votes, at the end of October, the left was comprehensively defeated, with the PT reaping their worst results in 20 years.


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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.


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The Crises in Brazil

The current political battles both within and between the governing Workers' Party coalition and the opposition parties centre on the Petrobras corruption charges (see FRFI Web October 2015). Payments extorted by Petrobras managers in return for awarding private contracts, were passed to the governing parties. Such scandals erupt regularly as the Brazilian ruling classes finance their own positions as imperialism drains Brazil’s resources.

The deepening global economic crisis has exposed both the country’s greater dependence on raw material and agricultural sector exports, and the tightening noose of international finance on its cash flows. Brazil is facing its worst recession since at least the 1930s. Industrial production plunged 12.4% in 2015. The economy shrank nearly 4% and it will contract another 3% in 2016.


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Brazil: recession and corruption

Between April and June 2015, Brazil’s economy fell into recession; GDP contracted 1.9% compared to the previous three months, the country’s worst downturn in 25 years, expected to become the worst since the 1930s. Compelled to find a way out of a deteriorating economic and social environment, the bourgeoisie are using the revelations of one of their own largest corruption scandals to hammer the Workers’ Party coalition government into moving from placating the working class to openly attacking it. Behind this stand the global investors.

To punish the government’s August proposals for a 2016 budget deficit of 0.5% of GDP ($Reals30.5bn or US$8.1bn), Standard and Poor’s aggressively downgraded Brazil’s investment grade rating to ‘junk’ on 15 September. With ‘junk’ ratings, global pension and insurance funds automatically start removing capital from a country. The ratings agency insolently demanded ‘unwavering cabinet support’ for the surplus’s planned by the former investment banker and new Finance Minister Joaquim Levy.


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Workers protest against Brazil’s sports circus

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

On 15 May protests again erupted against the Brazilian state’s huge spending on the FIFA 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic projects. Police attacked demonstrators in 12 main cities, and teachers were joined by bus drivers and street cleaners seeking wage increases in a broader wave of strikes and protests around Brazil. The current demonstrations started on 26 January, with the Anonymous group’s ‘Operation Stop the World Cup’ campaign, when 2,500 protesters marched in Sao Paulo, of whom 100 were arrested. Then on 6 February a cameraman was killed by a police smoke canister in a separate protest in the city. On 22 February, police again fired tear gas and stun grenades at over 1,000 protesters against World Cup spending, making over 230 arrests.


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Brazil unrest: two million join protests in 100 cities

On Thursday 20 June, two million students, unemployed, lower middle class and poor workers demonstrated in 100 towns and cities throughout Brazil against poverty, for jobs, proper state health and education services. This was not simply the culmination of two weeks protests started by campaigners protesting against bus fare increases in São Paulo. Protests took place in August last year in Natal, and then this May and early June in Goiânia where buses were burned and stoned. They now grew dramatically after brutal attacks by police on peaceful protests in São Paulo. Mass demonstrations have now forced the fare rises to be dropped. President Rousseff abandoned a visit to Japan and made a public statement in response to demands for better transport, health and education spending. On 24 June, she opened up the political game by further proposing a referendum on political change. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.


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Brazil: accelerating exploitation

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

Dilma Rousseff became Brazil’s first female president in the first elections in Brazilian history to be based on full universal suffrage. Following the votes on 3 and 31 October, her Workers’ Party now holds more state governorships than it did under former President Lula (2002-10). His designated successor won 56.05% of votes against 43.95% for Jose Serra (Party of Brazilian Democracy); winning most of the impoverished poor northern and north eastern regions. The central and southern areas voted for Serra.

The Workers’s Party has damped down protests by providing the 11 million very poorest families with the Bolsa Familia – a family allowance of $12 per month or $0.39 per day, per family – tied to attendance by their children in the abysmal state school system. This has created a political balance and social peace which allows foreign investors to buy the country’s resources on a grand scale. The boom in worldwide demand for raw materials over the last six years means more workers are being exploited and Brazil is now the world’s seventh largest capitalist economy, with an official 10% of workers destitute. A loose budgetary policy – Federal State spending is up 18% this year – is aimed at placating a strategic section of the working and small middle class.


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Brazil: US fixes outcome of October elections

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

The Brazilian masses are demanding political solutions to their misery and a congressional shift to the ‘left’ is predicted for the October election. So the USA has changed its foreign debt tactics. It has massively increased loans to the Brazilian banking system with the aim of tying the hands of the next Brazilian government. All party leaders in the coming election have publicly agreed to stick to the current financial policy after the election in return for the massive sums offered!

In July the Brazilian real fell by 20% whilst in the first three weeks of the month, $1.1 billion was removed from the country, double that sent abroad in June. Total Brazilian public debt is now 55% of GDP, up from 49% three years ago. Brazil had a $264 billion external debt in July, nearly twice that of Argentina. However, although the country is currently short of cash, it is not yet insolvent like Argentina.


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