Brazil: increasing exploitation

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On 12 July, Lula, ex-President of Brazil (2003-2010), was convicted of being gifted an apartment in São Paulo valued at $300,000 by a business contractor. The use of the apartment against Lula was one of five cases prepared against him. This is another huge blow against the Workers’ Party (PT) following the expulsion of Dilma Rousseff as president, and hits its chance of winning the presidency again with Lula in 2018. The PT has called Lula's conviction and sentence ‘an attack on democracy’. Lula has denied all charges and was given leave to appeal and released.

Two weeks before Lula’s sentencing, the same judge, Moro, sentenced Antonio Palocci to 12 years in prison for corruption. He had been a minister in the Lula and Rousseff governments. Palocci was named in the giant corporation Odebrecht’s list of politicians regularly taking bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts with the state oil corporation Petrobras. This ‘Operation Car Wash’ scheme mostly developed when Lula's PT was in power, from 2003 to 2016. $10m of this was directed to Lula’s PT campaign finances.

The last three years of deep economic crisis, working class austerity and political scandals has created a situation where the candidates from the big political parties like the conservative Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) are widely detested. On 6 June police arrested the former tourism minister, Henrique Eduardo Alves, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), charged with bribery in the construction of a 2014 World Cup stadium in Natal. The previous weekend President Temer’s aide, Rodrigo Rocha Loures (PMDB), was arrested having previously been stripped of his congressional seat and consequently of parliamentary immunity, for being caught with a suitcase containing 500,000Reais (over $100,000) of alleged bribe money received from the meat packing giant corporation JBS. It is claimed that he was acting as Temer’s interlocutor with JBS to ‘resolve’ its problems. In mid-June Temer (PMDB), the current unelected replacement president, was acquitted of financial irregularities in the 2014 election campaign, when he ran as vice president, in the Superior Electoral Court by a four to three vote. The day after, he was forced to deny damaging press allegations that the country's secret security service, ABIN, had spied on the justice overseeing the ‘Operation Car Wash’ investigation. He still faces charges of corruption and obstruction of justice. He received a miserable 7% public approval rating in the June opinion polls.


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Brazil: Ruling class in crisis

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On 17 May, in the latest blow to the Brazilian ruling class, unelected President Temer was finally exposed in the establishment newspaper O Globo, caught on tape in March endorsing the payment of hush money to ex-speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha. Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS, the world’s biggest beef exporter, was paying Cunha monthly to keep quiet about JBS’s role in the associated ‘Car Wash’ scandal, the payment of a percentage of state contract monies to political parties in return for receiving contracts. Cunha is already serving 15 years for taking $1.6m in bribes in the Petrobras scandal. Alvaro Michaels reports.

Brazilian politicians are absolutely discredited. The revelations now emerging have highlighted the shameless hypocrisy of those who forced Dilma Rousseff out of office last year. Rousseff was impeached on charges concerning manipulation of government budgetary accounts; a minor offence compared to those committed by the gang now clinging to office.


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Brazil: growing resistance

Capital can no longer accumulate in Brazil without removing even those small gains for the poor made possible by the commodity boom prior to 2015.  The new austerity imposed by the government of the unelected President Temer on the working class is fast bringing rebellion. Unemployment and poverty have risen dramatically.

In the 12 months to January 2017, more than 1.28 million jobs were lost, with a dramatic increase of 608,000 from November 2016.  The unemployment rate hit 12.6% in January, with 12.9 million people out of work. Industrial production fell 6.6% last year, after falling 8.3% in 2015, all in all 17% over the last three years.  Overall GDP fell 3.6% last year. Lower commodity prices, for oil and iron ore, hit the state’s budget, provoking aggressive cuts to spending.


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Brazil: drained of its wealth

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Brazil’s new coalition government, now shorn of any Workers Party members, has increased the maximum permitted working hours to 12 per day and sharply reduced regulations on temporary worker employment. A widespread attack is underway against the Brazilian working class which is being made to pay for the crisis of a system rooted in the drive for private profit. Meanwhile, Teori Zavascki, the Supreme Court judge running Brazil’s enormous Lava Jato (Car Wash) political corruption probe, was killed as his plane inexplicably crashed into the sea off the Rio de Janeiro state coast, conveniently stalling the investigation.


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Brazil: renewed onslaught against the poor

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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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