Millions resist in Brazil - Our Solidarity Needed!
In an exclusive guest article for The Red Robin, Labour MP Chris Williamson sets out why solidarity with Brazilians resisting the Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro is important for the British Left.
Brazil’s election on October 28 of far-right Jair Bolsonaro as President - just days after he had vowed that that “reds will be banished from the homeland” – just illustrates the importance of our international solidarity with progressive and labour movements globally in the era of Trump.
Bolsonaro has made headlines for his open homophobia, misogyny, racism and support for military dictatorships in Latin America and has pledged a massive clamp down on civil liberties and hardline neo-liberalism, including a privatisation bonanza of oil and other resources.
Since being elected, he has already said the landless movement in Brazil will be treated as terrorists (fitting in with legislation currently being debated in the congress which could allow for peaceful protest to be treated as a terrorist act.) He says he is going to work with current President to approve massive attacks on public sector pensions, and has appointed an interim team of 27 men with no women.
University of Chicago trained economist Paulo Guedes is in charge of drawing up an economic plan of brutal austerity and is going to be Finance Minister, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Bolsonaro’s campaign received encouragement from Mike Pence and others in the Trump administration.
Whilst Bolsonaro has represented himself as a political “outsider,” in reality he represents the interests of the economic elite in stopping real, progressive change, as proven by the obscene amounts of money spent on his Steve Bannon inspired dirty social media campaign.
It is important to remember that the context to this election is that in the last two years, Latin America’s most populous nation has undergone political upheaval.
It started with the coup that removed Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff. Having failed to get rid of Rousseff via the ballot box, the Brazilian conservative elite removed her through a “parliamentary coup” instead.
With the elected president out of the picture, the new administration, led by Michel Temer, wasted no time in implementing a hardline, unpopular austerity agenda.
Temer was ineligible to stand, and as Rousseff was out of the picture, the presidential contest appeared to be open until former president Lula emerged as a potential candidate.
He is still hugely popular from his time in office, but the right-wing media, big business and other parts of the elite hadn’t gone to all the trouble of stitching up Rousseff to have Lula elected again, and in December 2017, he was charged and sentenced to 12 years in prison on trumped up charges.
Even from jail though, Lula continued to head every opinion poll. The UN Human Rights Committee declared that Lula had a right to contest the election, but in an unprecedented move, Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court voted to ignore the ruling of the UN committee and bar Lula. That meant they had finally removed the most popular candidate, who would have been the favourite to win if he had been allowed to stand.
The election had been stolen from Lula and his millions of supporters, something that has now been further confirmed by Judge Moro (who led the ‘case’ against Lula) saying he will accept a role in Bolsonaro’s new government as Justice Minister!
After Lula was prevented from standing, former mayor of Sao Paulo, Fernando Haddad was selected as the left’s candidate. Sadly, although much of the Brazilian left united around him, he came second to Bolsonaro.
But the fight continues. Just as millions of Brazilians resisted the coup against Dilma and opposed austerity in recent years, millions and millions are now resisting the rise of the far-right. Brazil’s political parties on the left, trade unions, the MST (landless movement), other social movements, BAME groups, women’s and peace campaigners are now facing increasing violence, bigotry and hate from extreme rightwing forces, and need our support.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, which is why international solidarity is so important and the Brazil Solidarity Initiative has been launched.
- Chris Williamson is President of Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America and a founding supporter of the Brazil Solidarity Initiative, which was launched with Emily Thorberry MP and over 350 attendees in the House of Commons last week. You can see more information and join Chris in becoming a supporter at www.brazilsolidarity.co.uk
- Join Chris, Julia Felmanas of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, Geoffrey Robertson QC and others at sessions on Brazil and Lula at the Latin America 2018 Conference on Saturday December 1 – tickets and info at www.latinamericaconference.co.uk