The rise of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil seems to be further proof that pretty much the entire planet is moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
Almost everywhere you look, there seems to be the sense that the Bad Guys are in the ascendancy: and that – far from opposing it – very large sections of populations are almost gleeful about welcoming that state of affairs.
I wrote at length here a few weeks ago about all of the madness, misinformation and *reality* of the ‘Migrant Caravan’ from Honduras to the US: and that’s going to be relevant again to this subject of what’s going on in Brazil.
We really have entered into an extraordinary age of mass manipulation, popular stupidity, blind folly and open conspiracy.
‘Corruption’ is a massive factor too, of course: but corruption is the oldest profession in the world, so we should always take that as a given. There’s always a big dose of cognitive dissonance going on when people talk about all the ‘corruption’ and the need to find a saviour to ‘fix’ all the terrible ‘corruption’ – that’s also one of the oldest tricks/archetypes in the book.
‘Corruption’ and dealing with all these ‘corrupt politicians’ is actually precisely the thing that paved the way to this state of affairs – which we’ll come to in a moment, as we’ll have to rewind the narrative back two years.
But what also keeps occuring to me is the sense that the Old Elites are playing an absolute blinder: casting themselves and their proxies as the heroes in the shifting equations, often manipulating even the working classes into championing them and generally getting people to mostly miss the forest for the trees.
You can sense this all over the place. The so-called ‘AfD’ in Germany being headed by a former Goldman-Sachs banker and a member of one of the old European royal houses, for example (see here). Trump being indebted to Rothschilds and Rockerfellers. You start to sense that most of the apparent rising up against the so-called ‘liberal elites’ is actually just being stoked by the Old Elites.
As explored in a much older article about Brexit and the Trump campaign, it’s extaordinary how many people have been brainwashed into throwing about the term ‘liberal elite’ (whatever that actually means) – which seems to have been seeded in the popular consciousness to make everyone forget about the original, older ‘elites’ that have been manipulating things since long before any of us were born and before liberalism ever really became prominent.
It’s baffling that everything has gotten so warped and conflated: so that people are zealously caught up in the ‘we’re defeating the New World Order’ psy-op, thinking that the way to do this is to hate or oppose liberals while embracing the Old Elites as the antidote.
The situation in Brazil is perhaps quite illustrative of this dynamic.
Bolsonaro is clearly no friend of democracy or free society: but he was so emboldened that he was able to openly boast about this while seeking to lead a country.
In the 1990s, just shortly after Brazil’s return to democracy, he said: “Voting won’t change anything in this country. Nothing! Things will only change, unfortunately, after starting a civil war here, and doing the work the dictatorship didn’t do… If some innocents die, that’s just fine.”
I mean, holy fuck. And that’s a guy that not only has the gall to run for president, but the sway to win.
Bolsonaro has been repeatedly characterised as “the Brazilian Trump”. In some ways, this is valid (the ‘showmanship’, the brazenness, the incredible statements, etc): but, actually, Bolsonaro is a lot worse than Trump – and was simply apeing a lot of the Trumpisms because he saw how it succeeded in the US. But, like Trump, he hates ‘liberals’ and thinks the ‘liberal elite’ is a thing, really dislikes the environment, claims to be the antidote to all the corrupt politicians, etc: but, unlike Trump, he is openly in favour of dictatorship and is openly disdainful of much of the population.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has also declared his intention to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by moving Brazil’s embassy there. Curious that all Hard-Right leaders or parties – wherever they are in the world – seem to make it a point to recognise Israeli interests in the Holy Land. Actually, maybe not so curious (see here).
In actual fact, the crisis in Brazil should be viewed in the context of the impeachment, a few years ago, of Brazil’s then-leader Dilma Rousseff.
I covered Rouseff’s situation here at the time: she seemed to be the victim of a corporate/right-wing conspiracy aimed simply at getting a left-wing leader out of the way so that Conservative/corporate interests could take full control of government. That plot against Rousseff also seemed to have the backing of Washington. And, as noted then, the tide seemed to be turning against Left-leaning leaders across Latin America – either by design or due to popular feeling (it was never entirely clear which – though the US has a long history of toppling Left-leaning leaders or governments in Latin America).
I wrote back then: ‘Whatever’s really going on, it’s almost certain that Rousseff’s impeachment represents the beginning of a major crisis in Brazil and not the end of one.‘
The rise of Bolsonaro appears to be the climax of that crisis.
Before getting back to Bolsonaro and the present situation, we should recap the Rousseff affair from two years ago.
The impeachment against Rousseff was a farce.
She was accused of ‘corruption’ and financial improprieties: and removed from power by a cabal of corporate interests, wealthy elites and the corporate media establishment. Five members of the impeachment commission were themselves under criminal investigation for major corruption (one of them even had an outstanding arrest warrant against him from Interpol). In fact, as noted at the time, of the 65 members that made up the ‘House impeachment committee’, 36 of them were themselves awaiting pending legal proceedings for various corruption cases.
Dilma Rousseff’s supporters called the impeachment process nothing less than a coup: and this was later how Rousseff also characterised it.
The impeachment effort against Rousseff had been mostly orchestrated by the political, media, and economic elites in Brazil; though corporate media in Brazil and foreign media in the West had largely portrayed it as more of a populist movement of the Brazilian people.
Brazilian journalist João Estrella de Bettencourt wrote back then in the Huffington Post, ‘It’s a coup. And don’t deceive yourself… it will result in brutal battles in Brazilian society. The Dilma government was democratically elected and, despite the accusations, it has a legitimate right to fight back’.
Glenn Greenwald, writing for The Intercept, also suggested that the spectacle being played out in Brazil was being portrayed in Western media as something very different to what might actually be going on. He noted in 2016 that ‘much of this Western media coverage mimics the propaganda coming from Brazil’s homogenized, oligarch-owned, anti-democracy media outlets and, as such, is misleading, inaccurate, and incomplete, particularly when coming from those with little familiarity with the country’.
Ernesto Samper, Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations, had told teleSUR that Dilma Rousseff remained “the legitimate leader” of the Brazilian people. He also maintained that Rousseff still had full “democratic legitimacy”, having been re-elected in 2014. Samper warned that the decision of the Brazilian Congress to initiate an impeachment trial against the President was “compromising the democratic governability of the region in a dangerous way.”
That warning now appears prophetic.
The end result of all of that conspiracy now seems to have arrived in the form of Bolsonaro: and the threat of a return to military dictatorship.
I wrote here recently about the 2009 Clinton-backed coup in Honduras: where Hillary Clinton’s State Department legitmised a right-wing military coup in that country that removed the democratically elected and left-wing prime minister from the country. If you take a broad view of the Brazil situation – starting from Rousseff’s impeachment and ending here with Bolsonaro’s rise – you could argue the same thing is playing out in Brazil.
But, this being the Trump era, the US administration doesn’t have to be underhanded or slippery like Hillary Clinton’s State Department: Trump can just shrug his shoulders and be blatant about it if he wants to.
I don’t know if the Trump administration has said anything about Bolsonaro: but one assumes that Trump’s administration would endorse Bolsonaro – given that he seems to be a Trump clone and to have propelled himself on the same sort of wave of feeling and opinion as Trump did. Given that Trump’s response to Chinese President Xi Xinping declaring himself an indefinite dictator was to praise it, one would assume the current US administration would have few qualms with Bolsonaro.
In the Honduras case, as noted, the right-wing dictatorship proceeded to crush all protest and dissent, the murder rate shot up by 50%, all activists and political opponents were violently suppressed.
Note that Bolsonaro has apparently already vowed to “put an end to all types of activism” in Brazil.
The other big thing that happened in Honduras after the 2009 coup was the corporate seizure of natural resources and indigenous land, resulting in the displacement of indiginous populations: this I argued was also a major contributing factor to the outflow of migrants from Honduras.
Well, Bolsonaro and Brazil look like they’re headed the same way.
As a recent article republished in Scientific American says, ‘Brazil’s new president could spell disaster for the Amazon rainforest’.
Bolsonaro has been clear about developing the Amazon and infringing on indigenous communities and populations, displaying a dismissive attitude towards such communities and their rights and also displaying unconcealed aggression towards environmental organisations and activists.
In fact, this could simply be a re-run or restoration of what went on in previous generations under Brazil’s former military dictatorship.
Thousands of indigenous people in Brazil were slaughtered when the military regime decades ago wanted to seize vast amounts of the Amazon for development. That’s what may be set to happen again: in Brazil again, just as in Honduras.
On the subject of the old Brazilian military dictatorship, Bolsonaro is from that idealogy and that era and is firmly (and openly) rooted in it – and is an unabashed supporter of that dictatorship, who has been open about wanting a return to those days.
It was in 1964 that an earlier democratically elected left-wing government (like Rousseff’s) was overthrown by a military coup. United States officials denied any role; but documents have subsequently shown that Washington directly supported and helped enable the coup. The pro-American, right-wing military dictatorship then lasted for 21 years and engaged in systemised, long-term and brutal crackdowns against Brazilian dissidents, minorities and working-class.
Shamefully, a 2014 report highlighted the extent to which British and American government agencies assisted the dictatorship’s interrogation and torture techniques.
Ironically enough (and as I noted here two years ago), one of the many figures tortured by that dictatorship was the very same woman being impeached in 2016 – Dilma Rouseff, the legitimate president of Brazil.
A return to those dynamics could have implications not just for Brazil, but for all of Latin America.
Journalist Vincent Bevins, who has met and interviewed Bolsonaro on multiple occasions, wrote a really interesting article a month or so ago on the history of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, including its bloody involvement in neighbouring Latin American countries like Chile and Bolivia.
As he notes, ‘Brazil’s military dictatorship helped devise the infamous Operation Condor, an international network of terror and extermination across South America. Born of a fanatical anti-communism, the regimes under Condor murdered political opponents by the tens of thousands…‘
See more on ‘Operation Condor’ here.
Bevins notes, ‘Bolsonaro’s ideology is best understood as Operation Condor plus the Internet. Recent international reporting has compared him to Donald Trump or seized on his contempt for identity politics, pointing out his record of sexist, racist, and homophobic statements, but these characterizations are insufficient. What Bolsonaro offers is an explicit return to the values that underpinned Brazil’s brutal dictatorship…’
The other thing that needs to be understood about these dynamics in Brazil (the 1964 coup and dictatorship, the Rouseff impeachment, and now Bolsonaro) is that isn’t just an issue of democracy and dictatorship: it is also both an issue of class warfare between the wealthy elites and the Brazilian poor and an issue of race warfare.
Glenn Greenwald puts the 1964 coup – and the impeachment of Rousseff – in terms of both class and racial warfare. He wrote in 2016, concerning that period, ‘The coup itself and the dictatorship that followed were supported by Brazil’s oligarchs and their large media outlets, led by Globo, which — notably — depicted the 1964 coup as a noble defeat of a corrupt left-wing government (sound familiar?). The 1964 coup and dictatorship were also supported by the nation’s extravagantly rich (and overwhelmingly white) upper class and its small middle class. As democracy opponents often do, Brazil’s wealthy factions regarded dictatorship as protection against the impoverished masses comprised largely of non-whites…’
That’s the same state of affairs that was repeated in 2016 with the Rousseff impeachment: and now, with Bolsonaro in town, those same forces and agendas have their ultimate champion and advocate.
When Dilma Rousseff was being impeached, the then interim president Michel Temmer (backed by Washington) was being sworn in with 22 handpicked ministers – all of them white and male (to administer a country in which over half the population is made up by people of colour). Temmer had a 5% approval rating.
Rousseff’s party had been much better for the lower classes and the poor and hated by the upper classes and elites, having ushered in economic and social reforms that helped lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Rousseff’s party, among other things, instituted the ‘Bolsa Familia’ social welfare program, the increased promotion of human rights, significant scholarship programs and things like campaigns for university inclusion programs.
It seems to be that much or most of the working class and the poor were pro Rousseff’s government. What happened in 2016 was nothing less than an elite/corporate counter-action to take back control and to set the country back towards the glory days of dictatorship.
This was obvious even at the time. It was obvious then that the entire coup was about race and class just as much as it was about political idealogy. It wasn’t about ‘corruption’ – given that, as mentioned already, the people impeaching Rousseff should’ve themselves been prosecuted on corruption charges at the time.
What was going on two years ago was a conspiracy: and what is happening now is the fruit of that conspiracy.
There were reports even then that some factions at the “anti-corruption” protests against Rousseff were openly calling for the end of democracy – and, one would assume (by implication), a return to a military dictatorship.
It’s no surprise then how someone like Bolsonaro could be carried in to power: on a wave of hysteria bound up in race war and class war sentiment and a longing for the ‘good old days’ when the wealthy section of society could depend on a military dictatorship to protect their interests while violently suppressing the lower classes, working classes, minorities and the indigenous people.
Given Washington’s well-attested history of supporting right-wing coups against governments in Latin America (including Chile, Guatemala, El-Salvador, Argentina, and more recently Honduras), one really does have to wonder what the US involvement may be: both in the impeachment of Rousseff and in the rise of Bolsonaro. I said two years ago: ‘It may be that there’s no involvement from Washington – and I’m not aware of any clear evidence to suggest it – but the proven US backing of the 1964 coup in Brazil makes it fair to raise the question.‘
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, on the other hand, was in no doubt about foreign involvement: he linked Rousseff’s impeachment firmly with the removal of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina (in an article titled ‘Washington Launches Its Attack Against Brics: The Destabilisation of Brazil and Argentina‘).
And yet, what’s going on in Brazil is also being played out – at varying stages – practically all over the world.
Everywhere you care to look, it seems as if the Old Elites are emerging from their yachts, mansions and soirees to try to take back or protect some notion of lost or diminishing control or power: and using every trick in the propaganda book to manipulate the masses into seeing them as the Solution and the Saviours of civilisation.
Read more: ‘The Rousseff Impeachment – What is Happening in Brazil & Latin America?‘, ‘Hillary Clinton & the Murder Capital of the World‘, ‘The Truth About Honduras and the Migrant Caravan‘, ‘Brexit, Trump & the Gambit of the Old Elites‘, ‘An Age of Universal Deceit: What is Really Happening in Germany…?‘, ‘Interview – Joanne Moriarty on the Situation in Libya‘, ‘ALI, Zaire & the Rumble in the Jungle‘…