At the annual Latin American Studies Association Congress in New York. This year is the Association’s fiftieth anniversary, and as part of the celebrations they planned a special event in which former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso would discuss democracy in the region.
But in Cardoso’s own country, democracy is in trouble, as President Dilma Roussef of the Worker’s Party (PT) has been impeached in circumstances that are dubious at best. And as Perry Anderson notes, in his essential article “Crisis in Brazil”, Cardoso doesn’t exactly have the cleanest of hands in the mess:
Due to preside over the case against Dilma on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal was Gilmar Mendes, a crony Cardoso had appointed to the Supreme Court, where he still sits, and who has never made a secret of his dislike of the PT. But Dilma was lesser prey. For Cardoso, the crucial target for destruction was [former PT President] Lula, not simply for reasons of revenge, however much this might be savoured in private, but because there was no telling, given his past popularity, whether he might be capable of a political comeback in 2018 – when, if Dilma survived till then, [Cardoso’s party] the PSDB should otherwise be able to count on steering the country back to a responsible modernity.
There’s more, much more. Read the whole article. (David Miranda offers a rather briefer sketch in The Guardian.) But the point is that Cardoso is hardly the person to be lecturing anyone about democratic process.
So various petitions were circulated, calling on LASA to withdraw its invitation. Rather than doing so (and defending its decision on the grounds that it “cannot endorse a particular side”), the organization apparently simply changed the title of the session. But in any case, for whatever reasons of his own, a couple of days before the congress was due to begin, the former president indicated that he was no longer able to attend.
Still, the banners had already been painted, the t-shirts printed, so a brief demonstration took place nonetheless, as the photo above indicates. “FHC Golpista” translates as something like “Cardoso, coup-mongerer.” In some ways it’s a shame that Fernando Henrique ultimately chose to decline his invitation; it left the protest a little at a loss. More generally, though, as the Left is in crisis throughout the region (voted out in Argentina; impeached in Brazil; in meltdown in Venezuela) it’s good to remember that, whatever the undoubted failures of left-wing parties and leaders, there are always external forces looking for their chance to pounce.
Anytime I see someone parroting the deceitful propaganda of the Workers Party, I think of the Republican Party and Fox News. Like them, you seem to think that if you repeat a gigantic lie loud enough and often enough—“death panels,” “Kenyan,” “Muslim” or, in this case “coup, coup, coup”—people will accept and believe it. Nice try, but we’re not stupid and we’re not suckers.
Here are the facts of the situation in Brazil, evident to everyone except partisans of the Workers Party like you: Since Lula and Dilma have been in power, the Workers’ Party and its equally corrupt allies have looted at least $5.3 billion from the state oil company Petrobras. As a result, a company whose market value was more than $300 billion is now worth less than $50 billion, and millions of ordinary Brazilians who bought stock in the company, once the pride of the nation, have seen their investments and their pension plans collapse. Hundreds of millions of dollars more are going to have to be spent in lawsuits in Brazil and the United States, further destroying the company.
That is a crime, but it’s not the only one that Ali Lula and his 4,000 Thieves have committed. A significant chunk of that stolen money went to finance his 2006 presidential campaign and Dilma’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns. But that money was not enough to disguise the fact that her first term was an economic disaster, and so she had to use sleight of hand to disguise that fact, and illegally move money around so that voters would not realize the true extent of her ineptitude.
What you call a “coup” is actually a perfectly legal impeachment process. Who says so? The Brazilian Supreme Court, 8 of whose 11 members were appointed by Lula or Dilma. And who drew up the impeachment petition? Helio Bicudo, a lawyer who is one of the founders of the Workers Party but has broken with it because he is so disgusted by the corruption of Lula and his claque.
Together, Lula and Dilma have committed several even more serious crimes that are grounds for impeachment for her and jail for him. Tapes of their telephone conversations reveal that they have conspired to obstruct justice, and some of their former associates who have now turned states’ evidence have testified under oath that they both not only knew of the scheme to siphon off money from Petrobras and other government agencies, but have tried to impede the progress of the Car Wash police investigation that is bringing all of this to light.
Thanks to those police investigators, a coup has been averted. It is clear that the leaders of the Workers Party have for years been engaged in a slow-motion campaign to undermine democracy in Brazil so as to assure the party’s own permanence in power, like the PRI in Mexico it so admired. They assumed they could act with impunity, even after they were caught in the Mensalão scandal in 2006. But times have changed, and the Brazilian people will no longer tolerate institutionalized corruption. So let corrupt politicians of all parties beware: nothing will stop the Car Wash investigation. Viva o povo brasileiro! Nem Dilma, nem Temer, nem Cunha, new Renan. Cadeia neles!
Hi there, and thanks for your response.
You’ll notice for what it’s worth that I didn’t call what’s happened a coup (except in the title of this post, which is more short-hand than anything). What I said was that in Brazil “democracy is in trouble,” as Dilma “has been impeached in circumstances that are dubious at best.” I think this is undeniable, whether or not these circumstances rise to the technical definition of a “coup.” For more, again I’d refer you to Perry Anderson’s long article, which is far from uncritical of the PT.
But I also note that for someone who seems concerned about the strict use of language, you seem rather happy to abuse it to rhetorical effect yourself: “parroting the deceitful propaganda,” “Ali Lula and his 4,000 Thieves,” and so on. This makes me think that language or even propaganda are not perhaps the primary issue for you. So be it.