In Brazil, almost a week has passed since the vote and the run-off is coming. The question now is only one: will we see a definitive shifting to the right? Jair Bolsonaro will win on October 28th? One thing is certain: something in Latin America is changing. The left seems to be giving way to a right with an increasingly strong consensus. A few cases aside, of course: in Mexico, for example, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will officially be the President on December 1, in a turnaround for the country compared to recent years. But this seems, on closer inspection, one among many.
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Of course, something is happening. Venezuela is in a complex political and economic crisis; in Bolivia the fourth presidential term of Morales turned out to be a broken dream; Colombia turned right, same thing for Argentina that elected Mauricio Macri as President, rejecting the old dominant force in the country. About a year ago, Chile also turned right with the election of Sebastián Piñera, and now it seems to be the turn of Brazil, after the exit of the beloved Lula and the one of Dilma Rousseff.
In the last few years, the trend seems clear: the left governments are giving -freluctantly, of course, and quickly- the place to those on the right. A major change coming after the military dictatorships, when the three main economies of the continent were in the hands of right-wing leaders. Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador and Bolivia, Nicaragua and Mexico City: three-quarters of the Latin American population (about 350 million people), were under left-wing domination. So, how did it come, the left wave, -the famous Pink Tide-, seems to have disappeared.
And now it will be the turn of Bolsonaro? The one that many describe as a threat and a danger, earned in the first round 46% of the votes, an enormity considering that the candidates were more than ten and that his current challenger, Fernando Haddad, has reached 29%. Let us not dwell on the usual things that are highlighted: sentences, angry oppositions, street demonstrations, stabbings and so on. To honor the truth and the situation, here it is essential to understand well this character, to understand the foundations of this consensus, why citizens took to the streets to celebrate in the post-election night wearing fresh t-shirts. Here it is not just a question of arms, populism, hard fist, conservatives.
We are not talking about an advance of the canonical right. We are talking about the advance of another right. The one who has shaken off the old dust, dressing new clothes; the one that has unusual hobbyhorses. If the left does not understand that it has to be faced in a different way, winning and regaining the lost ground will be simply an utopia.
We talked about Brazil, Latin America and this advance with Idelber Avelar, professor at Tulane University in New Orleans.
What is changing in Latin America? What is the political map? What are the causes and variables to consider?
Latin America is concluding the cycle of left-of-center governments inaugurated by Chávez, in Venezuela, in 1998, and Lula, in Brazil, in 2002. Those two regimes, along with the Kirchner administrations in Argentina, were paradigmatic of the so-called pink wave: a period of intense growth and some reduction of poverty powered by the commodes boom and the cash flow coming from China. They became one-way or another: they became dictatorships, as in the case of Venezuela, or were ousted by impeachment proceedings, as in Brazil, or lost elections, as in the case of Argentina. Bolivia and Uruguay remain as relatively successful experiences, particularly the dairy. That decline is observable in many Latin American countries with the exception of Mexico. The causes of reforms that could make the State run better, a regime of government based on cooptions of social movements, and the entangling of these administrations . There are strings that are national, but this is the general, continental picture.
So, Brazil is facing a ‘populist’ trend? The Left is dead?
The Left took a severe beating, but it is not dead. The candidate facing Jair Bolsonaro in the runoff, Fernando Haddad, is unmistakably left of center, and his party, the Workers’ Party, still has more supporters among the electorate, at 21%, than any of the parties that are running second, all of which hovering at 4% or 5%. Lula is still the most popular politician in the country, at least 30% of unconditional support. The question today in Brazil is also intensely hated by another 50% of the population, so anti-PT wave remains very strong. Bolsonaro is in the Presidential run-off and the PT has severe defeats, particularly in the Minas Gerais Senate run, where two slots were available and former President Rousseff finished fourth, even though she was running against a host of unknown journalists and jurists.
You wrote that «the physiological law that led the impeachment before has lost: Magno Malta, Romero Jucá, Edison Lobão, Garibaldi Alves, Eunicio Oliveira, Cássio Cunha Lima have all been swept away» Can you explain this passage? What is happening?
Rousseff’s impeachment was led by the old physiological, oligarchic right wing congregated around the MDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement), a party of local bosses that support its support to the government of bribes and blackmail. In that capacity, MDB is also the guarantor, the sustainer of the oligarchic pact that we call “Brazilian democracy”. This oligarchic coalition has lived in the past few years, two to the gigantic corruption investigation known as Lava Jato. Even more than the Workers Party, that right wing has also been defeated in the 2018 elections. Magno Malta, Romero Jucá, Edison Lobão, Garibaldi Alves, Eunício Oliveira, Cássio Cunha Lima have all their seats in parliament and therefore the prerogative of being judged only by the Supreme Court if indicted. With their electoral defeat, they are now, like Lula, within the reach of regular judges.
In another passage, you wrote that it is «in large sections of the population…in evangelical churches, in militarism and in the Whatsapp groups». In short, what is the ‘nova direita‘ (the ‘new right’)?
Unlike the old, oligarchic right wing congregated around MDB, the new right that has won the Brazilian elections is highly ideological. It shares the intense hatred of the Workers Party, and the punitive approach to public security. They are indisputably rooted in ample sectors of the population, articulated through Whatsapp groups, in the Jair Bolsonaro the expression of their voice. It is an ample coalition of evangelical churches, military officers, sheriffs, landowners, and sectors of the middle class. They are not going away any time soon.
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