Governance and its limits

Image: Bankski


Should we give up agendas dear to the progressive field in the name of governability? Should we cross our arms and accept everything?

“We hate and disgust the dictatorship. A traitor to the Constitution is a traitor to the country” (Ulisses Guimarães).

The late political scientist Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos said that, in Brazil, the left had 30% of the electorate, the right had another 30%, and the remaining 40% was made up of the floating electorate that defined the election. After the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the very strong media campaign in support of Lava Jato and Lula's arrest, in support of Michel Temer's government and Jair Bolsonaro's candidacy, the right advanced, but even so, for several reasons , lost the election last year, albeit narrowly.

The tendency, with the advancement of the Lula government, is for the situation to return to normal, and the right (including the extreme right) to return to its traditional percentage of 30%. But the need to form an alliance with the right-wing in Congress, euphemistically called Centrão, leads the government to offer important positions to its future opponents. It should be noted that there was no shortage of people warning Lula last year about the need to run a political campaign so that voters on the Lula-Alckmin ticket would vote for parliamentarians closed with that ticket, but this did not happen. Lula seemed to trust his great negotiating skills.

The current issue is that, for reasons of governability, the right tends to occupy spaces of power in the government that will later be used to support right-wing or even extreme-right candidates. Should we cross our arms and accept everything in the name of governability? As stated by João Pedro Stedile, leader of the MST, “If the government does not invest in popular media, it will regret it” (Center for Alternative Media Studies Barão de Itararé, 29/8/2023).

Should we give up the fight for women's rights, the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy, the rights of the LGBTQIA+ group, and the decriminalization of drug use, for example? According to respected journalist Maria Cristina Fernandes, from the newspaper Economic value, the conservative decisions of the new STF Minister Cristiano Zanin would be in line with requests from President Lula, interested in gaining support in the conservative and evangelical area (Market, 31/8/2023).

The right-wing occupation of Ministries and senior positions is already underway. Politicians or technicians who supported the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, supported Lava Jato and Lula's arrest and were appointed to high positions in the governments of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro, are being appointed back by the current Lula government.

Among several examples, an interesting case would be Caixa Econômica. According to the press, the current president of Caixa, Rita Serrano, a career employee, should be replaced by Margarete Coelho, appointed by deputy Arthur Lira, leader of Centrão (Estadão, 29/8/2023). According to professor Fernando Nogueira Costa, from Unicamp economics and former vice-president of Finance and Capital Markets at Caixa between 2003 and 2007, Caixa Econômica has a strategic role “to execute, in addition to the social assistance policy (Bolsa Family and others), housing policy, the most decisive for the social mobility of poor families. Handing over the keys to “your own home” is seen as capable of yielding political dividends.”

In reality, the benefits brought by the current government are already visible: in addition to the undeniable success in the international area and in social policies, the GDP of 0,9% in the second quarter projects growth this year of around 3%, and unemployment has fallen to 7,9%, the lowest rate since 2014. But, with a predominantly neo-extractive and agro-export economy, Brazil would suffer strong impacts in the event of a global economic crisis whose initial contours, according to many analysts, are already on the horizon.

It is true that the government will gain from the agreements guaranteeing the support of the majority of Congress for important government projects. But the price to pay will be high. In the medium term and from the State apparatus itself, the right – ensconced in high positions within the State apparatus and strengthened with concrete instruments of “persuasion”, such as prestige, budgetary funds, in addition to the resources released for parliamentary amendments – will be able to reproduce and gain new political support to win future elections.

All these issues, however important they are, do not compare to the risks to democracy embedded in the so-called military issue. Will the military who actively supported the coup attempt on January 8 be punished or preserved? In 1964, the victorious coup military purged the loyalists. According to some political analysts, today there is a kind of pact between the military. If the coup plotters won, the loyalists would be spared. And vice versa. Loyalists today are working to ensure that no military coup plotters are punished. The political representative of this position is, of course, the Minister of Defense.

In the name of pacification and governability, should we give up the demand to punish the military coup plotters who supported, directly or indirectly, the coup attempt on January 8th? Sparing and amnesty military coup plotters would not be a move forward or, in good Portuguese, an attempt to push with your belly? Wouldn't we be, once again, sparing military criminals, like those who tortured and murdered political prisoners during the military dictatorship? And what can we say about the Military High Command that, with the Riocentro Report in 1981, transformed a terrorist action by military personnel that would kill thousands of people into an attack against two military personnel transformed into heroes through an old wives' tale that fooled no one and shamed the Army?

It is high time to decide whether the law applies to everyone. In Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, many soldiers who committed crimes against democracy and human rights were punished. In Brazil, the military is taboo and, like all taboos, untouchable. The Brazilian tradition is to ignore or amnesty crimes committed by the military. Taking into account only the second half of the last century onwards, we had the attempted coup against the elected president Getúlio Vargas who, with his suicide in 1954, postponed the military coup for 10 years, we had the coup attempts to prevent the inauguration and the government of elected president Juscelino Kubitschek, the uprisings in Jacareacanga (1956) and Aragarças (1959), as well as the military veto on the inauguration of vice-president João Goulart following the resignation of then president Jânio Quadros in 1961.

But the political picture today is completely different. Before, the military raised the banner of the fight against corruption and communism. Today, the military itself is being accused of corruption and there is no longer the pretext of communism nor the cold war that fueled it. The numerous allegations of corruption in Jair Bolsonaro's government, which had the support and effective participation of officers from the Armed Forces, placed the military on the defensive, eliminating the moral dimension of the previous support they enjoyed in various social segments.

It is worth remembering Mao Zedong's (Mao Zedong) famous saying: “When the enemy advances, we retreat. When the enemy parks, we attack. When the enemy retreats, we advance.” The military, involved in corruption and an attempted coup against democracy, retreated. The time is now to move forward to put an end once and for all to military tutelage and military privileges in terms of salary and pensions.

But we don't know if this will actually happen. If it does not happen, democracy will once again be at risk in the future. While the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPMI) appears to move towards incriminating the coup generals and other high-ranking officials, the Lula government is under pressure to turn a blind eye and grant amnesty to the military personnel who tried on January 8 to overthrow democracy and establish a dictatorship. So far, at least, a pacifying tone has prevailed in the spirit of September 7th (Mail Braziliense, 4/9/2023).

Furthermore, we face another dimension of the military issue. The Brazilian Army is organized according to XNUMXth century concepts. Today, with aerial warfare using drones, it is completely outdated and outdated. The barracks to “guard the border” are ridiculous. As there is no external enemy and the internal enemy invented as a replacement no longer exists, the Brazilian Army was left without a role, without justification in the face of an updated military doctrine.

The Navy and Air Force would have more roles to play in a modern war which, in the case of Brazil, is not on the horizon, nor is it foreseeable that it will be. According to professor Manuel Domingos Neto, a specialist in military issues, “the Land Force resists admitting the primacy of the Air Force and the Navy in National Defense”. And, in the same article, he stated: “Military corporations are tools of foreign policy, they do not have the competence to direct defense affairs” (the earth is round, 23/8/2023).

Thus, it would be up to the government to lead a large Conference together with the Armed Forces to redefine a New National Security Policy. To do this, it will be necessary to qualify senior officers who, for the most part, are incompetent and even ignorant, as we have seen from the example of the generals who held high positions in the past government. Instead of conspiring coups d'état and defending soldiers who committed crimes, senior officers of the Armed Forces should prepare themselves to understand the major geopolitical issues of the contemporary world, such as, for example, the tendency towards multipolarity to replace the then prevalent unilateral hegemony of the USA.

All of this presents the political forces that defend democracy with a challenge. What are the issues that we can give up and make concessions on, and what are our “stone clauses” that we cannot renounce under penalty of disfiguring our political identity? Of course, each social group has its own agenda, but political parties – instead of worrying only about government positions and elections – should present a Program covering the points that can be negotiated and those essential ones that, due to their constitutive nature of democracy, are non-negotiable.

Among these non-negotiable issues, the punishment of military personnel and civilians who committed crimes in the attempted coup against democracy on January 8th must be included. After all, in the words of then deputy Ulisses Guimarães, one of the great leaders of the country's redemocratization in the 1980s, “a traitor to the Constitution is a traitor to the country”. If a warm blanket is passed, if amnesty prevails for the coup plotters and if they close their eyes to avoid punishing the soldiers involved, later on we will have new attempts at a military coup against democracy and the human rights provided for in the Constitution. It's the lesson of history: the mistakes of the past, if ignored, return in the future.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond).

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