Cassandra's Syndrome

Clara Figueiredo, series_ quarantine records, house, São Paulo, 2020
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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

The risk of a coup is not taken seriously because there is an unconscious admission that there is nothing to be done

Cassandra, important character of the Iliad, had the gift of prophesying the future. However, for reasons I don't remember, the god Apollo cursed her, causing her prophecies not to be taken seriously. All of Cassandra's rejected prophecies were confirmed, Troy was destroyed and she was taken into slavery by the Greek commander Agamemnon. Typical Greek tragedy.

This metaphor, quite obvious for those who know the story and even for those who don't, but have heard the expression “Cassandra's prophecy”, came to mind when reading several articles, listening to numerous analyzes on TV and receiving several comments, some of them mocking, from friends and strangers.

It seems that everyone is convinced that the political game ends with Lula's victory, in the first or second round. Some even say that the risk of a coup, which I insist on pointing out, is defeated with the victory in the first round. The vast majority use as an argument an assessment of Jair Bolsonaro's lack of courage. "Dog that barks, does not bite". Others point to the lack of political support, valuing different types of opposition to the coup. Some of these arguments are worth discussing.

“American imperialism” being against the coup is one of these arguments, with a variant; “international capital is against the coup”. The positions adopted by representatives of the American FFAA on a visit to Brazil and, supposedly, presented to Jair Bolsonaro himself, reinforced by demonstrations by the State Department and, in recent days, by the American Congress and the White House, indicate a recognition of the result of the elections. immediately after the end of the investigation. Other countries, in Europe and Latin America, adopted the same posture. Luiz Dulci, in a debate with “organic progressive intellectuals” a few days ago, pointed out exactly this international support, articulated by Celso Amorim, as an inhibitor of the coup attempt.

I am not going to discuss here whether imperialism still has all this power to prevent or strike, even if it is in its interest. Even at the height of the cold war there was at least one case where a military coup was carried out against US interests, General Alvarado's coup in Peru in 1968. trusting this is foolhardy. Or do you really think that the marines will land in support of democracy in Brazil? Or that our officers are in a cold war climate of the 1950s/70s, on the basis of “whatever your master orders”? For Jair Bolsonaro and many officials, America is no longer the same as it was in the past. Let us remember that for a Donald Trump worshiper like Jair Bolsonaro, Joe Biden is a protocommunist. He is much more comfortable with a dictator like Vladimir Putin.

The second argument is the opposition of the so-called “upstairs”, the Brazilian ruling classes. Here things get more complicated. On the one hand, there is the August 11 manifesto and other similar ones with the same content. The defense of democratic institutions and the electoral process, electronic voting machines, TSE and everything else. But there were also pro-Bolsonaro manifestos, although none openly supported coup positions. The truth is that there is no unanimity, and not even a clear majority, in opposition to Jair Bolsonaro among the elites.

If we make an assessment based on participation in GDP, it can be said that a significant part of businessmen with greater economic weight are against the coup and against the re-election of Jair Bolsonaro. There is a strong exception to this rule, however. Agribusiness is behind Jair Bolsonaro, especially primary producers, farmers and ranchers. Among entrepreneurs in the agricultural product transformation sector, there are important divisions, with meat industries and soy oil processors among the president's fiercest supporters, getting involved in financing the cabinet of hate and machine-gunning fake news through the Internet. The medium and small urban business community is with Jair Bolsonaro for whatever comes and comes. It is the public that attended FIESP or ACMRJ lunches, among other business haunts throughout Brazil, to applaud the myth and laugh, complicit in its rudeness.

Even among big businessmen in the financial system, there are those who still believe in the myth and its Ipiranga station. Between supporters and non-supporters of Jair Bolsonaro and his coups, there are important differences in the business class. Bolsonaristas are more militant and the others are more passive, or manifest themselves in more conventional ways, such as petitions, interviews and newspaper articles. The former send their tractors to close roads or invade the Esplanada dos Ministérios. They pay and organize their employees to go and demonstrate in Brasilia in chartered buses. On the other hand, I have yet to see a motorcade of Ferraris or BMWs of the democratic leaders of Faria Lima, occupying the avenues of São Paulo. The latter may have more money, but the others, Bolsonaristas, have more attitude and aggressiveness.

A third argument is the alleged “lack of military support” for a coup. In this case I have the impression that many people are creating fake news for themselves. As far as I can tell, all information goes in the opposite direction. The Ministry of Defense openly participates in a Bolsonarist operation to demoralize electronic voting machines. Several scholars of this topic (armed forces) insist on pointing out the extreme politicization of the middle officers (lieutenants to colonels), with many openly manifesting themselves through social networks.

Even among senior officers there is an assessment that, in the Navy and Air Force, support for a Bolsonarist coup is largely majority, including ministers. The only exception comes from the Army's high command, where the majority does not support the coup or is on the fence. Several of these observations have been reinforced recently by the leak of an internal survey by ABIN. This document, which sought to find out the official opinion at all levels regarding a coup d'état, was little discussed and its origin and meaning were not questioned either in the press or in court. Nor were the revealed contents denied.

The impression remains that the leak was part of the strategy to threaten the institutions, but that was all fake? Was there no search? The silence on the FFAA side is resounding and highly suspicious. But these data coincide with the opinions of academics who deal with the subject. I will not go into detail about the position of the police, which are much better known and researched. 50% support for a coup is the number most repeated by different analysts, more in the Military Police than in the Civil Police, more in the Federal Highway Police than in the Federal Police.

A fourth argument points to the massive opposition of the electorate to a coup d'état. It would be only 22% of supporters. If this is true, a good third of Bolsonaro voters will be against his coup. But come and go, a fifth of the electorate supporting the coup is not little, especially when dealing with a public that is much more militant than what the left has shown. Driven mad by the discourse of “good against evil”, the “communist” threat and the threat “to family, country and God”, this mass is ready to take to the streets to support the myth with all the fury of its alienation .

A fifth argument against the possibility of a coup is that it cannot occur without the support of the “major mainstream media”. In fact, with small but significant exceptions such as TVs All time lap record e Young pan (I can't remember any self-respecting newspaper supporting Jair Bolsonaro) and a few church radios, what the left has always accused of being an agent of domination, The Globe, Estadão, Folha de São Paulo, and others of a more state or regional character, is sending the shoe on Jair Bolsonaro. And clearly against a coup. But, as in assessing the weight of imperialism today, in the case of the media times have changed even more profoundly.

Social networks have an equal or greater weight in opinion formation than conventional media. And Jair Bolsonaro is very powerful in this niche, less today than in 2018, but still occupying between 35 and 40% of this space with his mass shootings or with his adherents. It is good to remember that there is a true militancy of networks where Bolsonaristas' activism is, or was until recently, largely dominant. And one cannot forget that these networks are not just opinion makers, but organizers of political action and even terrorist-type acts, such as the truck drivers movement in September of last year, all articulated by WhatsApp.

Interestingly, I haven't seen anyone discuss the threat I've repeatedly raised, that of organized militiamen in shooting clubs. In my articles I indicated that the number of these so-called hunters, collectors and sport shooters (CACs) had more than doubled, from 300 something to 700 thousand. The quantity and quality of weapons and ammunition has also increased significantly, now reaching a total of over one million weapons. 38 pistols predominated before and now semi-automatic rifles appear with greater weight (if not in number, but certainly in cost). Information about this weapon is not transparent and it is not possible to know how many pistols and how many semi-automatic rifles.

All of this is the result of the policy of releasing weapons adopted by Bolsonaro since his first government decree. More than 1,5 weapons are registered per CAC, on average. And the amount of ammunition is so high (a thousand rounds per weapon) that the people of the war industry, happy with this blessing, indicate that there is enough for months of war. One of Jair Bolsonaro's sons recently appealed to the CACs to organize themselves in the shooting clubs and prepare to defend the energetic.

On the other hand, Jair Bolsonaro never tires of repeating the slogan: “armed people are free people”. The message couldn't be clearer. In addition to CACs, there are 562 citizens with access to guns. Without more information, I can only conclude that these are professionals from the private security sector. For those who think that this armed force is insignificant, I must remind you that the reserve military base, the FFAA or the police, is organized in shooting clubs. If the other CACs are just tavern guerrillas, with no experience in using weapons, the reservists certainly have different stuff.

Assuming that only 10% of the alleged CACs and true militiamen of Jair Bolsonaro, a kind of Nazi SA, are willing to mobilize for combat, that would already be 70 armed men, probably with many machine guns. If they were just 1%, we would have 7 combatants or candidates for combatants. Enough to do a lot of damage, though not strong or organized enough to seize power. This threat doesn't even enter the discussions, it's as if this danger didn't exist.

I keep asking myself about the causes of this collective alienation, this dream of winning elections and the energetic doing Hara-kiri, fleeing to Miami, or simply resigning himself to handing over the banner to Lula with a polite bow. An article by Moisés Mendes gave me a clue to the answer. The journalist indicated that the Brazilian left has been without the ability to react for a long time. He didn't react when Dilma Rousseff was overthrown. He didn't react when Lula was arrested. It did not react when Michel Temer ended labor rights. It wasn't even capable of an electoral reaction when the maniac was elected. And it was unable to react to the numerous measures taken by Jair Bolsonaro in his government, symbolically passing the cattle over numerous popular achievements. He could not even organize a campaign for a policy to combat COVID. The Brazilian left has become a parliamentary left, in the strictest sense, and focuses its politics on electoral processes. I sign below what Moisés Mendes wrote.

This picture clearly indicates why neither Lula, nor the parties that support him, want to seriously discuss and assess the risk of a coup. The explanation is that nobody sees what to do to face this risk and this causes a tremendous feeling of impotence. Therefore, even psychologically it is better to ignore the risk, since nothing can be done to avoid it.

The left knows that it has no organic base for large mass mobilizations, and cannot even imagine how its residual base would react to a confrontation with the unarmed and armed masses of bolsominions. With the high probability of the military police associating with Bolsominions to massacre Lula voters in demonstrations, that's where party leaders shrink.

But would it be possible to do something? If I think that the left does not have the power to convene, Lula certainly does. Have seen the level of popular participation in all its election rallies. If Lula calls his base to demonstrate in favor of the results of the polls, even if only through the media and social networks, I have no doubt that the participation will be huge. They would be demonstrations with little political framework and a high degree of spontaneity, which is good on the one hand and problematic on the other. The good thing is that this type of demonstration, where permanent non-members predominate, tends to be much more participatory and spontaneous. The problematic side is that, in the case of confrontation with Bolsominions, there will be a lack of orientation capacity, either to fight or to disperse. In these cases, heavy aggression tends to provoke panic and flight.

In extreme cases, the opposite may happen. The biggest confrontation that the military regime had to face was the so-called “Bloody Friday”, in June 1968. The center of Rio de Janeiro was taken over by a disorganized mass of demonstrators who expelled the PM clashes with stones against gunfire. It all started when a group of about fifty students, mostly from the old Calabouço restaurant, marched into downtown Rio after a demonstration outside the American embassy was dispersed with gunfire. Most of those dispersed ran to the UFRJ campus, in Praia Vermelha. Only a few stragglers, carrying a bloodstained shirt as their flag, erected a barricade on Avenida Rio Branco and repelled the attack of the first riot of police.

From then on, workers from the city center joined the protest and began to attack the Military Police, expelling it from downtown Rio. The revolt only ended, more because of the fatigue of the participants than because of control by force, around 10 pm, when a belated intervention by the shock platoons of the Vila Militar infantry battalions arrived in the center. Although the infantrymen of the army arrived in an almost calm situation, many had their trucks stoned by the last remnants of the popular fury. But these cases are rare.

To sum up, the risk of coup is not taken seriously because there is an unconscious admission that there is nothing to be done. But, in my opinion, if Lula calls the masses to fight for respect for the result of the polls, this base will respond. If the response to the call to fight is broad enough, the blow-inhibiting factor will be at work. What is enough? Given the level of threats I believe no less than 10 million will be able to stop the coup. There has been nothing like this in Brazil since the Diretas-Já campaign and, on this occasion, these numbers were achieved over weeks of demonstrations. We're going to have to concentrate everything from the beginning. What complicates this option is that the “political vanguard” has not prepared the masses for this eventuality. For many, this call to action will be like a bolt from the blue.

As I have no political responsibilities other than those of an ordinary citizen, I will stop bothering those who don't even want to hear about a coup and stick the guitar in my bag.

I hope that all the arguments I have sought to refute are ultimately correct, and that I am definitely stricken with the senile disease of alarmism. I will gladly accept all the teasing and the “didn't I say?”, as this will mean that we will be free of the madman with no greater horrors than those already perpetrated. As Chileans said days before the coup d'état of September 11, 1973: “in Chile nothing happens".

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

 

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