The last chance

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

With Lula elected and sworn in, all political opinions will have guaranteed the democratic space to express themselves.

We are less than 15 days away from the most important elections of our lives and, probably, in the history of Brazil. What is at stake is so important that it should orient our choices above past or present preferences. The risks for the future of the country and the people are gigantic and any objection, even the most dear to each one, should be rethought in light of the threats to which we are subjected.

What does Jair Bolsonaro's candidacy represent? What can be expected from the current president if not a much worse repetition of his performance over the last four years? Jair Bolsonaro is not just a threat to Brazil. Because of what he did in supporting his followers in the Amazon, Cerrado and Pantanal, the land grabbers, illegal loggers, prospectors working for drug trafficking organizations and illegal fishermen, deforestation rates soared, accompanied by the smoke from our burning biodiversity that blankets the skies of the north and center west and spread to São Paulo.

Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil has become a planetary threat, a hotbed of greenhouse gas emissions combined with the diminishing capacity of forests to capture carbon from the atmosphere. Global warming that threatens the future of humanity thanks the president, an international pariah and not only for that.

This space is too small to remember all the evils of these years of government debacle. Nobody should forget the hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID, which occurred because the president chose to recommend chloroquine and fight vaccination and the use of masks. With another president we wouldn't have nearly 700 deaths and millions of sequels. Adopted the correct measures, defended even by the Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta, removed by the president to put a uniformed stick in its place, the contaminated would be counted in hundreds of thousands and not in millions and the dead would be in the tens of thousands and not hundreds of thousands. Nor can we forget the disasters in education, science, culture, economy, public security, international relations.

The most serious consequence of the debacle of the Bolsonaro administration was the exponential increase in hunger and food insecurity in the country. There are almost 130 million experiencing some type of difficulty eating, with 33,1 million being hungry, 40 million eating less than they need and another 50 million eating very poorly, with strong nutritional deficiencies. In the government of Jair Bolsonaro, the number of hungry people almost tripled.

It should also not be forgotten that this government, elected with a speech against corruption, is immersed in a series of spectacular denunciations, which only do not advance because Jair Bolsonaro controls the Attorney General's Office and, in part, the Federal Police. And it's not just the government. Bolsonaro and his family have been involved for a long time in the diversion of public money through “cracks”, which allowed them to illicitly raise funds to buy more than XNUMX properties, half of which with cash. Here, too, investigations and processes do not advance due to the intervention of the PGR and the collaboration of judges in the higher courts.

In addition to all these horrors, Jair Bolsonaro attacked the institutions of the Republic, weakening the executive, corrupting Congress through its alliance with Centrão and the use of the secret budget and attacking the judiciary. In the latter case, in addition to permanently attacking the STF and TSE, the president is seeking to dominate the higher courts by placing his allies in every available position. With a new government, the president is promising to vote on an expansion of the STF so that he can immediately appoint 5 new judges and control the supreme court. Even without that, he will have 4 new judges to appoint in his term. With the two minions he has already placed there, we would have a “terribly Bolsonarist” STF.

But the worst risk posed by Bolsonaro lies in his permanent threat of a coup, explicit in his refusal to accept election results if he is not elected. For that, he uses the support of one million supposed hunters, gun collectors and sport shooters, a number multiplied by three since the president took office. And what is worse, the number and power of the weapons in the power of this real militia, organized under the cover of shooting clubs, reaches several million, with enough ammunition for a protracted war.

Jair Bolsonaro also uses the permanent subversion of the military police as a threat factor to his opponents, counting on their adherence when he starts to challenge the Constitution and refuses to hand over power. And to complete the dismantling of state institutions, the president sought to buy the support of the FFAA, giving high-paying jobs to the 6 active and reserve officers in his government and handing out big favors in salaries, benefits and pensions to the officers. Jair Bolsonaro permanently encourages the politicization of the FFAA, creating a veritable military party with which he counts to subvert the constitutional order.

Jair Bolsonaro is running the most illegal election campaign in Brazilian history, pouring more than 100 billion reais into various subsidies, aiming to buy votes, in the middle class with lowered gasoline prices and with the poorest with the gas voucher and the Auxílio Brasil , between others. This meant that the prediction of his votes in the electoral polls has improved, but not enough for him to reach victory. But for Jair Bolsonaro this does not matter. He has already declared that he will only accept the results “if the elections are clean” and, for him, who decides whether they are clean is … himself.

We are threatened by a situation that could even lead to civil war. Or conflicts degenerating into bloody repression. Or even attacks and attacks against opponents. Let us remember that Jair Bolsonaro has already stated that the country “needs a civil war to change”, and that 30 dead would be the minimum necessary to clean up. He has also threatened the opposition several times with the expression “send everyone to the end of the beach”. The end of the beach was the place where torturers dumped the dead of opposition to the dictatorship, in the 1960s and 1970s. And Jair Bolsonaro's great idol is the notorious torturer and murderer of the dictatorship, Coronel Brilhante Ulstra.

How to avoid this terrible menace? It is not enough to defeat Jair Bolsonaro electorally. It will be necessary to defeat him by a large margin of votes, showing that the country does not accept him at all. A defeat of Jair Bolsonaro by a difference of 20 points in the first round would make it much more difficult for the coup plotter to extract support from the FFAA's senior officials for his desired turn of the tables. Without the high command of the FFAA, it is very unlikely that the middle officers will rise, however much Bolsonaro has sympathies between them. Without the FFAA, the military police will hardly move to carry out a coup. And the militiamen of the shooting clubs, if they can do a lot of damage locally, they also don't have the strength to take power.

Despite the unbelievable outpouring of money by the government, Jair Bolsonaro is still 15 points behind Lula. Now it is not just about winning 5 more points in the first round, although this is essential. A joint demonstration by all the candidates against Jair Bolsonaro's threats to the election results would be of the utmost importance, as well as all the parties that support them should position themselves in the same direction. The civil society movements that demonstrated on August 11th should also strongly condemn these threats.

In light of Ciro Gomes' constant attacks on Lula, as well as the less aggressive ones from Senator Simone Tebet, this position may seem illusory. However, what is at stake is so much more important that both critics of the former president should be put in the background. I am confident in the political responsibility of these two candidates, as well as those voters who support them.

What Brazil needs right now is a front of national salvation, in defense of democracy. It is not a question of forgetting the differences, but of postponing them to another time. With Lula elected and sworn in, not only Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, but all political opinions will have guaranteed the democratic space to express themselves. We may have many criticisms of Lula, but there is no doubt that he is a democrat.

Appeal between anguished and hopeful to Ciro Gomes, Simone Tebet and their constituents. Brazil really needs your help to remove the Bolsonaro risk to democracy once and for all.

*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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