Brazil 2023 – reflections on reconstruction

Jeppe Hein, Space in Circles, 2022


The country gave its message at the polls. Said no. But it still needs to be said: Never again

The elections passed. But Bolsonarism did not pass. A society traversed by the trauma of more than six years of authoritarian attacks on democracy, gave its message at the ballot box. Said no! But it still needs to be said: Never again! The political and symbolic violence in the elections, attacking democracy, took root and we must rebuild the horizons of the 1988 Constitution, starting from the ruins. One of the ways out seems obvious, but it hasn't been in recent years: it is to face illegality with the law. The restitution of the law and its consequent social trust is essential for Brazil to get back on track for development, the rule of law and social justice.

The film, Argentine, 1985, recently released, puts a Brazilian debt on the table. It touches our wound: The parade of state agents responsible for massive violations of human rights by the courts. The film deals with "Juicio a las Juntas”, the most important cause since Nuremberg, but made by a civil court. After seven years of a fierce, clandestine and cowardly dictatorship, Argentina returned to democratic rule.

Of course, one does not return to democracy or leave an authoritarian regime without continuities, legacies, pressures and opposing interests alive in the institutions. In this scenario, in an economically devastated Argentina, due to the implementation of a destructive neoliberalism of the economic matrix itself; With a society deeply wounded and with the desire for institutional and democratic reconstruction, the opportunity of the cause against the high military commands of the three forces, responsible for the use of the state apparatus, illegally and arbitrarily, resulting in the Argentine genocide, was born.

In the Brazil of Jair Bolsonaro, we are experiencing the repositioning of the senses of the military. The revival of an unfinished story. Amnestyed and worshiped in the military environment, which remains refractory and sabotage of the construction of a democratic society. And with this restitution of the unpunished authoritarian senses in the barracks, it becomes, more than ever, urgent and necessary to dispute memory about the role of these sectors in the violations of human rights during the last dictatorship.

During the government of the extreme right, ideologically fascist, militarization and militarism had their turn, demonstrating little appeal to democratic senses, but supporting the defense of corporate interests. A feast of Viagra, picanha and condensed milk. The poor management in the hands of the military in those years reinforces the need to redirect and channel this sector towards the democratic regime, towards the democratic spirit.

Perhaps the figure of the military Eduardo Pazuello is the symbol of incompetence, lack of humanity and lack of transparency, in a grammar of military rationality in a democratic institution. In a recent interview, his ex-wife claims to have called the active general, then minister of health, to charge him with urgent measures for the lack of oxygen in Manaus, in one of the most dramatic moments of the pandemic in Brazil, receiving in response: "I'm worried about buying the black bags". All wrong. Potently inhuman.

Unlike the film and Argentine history, in Brazil it was the National Truth Commission, with its lights and shadows, that brought the effort to seek truth, justice and memory to the country. But the reaction to it was lethal. The military environment unharmed for the crimes committed, began to actively conspire for the coup process that culminated in the election of Jair Bolsonaro. We still have a long way to go to close this process.

Without accountability and restitution of equality before the law, Brazil continued to deny its structural need, in an increasingly intense memory dispute, now, from the democratic institutions themselves, led by the national executive. An institutional paradox and a military discourse: let's save democracy by striking it. The result of the processes of denial of truth is a complete disorientation of the social and political senses. The signs are switched.

The democratic forces, which for the most part are organized on the left, are permanently placed under suspicion by the press and public opinion. While the democratic right pays little attention to its flirtations with forces that corrode democracy, history erases the fact that it was the left and the social movements that fought and resisted the dictatorship and reestablished democracy from 1988 onwards. to the left, through its largest party, which is now in charge of reorganizing the democratic field, sheltering sectors of the right that remained, for longer than the acceptable time, silent or impassive in the face of the democratic degradation promoted by the military in the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

In the film and in Argentine history, even in a situation of institutional weakness, with uncertain perspectives, an opportunity was seized, in the way that order and democratic values ​​were restored, despite the difficulties. In this sense, in a Brazilian scenario with part of society fraying the boundaries of the meanings of democracy, the opportunity exists. A process of framing current delinquents and usurpers must be implemented quickly, in the heat of the mini honeymoon that an election grants. Part of this movement is the restructuring of the national legal architecture, reorienting the institutional north with a view to defending human rights and restoring collective humanity.

And within this difficult process, fighting for the investigation of abuses and excesses, which exceeded the limits of legality, which bring enormous consequences for the present and future.

In this challenge, nothing would be further from establishing a new Lava Jato, but a reconstruction of the Judiciary, materializing the purposes established by the Magna Carta. One of the objectives of this reconstruction is to guarantee the country's social and economic order, and to fill the currently undernourished powers of the State with values ​​and meaning. The Judiciary is, perhaps, one of the fundamental spaces that must be reconfigured, after the last decade, in which it went from being an active character of the imbalance to becoming a mini-brake in some attacks against democracy.

like in the movie Argentine, 1985, restoring equality before the law and defending the values ​​of justice in society are challenges to building Brazilian democracy. And in this movement, the parade through the courts of all those who violated the institutions and exceeded the limits of legality, diverting all institutional purposes. With respect to due process of law and other judicial guarantees, those responsible must pay, and prevent impunity from being the big winner in the dark years.

The trial of crimes against humanity committed by the management of the pandemic by Jair Bolsonaro and his civilian and military ministers could be a good start. The crimes are blunt and their accountability would be exemplary. This judgment could open the door for the profusion of crimes against the democratic order promoted by a government that intended to shelter fascism in the Planalto Palace to be taken to the benches of the courts.

There is no possibility of thinking about raising democracy from the ruins, without filling it with values ​​of truth, memory and justice. The presidency of Jair Bolsonaro showed us how much it costs not to investigate and punish those who commit massive violations of human rights, accepting to have Brazil's setback and mischaracterization in the Planalto. Today, memory is disputed and defended by all. The Jair Bolsonaro government (the worst of us) can return with different clothes without the existence of a confrontation with impunity.

It's not time to be afraid, it's time for courage. Without respect for the law and human dignity, we will go around a labyrinth where only the same as always win.

*Andres Del Rio is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

* André Rodrigues is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

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