Brazil – sertão without law and without paths



We have a “jagunço system” based on violence, clientelism, the prevalence of private power, the supremacy of tradition over institutionality.

There are two great sertões in Brazilian literature. The hinterland of Euclides da Cunha and the hinterland of Guimarães Rosa. The first is the semi-arid region, the caatinga, where “the law is at the point of the rifle”, in Euclides da Cunha's phrase. The sertanejo is a bandit, acts against property and order. Euclides da Cunha analyzes the war in Canudos, in the XNUMXth century, but his vision would also apply to the cangaceiros of the XNUMXth century in the northeastern sertão.

The hinterland of Guimarães Rosa is the cerrado of Minas Gerais, where the jagunços who know no law are in charge, because the law does not reach there, there is no public sphere. What predominates is patriarchal bossiness. But the jagunço is not a bandit, he does not fight against order. It is an extension of the property, linked to the great farmers of the cerrado. Who brilliantly analyzes the hinterland of Guimarães Rosa is the late critic Antônio Candido.

All of this came to mind when I attended a class by José Miguel Wisnik on the book Grande Sertão: paths, by Guimarães Rosa. José Miguel Wisnik, brilliant as always, compares the hinterland of Euclides da Cunha with the hinterland of Guimarães Rosa, and quotes Antonio Candido. But I would like to develop another relationship.

There is another hinterland in Brazilian culture. The hinterland taken to the cinema by Glauber Rocha in his film God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun. Glauber Rocha cites the famous prophecy of Antônio Conselheiro, in Arraial de Canudos: “the hinterland will turn into the sea, the sea will turn into the hinterland!”. Canudos, as is known, was massacred by the Brazilian Army at the end of the XNUMXth century.

This sentence by Antônio Conselheiro allows several interpretations. The most common refer to irrigation or flooding of rivers that cross the Northeast. On the symbolic level, however, it can be understood in another way. Continuing with the perspective of the sertão that we find in Euclides da Cunha and Guimarães Rosa, this phrase by Antônio Conselheiro, brilliantly used by Glauber Rocha in his film, can be understood as the displacement of the sertão, where the law is at the point of the rifle, to the city, where there are rules, and the displacement of the sea, which bathes the cities with its laws, to the sertão of the cangaceiros, in the caatinga, or of the jagunços, in the cerrado.

Since the end of the 20th century, during the war in Canudos, or in the XNUMXs of the last century, which would be the time, according to some authors, for the scenario of Grande Sertão: paths, the sertão underwent significant changes. In many places, the law has arrived. Almost always tortuous, with Justice serving the powerful. But the brutal domination of the northeastern cangaceiros or the jagunços of the cerrado of Minas Gerais was transformed by the presence of the police and judicial apparatus, however violent and imperfect they were.

And the patriarchal bossiness of the cangaceiros and jagunços moved to the cities, where mafia groups of militiamen began to control part of the urban territory, collecting taxes and imposing private violence against public order. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, and elsewhere, militiamen now control half of the city.

This means a certain duplicity of the State. In addition to the official State which, in the classic definition of Max Weber, is characterized by the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory, we have in cities today a true power similar to the State that uses illegitimate violence to dominate the population in a given area. territory. It is the violence of the patriarchal bossism of the hinterland penetrating the cities through the action of the militias. Thus, we see that not only did the sea become the hinterland, the hinterland also became the sea, haunting the cities with the typical jaguncism of the hinterland.

Just as the jagunços from the backlands of Minas Gerais, unlike the cangaceiros from the northeast, do not fight against property and are linked to the power of the big landowners, the militiamen in the cities are today protected by the powerful and linked to the police. The most notorious case is that of Rio de Janeiro, where the militias are directly protected by the President of the Republic!

A notable example was provided by the Military Intervener in Public Security in Rio de Janeiro in 2018, General Braga Netto. He only attacked drug dealers in the favelas, and ignored the militias that continued to expand and dominate territories. Some of these new territories controlled by the militias previously belonged to the traffickers attacked by the Police during the Military Intervention. Who wants to believe in coincidence.

Thus, the president of Brazil is the head of the jagunços. He wants to destroy the Judiciary, starting with the Federal Supreme Court, to become a dictator and implement his Brazilianized neo-fascist project, jaguncista style, based on patriarchal mandonism, where the right is replaced by the rifle and where the customs of the temperate patriarchy prevail with evangelical fundamentalism, always in conflict with the modern habits of urban life, but with the support of market segments and military sectors.

This “jagunço-system”, as Guimarães Rosa defines it, is based on violence, clientelism, the prevalence of private power over public power, the supremacy of tradition over institutions. Originally, they were powers based on large landholdings, rural oligarchies, patrimonialism, the absence of the State, patriarchal bossism, and the logic of revenge. Whoever is not an ally is an enemy.

Anyway, the genocidal president wants to turn Brazil into a big hinterland, without law and without paths. Everything indicates, however, that his neo-fascist project will be defeated by the modern democratic project embodied by Lula, despite the political differences of his supporters, united by the imperative need to save democracy from the authoritarian regression, already underway, which he aims to implement in Brazil the jaguncista order of the old sertão where the law is at the point of the rifle.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was 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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