Letter to voters of Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

Think carefully, reflect a lot and forget your dislikes, criticisms and revolts, certainly similar to mine

I voted for Ciro Gomes three times, but not in these elections. On the other hand, I only voted for Lula in the first round in 1989 and two weeks ago. I think that Ciro Gomes should have been the Democrats' candidate in 2018 and, the PT's refusal to support him, led us to a defeat for the extreme right that could, perhaps, have been avoided. It could have freed us from the horrors we've been through these four years and which I'm not going to debunk here. If you voted for Ciro Gomes or Simone Tebet, I won't need to demonstrate all the barbarities he committed. You are not part of those who think Jair Bolsonaro is good, but I understand perfectly that you hesitate to give your vote to Lula. That's exactly what I want to discuss.

PT and Lula remember their eight years in government as if we had lived in paradise and promise more of the same. I don't think it was heaven, let alone that that recipe is applicable at this time. But I think that Lula (less Dilma) had a government that was, in many aspects, quite good, in particular for the economy as a whole and, above all, for the poorest. I have numerous criticisms in relation to specific issues of sustainable development, the same ones I made to the governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, my late master's professor at the Sorbonne, in Paris. But compared to the total mismanagement of Jair Bolsonaro, the memories of Lula's times are truly paradisiacal.

I know that many of you are concerned about not giving what you are calling a “blank check” for a new Lula government to do whatever it wants. The absence of a clearer program with a definition of budgetary priorities would be fundamental. Ciro Gomes was concerned with formulating a complete and budgeted program and, although he has several disagreements with his proposals, I think he inaugurated a procedure that should be mandatory in our elections. Candidates should have to present programs and budgets for voters to examine, avoiding what is seen now, when the moon or a lot in paradise are promised, without any connection with reality.

Simone Tebet aligned some programmatic points, as well as Marina Silva and the PDT, on behalf of Ciro Gomes. These were important points that Lula incorporated into the generic items of his own indicative program. None of this replaces an articulated and budgeted program (it is in the budget that one distinguishes, in fact, what is a priority and what is a campaign promise). But it is too late for this to be formulated in detail and negotiated among those lining up against Bolsonaro. And let's face it, this is not a "blank check".

The alliance between Lula's ticket and his new allies will have to focus on the definition of priorities and the means to carry them out right after the elections and this will not only be a decision by Lula or the PT, but will also have to incorporate the positions of other parties that have not aligned themselves with the current president, including, of course, if they are willing, Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet. It will be a complex and difficult negotiation with the UB, the MDB, the PSDB, the PDS and other minors. But this composition is an imposition of the reality of the elected Congress, where extremist Bolsonarism will have a significant force, and the Centrão will also be strengthened, with the unfettered use of the “secret budget”, which is being nicknamed “bolsolão”.

My expectation is the formation of a government of national salvation, uniting the left, center-left, center, center-right and non-Bolsonarist right. And I think we should recognize, in all fairness, that Lula is the most pragmatic and able politician to build this front. It will not be a “red” government, although this color predominates in demonstrations in support of Lula, for the time being. It will be a conservative government that will have to walk on eggshells without breaking them.

Lula has already shown that he is capable of uniting interests as contradictory as those of family farmers and agribusiness, wage earners and industrialists and bankers. It will be more difficult due to the circumstances of the inheritance left by Jair Bolsonaro, who ruined the economy and destroyed public services in education, health and research, in addition to weakening our rich cultural production. The broken and indebted State will have to be rebuilt and the most important needs of the impoverished, unemployed and hungry population faced with a precise focus.

I don't think I need to dwell on the other “blank check”, the vote for Jair Bolsonaro. Jair Bolsonaro also did not present a government program. Like Lula, what he has to show are the results of his government and the promise of more of the same. If in Lula's case we can discuss the pros and cons, I challenge anyone who can point me to a positive point in the four years of Bolsonaro's government. Crippled economy, broken treasury, gigantic environmental destruction, absurd “management” in the COVID pandemic, producing almost 700 deaths, more than half of which are preventable, rampant corruption in the government and in the president’s family, dismantling of education at all levels, disheartening decline in scientific research, the number of hungry people tripled and the number of malnourished people doubled, reaching 33,1 million and 94 million, respectively, discouraged culture, doubled slums, unemployment, underemployment and discouragement, adding up to 65% of the active population, a drop constant increase in family income, 80% of families in debt, with 30% in default, an increase in hate crimes against women, blacks, lgbtqia+, umbanda supporters, etc. In other words, there is no possible comparison.

Another objection that I know will disturb and make it difficult for you to vote for Lula is the issue of corruption in PT governments. I want to remind you of some hard facts on this topic. The first is that there was corruption in the said governments. The second is that, contrary to the anti-Lula and PT propaganda, this corruption was not inaugurated in these governments and it was even much less significant than in previous governments and much smaller than in the governments of Michel Temer and, above all, Jair Bolsonaro.

It is also good to remember that it was in the Lula and Dilma governments that instruments to control corruption were created and that ended up turning against them. But neither Lula nor Dilma constrained the PGR or the Federal Police to protect their governments and their families. The same cannot be said of Bolsonaro's government and family. As for the conviction that took Lula to prison, it was the result of a criminal judicial process that ended up being disqualified within the law.

All of this does not lead me to believe that Lula and Dilma Rousseff were not responsible for the monthly allowance and the petrolão, even if only because they presided over the country. If Lula had been judged for having been lenient with all of her allies, including the parties that later aligned themselves with Bolsonaro, I would say that justice was done. But the process that condemned Lula was an obvious set-up of the car wash operation, which missed the opportunity to clean up Brazilian politics by using the judicial apparatus to attack a political opponent.

But returning to the perspectives of a new Lula government, I must say that the risks of “doing what has always been done in Brazil” became evident to the former president and to the PT, that is, guaranteeing majorities in congress through corruption, nicknamed box two. On the other hand, this government will be under severe scrutiny both by the courts and by the population and I don't believe in new deviations. In the case of a Jair Bolsonaro government, the practice of the last four years has shown that he had the strength to paralyze the countless processes opened in cases of giant corruption in health, education, defense and the secret budget, or bolsolão.

Finally, I want to say that the most important reason for voting for Lula will not be his program, but what Lula's election means from the point of view of defending democracy. Senator Simone Tebet, in the speech in which she declared her support for Lula in the second round, said it all. What is at stake is the continuity of democratic institutions and the fundamental freedoms of the people. Bolsonaro has never hidden that he is a defender of dictatorships and, as much as he attacks the so-called left-wing dictatorships, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, he praises and seeks out neodictators such as Vladimir Putin (how ironic!), Viktor Órban and the main authoritarian, Donald Trump. Trump, who did not become a dictator because American democratic institutions were able to contain him.

The choice we have ahead of us in this second round is immensely greater than any restriction we can make on Lula. Jair Bolsonaro does not hide his intention to tame the STF, a great bulwark, although occasionally faltering, against some of Jair Bolsonaro's worst proposals. To have the STF in hand, Bolsonaro has already announced that he will ask for the impeachment of Morais, Fachin and Barroso, and propose a change in the constitution to increase the number of ministers to 15, with the 4 new ones appointed by him. With the composition of the congress favorable to him, all this is quite possible.

For the next four years, Jair Bolsonaro would control the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches. The next step is to propose a constitutional amendment to allow his re-election indefinitely, as Putin and Órban did. Or, ironically, Ortega and Maduro. Dictatorships, from the right and from the “left” (I put them in quotation marks because I don't think these two dictators have any socialist traits), have this profile in these times. They are apparently democracies because the republican institutions continue to exist, but the dictator is in charge.

Is this what we want for Brazil? A government that razed the country prolonged indefinitely? Do you think that in this autocratic model press freedom will be respected? Or that the rights to demonstrate or strike will be maintained?

In the aforementioned countries, all this has disappeared and repression is the keynote of politics. Not only will we live in a state of permanent fear, as during the military dictatorship that Jair Bolsonaro admires so much, but we will also see the escalation of arrests, torture and murders of political opponents repeated. Remember that Bolsonaro has already defended torture and said that the dictatorship was wrong for not having killed “about 30”. It cannot be said that the president hides his ideas and intentions.

With all the criticisms we have against Lula and the PT governments, the fact is that they have never been a threat to our democracy and certainly will not be. I want to see all kinds of opinions, right or left, be able to express themselves without fear or repression. I want to be able to oppose the president in office without fearing for my freedom or even my life, as was the case during the military dictatorship. Lula is a guarantee of freedom for everyone, even for Bolsonaristas who fight against it.

And if any of you think that the economy can move forward in the framework of an authoritarian regime, as was the case (for a brief 6 years) during the military dictatorship, remember that the aftermath of the “economic miracle” (1967/1973) of the military was an immense income inequality and a brutal economic crisis, which led to the fall of the regime in 1985. In the international moment in which we live today, not even this possibility of an accelerated and fleeting growth will be possible, since foreign investments search for less toxic places. It is enough to read newspapers and economic magazines around the world to know that the supporters against Bolsonaro have the endorsement of the big capitalists. We are going to have our economy strangled by restrictions on investments and imports of our products.

Here we come to the last point of my argument. You may not be informed about global warming and you may even think, like Bolsonaro, that it doesn't exist. But surely you have already heard about the increasingly widespread movements, both among consumers and among financiers in Europe, Japan and the United States, who do believe that global warming exists and that deforestation and fires in Brazil have an important responsibility in its growth. And, as you cannot ignore, Bolsonaro gave his full support to the predatory action of loggers, land grabbers, ranchers, farmers and miners, causing records of deforestation and fires in the Amazon, Cerrado, Pantanal, Caatinga and Atlantic Forest. The president denies the obvious and disqualifies the state organizations that scientifically record these facts, but NASA satellites have the same information as IMPE, and even more accurate.

You may not care about these things that go away from your everyday life. The smoke from the wildfires may not be suffocating you. You may not see that the future of our agriculture is threatened with climate change that is already happening and accelerating. You might even think that all of this will take a while to become a direct problem for you, such as starting to run out of drinking water in cities. It is a mistake, because this reality is coming to a head. The so-called tipping point in the Amazon, the moment from which the forest is no longer able to regenerate and collapses on its way to becoming, in less than a generation, a semi-arid savannah, depends on just another 4 or 5 years at the current rate of deforestation. And with the Amazon dry, the humidity it produces will no longer bring rain to the rest of Brazil. With Bolsonaro in power, this catastrophe, not only for us, but also for the world, will be guaranteed.

I hope I have helped in the reflection on who to vote for and especially who not to vote for on the 30th. Think carefully, reflect a lot and forget your dislikes, criticisms and revolts, certainly similar to mine. We have no other option, if we want to have a future, in this country that has already been nicknamed the “country of the future”.

*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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