On strikes and counterattacks in the Brazilian tradition – VI

Image: Francesco Ungaro


To be able to create the coup today, the litany against electronic voting machines is not enough. It will be necessary to create some kind of violent and institutional chaos

“In Brazil, it is not enough to win the election; it is necessary to gain possession”: it is said in tradition that this sentence, heard by Getúlio Vargas, was stuck in the memory of Tancredo Neves. Because of her, he decided to postpone the necessary medical consultation because of the constant pain he felt in his abdomen after his election by the Electoral College, on January 15, 1985, when he defeated Paulo Salim Maluf, the candidate of the governing party, the PDS - Democratic Party and Social, which was neither democratic nor social; it was the party that retroactively and progressively supported the dictatorship.

Tancredo Neves, old fox and liberal of the gem, not one of those who climbed into the first tank that passed by to carry out a coup, feared that his possible removal due to health treatment could lead the country to a new convulsion, with the “hard line” military refusing to accept in the presidency, even if provisionally, vice-president José Sarney, considered by them a “traitor” who had defected from the governing party to an alliance with the opposition.

During the declared period of his illness, from March 15, the day of his scheduled inauguration, when his state of health entered a crisis, until his death, on April 21, 1985, the country stopped. The national commotion was immense. Rumors, controversies, fears and threats of all kinds cut through the air and the media. There were proclamations in defense of “democratic normality”; There was even speculation that Tancredo Neves had actually been the victim of an attack. With the death of the one who, without assuming, was acclaimed in one of his obituaries as “the best president in Brazil”, his funeral processions, in São Paulo, where he died, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and São João del-Rey, where he was buried, concentrated crowds incalculable, zillions of people, only comparable, except for the proportions of the time, to the funerals of Getúlio Vargas, in 1954.

José Sarney took office, and tempers calmed down for a long time, at least in appearance. The barracks quieted down. In 1989, the first direct election for the presidency since 1961 was held, with 22 candidates in the first round.

The second was disputed between Fernando Collor and Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. An old style of coup manipulation began to be articulated there, making up for the lack of dormant barracks. The conservative media preferred Collor, proclaimed the “Hunter of Maharajas”. Between the first and second rounds there were several types of media interventions, publicizing supposedly compromising accusations about Lula's personal life, accusing him of racism and manipulating the edition of his last debate with Collor. On the eve of the second round, a group of crazy left-wingers kidnapped businessman Abílio Diniz and the media reported that “PT material had been found” at the site of the kidnapping, and so on. Police forced some of the detainees to wear party T-shirts in order to photograph them. From then on, this media raged tooth and nail and keyboards, in addition to television screens, against the metallurgist leader, a commitment that it maintains until today.

Fernando Collor won the election, and what happened, as we know: Itamar Franco, the top coat, sworn in at the end of 1982, after the resignation of the ex-Hunter of Maharajas, hunted himself by the media that had helped him rise, beyond the countless manifestations of the “caras-paintadas” through the streets. The country calmed down again.

An additional but important detail: in the second round, in 1989, Lula won only three states: Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro, where Leonel Brizola's red handkerchief was still shining, and Pernambuco, where Miguel's finger had once again shined. Arraes, who at the beginning of the following year would leave the PMDB and join the PSB, the Brazilian Socialist Party, which, after all, was no longer socialist, as its predecessor of the same name had been in the 40s and beyond.

Then a period opened sui-generis in world political history: a long confrontation lasting 22 years (1994 – 2016) between a party that claimed to be socialist and was actually a left-wing social-democrat, the PT, and another party that claimed to be social-democratic and was in fact right-wing neoliberal PSDB. Between them sailed, guaranteed governance, an amalgamation of parties with a rare appetite for opportunities, whose most conspicuous expressions were the PFL, Liberal Front Party, bringing together far from liberal liberals, which at that time ended up mainly in its electoral corrals in the Northeast, faithful PSDB ally; the PMDB, Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, which, without being another movement or democratic, held the largest number of political offices in the national territory, and the PDS, Social Democratic Party, which had nothing democratic, much less social, and which brought together the remnants of the old ARENA, National Renewal Alliance, which had not been renovating, which had not migrated to the PFL, in addition to the later PP, Progressive Party, which was anything but progressive. There were exceptions to physiologism, of course, and there were other expressive parties, such as the PDT, of Leonel Brizola, the Partido Democrático Trabalhista, which democratically privileged the old and great caudillo from Rio Grande do Sul, and the PSB, whose name I have already mentioned, along with alongside many others on occasion.

During the PSDB governments, led by FHC, the coup tendencies in the media and elsewhere calmed down. They only got excited again with the victory of Lula and the PT in 2002. However, the coup style had changed.

An international tour is required here. It is a common voice that the parliamentary and judicial coups began with the one carried out against President Manuel Zelaya, of Honduras, deposed in 2009, arrested by the military and expelled from the country, after several maneuvers against him in the superior courts and in the Parliament. Is not true. This belief is based on the prejudice that coups d'état are exclusive to “backward” Third World countries.

The first judicial coup d'état took place in the matrix of almost all Latin American coups, the United States, in the 2000 election, when Republican GW Bush Filho won the presidency against Democrat Al Gore. What decided Bush Filho's election, in the complicated and undemocratic US electoral system, were Florida's 25 votes in the College of Electors. It so happens that the vote count in this state was contested by Al Gore, due to maneuvers that excluded a series of ballot boxes from the black neighborhoods, whose population massively supported the Democratic Party candidate.

The manipulation was so outrageous that the Florida Superior Court authorized a recount. Republicans appealed, and the case ended up in the Supreme Court, where the majority of justices belonged to the conservative camp and favored Bush Jr. After a series of postponing and vexatious maneuvers, the Supreme Court decided, by 5 votes against 4, to suspend the recount, thus delivering, on a platter, the state's 25 Electoral College votes for the candidacy of George Walker Bush.

This was coup number zero that turned on the new style of overthrowing uncomfortable governments and removing undesirable candidates from the scene. In addition to Zelaya, in Honduras, this style with the parliamentary extension reached Fernando Lugo, from Paraguay, in 2012, Dilma Rousseff, in Brazil, in 2016, and Lula's candidacy in 2018. ) scandalous processes that tried to erase the PT from the Brazilian political scene.

First, there was the so-called Mensalão, from 2004/2005 which, without evidence, harmed several PT leaders and other politicians, including the whistleblower Roberto Jefferson, deputy for the Brazilian Labor Party, PTB (which had nothing to do with labor). Then came the Lava Jato scandal, starting in 2014, which led to Lula’s arrest and “preventive impeachment” in 2018, preventing him from running for president, when he would probably defeat Jair Bolsonaro. It was the first time that a possible future president was impeached even before running for office, echoing the first line of Carlos Lacerda's famous phrase in 1950: "Mr. Getúlio Vargas should not be a candidate...".

Both processes, Mensalão and Lava Jato, had wide favorable coverage in the coup-acting media, and found parliamentary and international support. Lava-Jato was awarded by the organization Transparency International, which is headquartered in Berlin; and today it is sufficiently proven that it was manufactured from North American organizations and also from its intelligence and information complex. Furthermore, it violated all the most basic principles of a decent justice system. Among other illegal expedients, it induced “premium denunciations”, made illegal telephone taps, also illegally disclosing them and created a promiscuous system between prosecutors, judges and witnesses. I wrote, with other Brazilians, to the Transparency, demanding the annulment of the premium. They gave a protocol response and nothing else. For me, its credibility has been reduced to zero.

In 2019 a new style of coup was used in Latin America, at least in recent history. In Bolivia, a right-wing movement, supported by the police and paramilitary forces, managed to overthrow President Evo Morales, relying first on the passivity of the Armed Forces, and then on their proactive collaboration, “suggesting” or “asking ” that he resigned. Evo did so, and to save his skin he left the country. The coup was defeated in the following election, when Evo's party returned to power. Today its leaders are on the run or in custody, including the self-appointed “president” of the coup, Jeanine Añez. The coup was supported by the OAS.

In Brazil today, pro-coup movements by the current usurper of the Planalto Palace combine characteristics of different coups d'état in Brazil and abroad. Like the UDN and Lacerda, in 1955, they waved the flag of distrust in relation to the electoral system, raising the possibility of alleged frauds and asking for military intervention as a “supervisor” of the process. The difference is that Lacerda was in the opposition, and today those who preach the possibility of a coup act from the government. As they did in 2018, its supporters mobilize an intense presence on social networks, with fake news and slander of all kinds.

Although at the moment they do not have the support of the conservative media, they have the recalcitrant anti-PT or anti-Lulism of the latter, as well as part of the business community and agribusiness. The anti-corruption flag is weakened, due to the annulment of the lawsuits against Lula, the demonstration of Lava-Jato's partiality, and the scandals of the current government, the most serious to date being that of corruption in the MEC and the biggest of them that of an alleged ruler that does not govern, is only concerned with demolishing what exists, riding a motorcycle, jet-ski or speedboat and promoting international gaffes.

The ever-present anti-Communist flag continues to be waved, but today it's a bit in tatters, except for fanatics. The coup movement mobilized religious motives as in 1964, although with roots different from those of that coup, which was strongly supported by the Catholic hierarchy. This time it mobilizes the Pentecostal evangelical front, today under suspicion due to the corruption scandal from the MEC. It also mobilizes all the most vexing prejudices: misogyny, racism, homophobia, contempt for indigenous peoples, aggressive disregard for the environment.

As in Bolivia, in 2019, it projects a paramilitary action, with militia support and in shooting and hunting clubs, seeking the mobilization of the state police, and so far it tries to win the support or passivity of the Armed Forces. However, unlike 1964, it does not have any significant international support. On the contrary, the US government has already hinted that this time it would not support a coup; leaders of European social democracy ditto; even the right and extreme right in Europe have been distancing themselves from the main coup plotter.

It is possible that the scammers intend to imitate the attempt by the Capitol invaders, on January 6, 2021, who, spurred on by Donald Trump, tried to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden. There is the aggravating factor that in Brazil the supporters of this type of action seem to be more daring and more fanatical than the invaders of the Capitol, whose action, if it had dramatic and even tragic moments, ended up as a great parade with somewhat carnivalesque attitudes and costumes. . Recent attacks against pro-Lula demonstrations suggest the possibility of a more serious attack, which cannot be ruled out. Even more so after the attack against the petista from Foz do Iguaçu, which resulted in his death and that of the aggressor.

In the case of Brazil, there remains a shadow behind everything. It is that of the murky and gloomy game within the Armed Forces. Looking at the long term, one can detect three very marked trends in this game. First, the continual neutralization/expulsion of “left” tendencies within them. Second, a tension between “loyalists” and “coup supporters”, with gains and losses for both sides at different times. Third, a force that creates an amalgam capable of keeping the corporation together in the midst of tensions: when Deodoro carried out the republican coup (a surprise for himself), in 1889, he instilled in their DNA the belief that they were becoming the new " Moderating Power” of the nation and the political game, as was the Emperor who deposed. This DNA is more than alive and remains today as a factor of corporate cohesion within them.

A striking lesson of the Brazilian coups from the Second World War onwards is that in a country of such size as ours, combining extreme complexity with political fragmentation, within a conspiracy several conspiracies proliferate. One effect of this is that the blows tend to open the gate to the unpredictable, devouring their coryphaeus. The 1964 coup devoured its greatest leader, Carlos Lacerda, and when the lights went out, it expelled its mixture of Rasputin and Richelieu, Golbery. The Mensalão attempt knocked down part of the PT leadership, but also devoured its officiant and altar boy, Roberto Jefferson. It did nothing to favor its high priest, Joaquim Barbosa. The strike against Dilma swallowed up its main executor, Eduardo Cunha. Finally, the preventive coup against Lula in 2018 took the judge who organized and presided over it, Sérgio Moro, to the ropes.

Among the scripts that have been drawn in the controversies about it, one that is little explored is that of the usurper of the Planalto Palace ending it and being devoured by it. To succeed in creating the coup, the litany against electronic voting machines is not enough. It will be necessary to create some kind of violent and institutional chaos. It is not at all impossible that, from the chaos that has been created, a conspiracy in uniform intends to take control of the situation, neutralizing the left and the militiamen at the same time, in the name of “calling new elections” within a certain period. This script has enormous difficulties, namely, putting the entire Brazilian electoral system in limbo, not just expelling the “undesirables” from it.

In order to be endorsed abroad, whatever the type of coup, the complicity of figures from the European extreme right is not enough, not even an occasional support from the always helpful leadership of the OAS; it would take a Donald Trump or equivalent in the White House; and until October of this year or even January 2023 this will not be available on the geopolitical market.

On the anti-coup side, the best perspective that has been emerging is that of a rout victory for the Lula/Alckmin front, which manages to bring back enough support in the states and in the future Congress, whether out of conviction or convenience; that strengthens the legalist wing of the Armed Forces because one thing is certain: without their support, no coup will be sustained. It can wreak havoc and commit follies, but it doesn't last. And when I write this, I mean this: Armed Forces. It's not just about police or militias, uniformed or not.

What will come out of all this? I repeat: whoever knows the answer for sure, one of the two, either has a very powerful crystal ball, or is coming directly from the future.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).

To access the first article in the series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/de-golpes-e-contragolpes-na-tradicao-brasileira/

To access the second article in the series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/de-golpes-e-contragolpes-na-tradicao-brasileira-ii/

To access the third article in the series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/de-golpes-e-contra-golpes-na-tradicao-brasileira-iii/

To access the fourth article in the series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/de-golpes-e-contragolpes-na-tradicao-brasileira-iv/

To access the fifth article in the series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/de-golpes-e-contra-golpes-na-tradicao-brasileira-v/


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