the end of the nightmare

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

The broad front that Lula has been building little by little has the function not only and not mainly of raising votes, but of neutralizing the coup d'état.

Today, dear reader, I would like to dedicate myself to some brief considerations of an eminently prophetic nature. Can I? Shall I? It's temerity, I know. We rarely have the basis for this. The only liquid and certain thing is the present, a mere succession of fleeting moments. Even the past is an illusory certainty, as it changes unpredictably over time, time that does not respect even what has already happened. The future is always shrouded in thick, impenetrable fog. A few can see beyond this fog. Not my case, unfortunately. The economist, by the way, is the last and most precarious of prophets, even when he sticks to his field.

In 2018, I made a reasonable-sounding political prophecy, and I got screwed. It was awful. He believed that Jair Bolsonaro, such a repulsive figure, would be irrevocably defeated in the second round, even with Lula out of the running, excluded as he was by brazen coup maneuvers. The choice is not difficult, I naively thought. I proved, once again, that Brazil is my great illusion. The other day, rereading the Essays in Biography by John Maynard Keynes, I stumbled across a remark he made about a president of France, Georges Clemenceau, with which I fully identified: “Clemenceau had an illusion – France; and a disappointment – ​​humanity, including the French”. This distinction between the country and its nationals is important, a distinction that De Gaulle also made. For a nationalist only the last disappoint.

With these caveats in mind, I finally start talking about the future. The end of our nightmare is near, reader. Don't you think so? It is true that the horror show continues and has worsened in recent months. On our side, the whining is excruciating. Our bubbles are full of groans and cries of despair. Understandable. Jair Bolsonaro, assisted by Arthur Lira, is doing damage in all areas, in the unbridled fight for his re-election. They are ready for anything. Hand in hand, they destroy everything they touch. I invoke, however, an old proverb: "The night is darkest when the dawn approaches". It will have no scientific basis, but it seems a good metaphor for our moment.

There is no doubt that Jair Bolsonaro, machine in hand and Congress in his pocket, has a lot of ammunition. He is using it without the slightest qualms. He made, however, some mistakes, perhaps fatal ones. The PEC of despair, a large package of social transfers, notably the doubling of the Brazil aid, came too late, everything indicates. If it had been approved at the beginning of the year, its effect would certainly be much greater and could even be decisive for the re-election of the wreck.

The path initially attempted by the government, that of reducing fuel taxes, was not so promising. The pass-through to prices was uncertain and the governors' resistance to the ICMS reduction made it difficult to move forward with the proposal. Precious time was wasted.

Having arrived late, the PEC pushes, at worst, the dispute to a second round between Lula and Bolsonaro. According to some interpretations, this is exactly what the president and his parliamentary cronies are looking for. They know that there is no chance of winning in the second round, given the high rejection of the president. But in the second round, it is speculated, there would be an opportunity to try a coup and mess everything up.

Really? I dare say that there are no conditions for this. A coup has certain requirements, requirements that seem absent in the current national and international situation. For example: is there broad support in civil society? Is a part of the middle class on the streets, like in 1964 and 2015? Would the coup plotters have external support, especially from the United States? Bolsonaro has shown himself to be so inept and dangerous that he scares even the valiant Brazilian middle class and our American friends. They are all polishing their democratic credentials.

The truth is that Lula masterfully read the situation. He is the most experienced political leader in Brazil, perhaps the world. The wide, super-wide front, which he has been building little by little, has the function not only and not mainly of raising votes, but of neutralizing the coup d'état. It is a gigantic “sit down, the lion is tame” operation. It was shown in a crystal clear way, as crystal clear as it could be, that the choice is not at all difficult.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaropainting himself into a corner”, isolating himself in increasingly strident appeals to his radicalized base. It made the base loyal, but it increased its rejection. The number of reluctant and even anti-PT supporters willing to vote for Lula to get rid of the disaster grew. Covering your nose, they say. Okay, come on. Everyone is welcome at this dramatic time.

Therefore, dear reader, be very calm at this time. As a team that has a good advantage in the second half of the match, we have to play with one eye on the ball and the other on the clock. And let's not repeat the mistake of Stefan Zweig, who committed suicide when the end of the Nazi nightmare was near.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal capital letteron July 22, 2022.

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