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03/25/2021

Lula: Back to the ring

Lula: Back to the ring

After being relentlessly persecuted, former President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva returns to the Brazilian political arena. A victim of lawfare, he was convicted and sent to prison in 2018, where he spent 580 days behind bars. The resultant was Bolsonaro’s victory. Ever since, political and social tensions have grown. The coronavirus crisis may aggravate the situation.

The maneuver was aimed at preventing him from running as a candidate for the presidential elections. The lie fell apart and Lula may be candidate in the October 2022 presidential elections after all his judicial charges were recently annulled. After all, he is the only figure that can lead the country in an inclusive social economic process and de-escalate violence. Doors are opening for the balance of forces to be twisted in favor of popular sectors and the regional integration. It could be a turning point for multipolarity, and specifically for the Latin American giant’s association with Russia and China. If these relations thrive, the rest of the region will join the project and defend it.

Lava jato: Bolsonaro’s father and mother

Arisen in 2014, the Lava Jato cause is a mega operation that represents the clearest example of the so-called lawfare: the articulation between the judicial apparatus, the media system and a fraction of the political elites to persecute and eliminate progressive, national-popular or left-wing political enemies, their governments and their potentialities. The maneuvers were led by former judge Sergio Moro and amplified by Globo multimedia. They contributed to intoxicating the political environment and popular mood, leading to the coup that toppled Dilma Rousseff in May 2016. The most recent objective was to prevent Lula’s candidacy in 2018.

The former Brazilian President ended up being sentenced in July 2017 to 12 years and 1 month in prison, accused of having received an apartment from the construction company OAS, as a form of payment of bribes. He also faced the case of the country house in Atibaia, where he was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months for allegedly having received more bribes from the companies OAS and Odebrecht, through works carried out in that house. Still without a sentence, there are two other processes against him that were annulled.

Lula’s defense spent more than 5 years resorting to all instances of the judiciary to declare the incompetence of the court that judged him. Lula was sent to jail in April 2018 and freed in March 2019.

The lie began to fall apart after The Intercept published the transcripts and audios of Moro’s conversations with the chief prosecutor, Deltan Dallagnol, uncovering the true face of the operation. At the end of 2019 the so-called Vaza Jato scandal arises (Lava Jato Leaks). The private chats of the Telegram application disclosed show an alliance between the accusers and the judge to arrest the former president. To convict Lula, Moro provided information to prosecutors, assisted the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) in the construction of cases, requesting and guiding operations, providing clues. Scandalous levels of US intervention are on record. In February 2020, the MPF disbanded the Lava Jato task force.

Sergio Moro, a clay idol

As we said, the former judge was at the forefront of the battle against Lula. After that, as a reward for the work done, he became Brazil’s Justice Minister, appointed by Bolsonaro. He became a man of great popularity among the right-wing, neo-fascist, middle class and upper-class sectors. This had an effect on the working classes, who accompanied Bolsonaro. He now begins to be questioned. The 2nd Chamber of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) judges his partiality, at the request of Lula’s defense.

Moro exemplifies a very effective mechanism of US interference in the region: the penetration of the judicial system. Moro is a figure formed by the US State Department in seminars such as the 2009 Bridges Project, held in Rio de Janeiro. Chosen members of the Federal Police, the Judiciary, the Public Ministry, US authorities and delegations attended it from Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

As revealed by WikiLeaks, they received training on how and why to investigate and punish money laundering cases: formal and informal cooperation between countries, how to confiscate assets, methods to obtain evidence, rewarding for deletion, approach on NGOs suspected of being used for illicit financing, among many other subtle mechanisms. The penetration of imperialism in the judicial system also occurs in the rest of the countries of the region.

Is the lawfare crumbling?

Lula’s resistance – who did not give in or leave the country in search of asylum, is paying off. Judge Edson Fachin, minister of the STF of Brazil and supporter of the Lava Jato, annulled all charges against the former President. He said that the events discussed in the process against Lula are not directly related to the Petrobras embezzlement case, therefore it has nothing to do with Operation Lava Jato. The case does not fall under the authority of the judge Moro who judged and condemned Lula.

Fachin ordered the investigation to begin again another jurisdiction, due to the partiality of Moro and the Prosecutor’s Office. Fachin declared the incompetence of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, arguing that it was not the “natural court” for these cases. Fachin’s decision was appealed by the Attorney General’s Office, submissive to Bolsonaro’s will.

Lula recovered his political rights and could face Bolsonaro in the elections next year. The political game is now moving to another level. There will undoubtedly be a realignment of the power factors at a national and regional scale.

Lula: he’s back

On March 10, Lula broke the silence with a speech delivered at the Metalworkers Union, the same place where he began his political career and from where he marched to serve a sentence in Curitiba on April 7, 2018 surrounded by thousands of militants. In his address, which had enormous coverage and reproduction on social networks, Lula spoke of need of the formation of alliances to confront the “blowhard” that´s occupying the Presidential Planalto Palace. He also summoned to build a large consensus around urgent issues such as the pandemic and unemployment.

Friction and conflict looms on the horizon. The democratic and popular forces have no other stronger candidate to defeat the Bolsonarist regime. Lula could be a candidate for the sixth time (he was in 1989, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006). The conservative newspaper O Jornal do Estadã published a survey by polling company IPEC (Intelligence in Research and Consulting, March 6) where Lula’s outperformed the president: 50% of the people it interviewed “would certainly” or “could” vote for Lula, compared with 38% for Bolsonaro, who is rejected by 56%, and the number is growing.

Neo-fascist Covid management

Certainly, Bolsonaro and the entire government are managing the Covid pandemic with a particular policy. Bolsonaro always showed himself as an agent provocateur. The government is aware of how many people died, and it surely is clear about how much they are willing to tolerate in order to maintain and deepen a business model. This supposes a model of society that implies deepening the 21st century neo-fascism experience and penetrating all of society with that common sense. They also know that the pandemic in Brazil is a threat for the region. All these elements must be considered as part of a cultural political framework that is weakened with the departure of Trump.

Workers’ Party (Brazil) campaigning for vaccination

Brazil ranks second after the US in coronavirus-related dead and infections. It is responsible for 20% of Covid dead in the world and it may be the country that handled the health crisis the worst on a planetary scale. It is the largest country in Latin America (population 230 million), and together with the US makes America the continent most affected by the virus. Brazil has a rising dead curve and is leading in the average number of new infections. 1/6 of all daily new reported cases in the world occur in Brazil. Their numbers amaze and frighten.

Almost 3,000 people die – per day! There have already been 287,000 dead and 12 million infected, the number is the same as India, which has a much bigger population. Brazil is surpassed only by the US, which has 328 million inhabitants, and has easily passed half a million Dead and 30 million infected.

Neo-fascism in government accepts these results and may even be seeing them as necessary, even knowing that the country is going through the worst health collapse in its history. The government might be managing the situation knowing that, if the dead are measured every 100,000 inhabitants, Brazil is not as bad as can be seen in the histrionic and changing public discussion. According to John Hopkins University and the World Bank, in this sense, Brazil is below, for example, Peru, Panama, Italy, Spain, the US and several European countries. Also, it is not much worser than Argentina, which has 5 times less population (and approximately 5 times fewer dead and infected). The government makes the country walk on the brink of chaos.

Dangerous game

During Bolsonaro’s term, the basic food basket increased in price by 33%. In the pandemic, the increase in food has been three times more than inflation. Hunger and poverty are growing steadily. Politics is militarized, society is experiencing rising levels of violence. Lula spoke clearly about the militiamen, the armed criminal groups that exist throughout the country and operate in the peripheries. There are also the powerful drug groups, the military, the gun supporters and the security systems of the ranchers and landowners (which also has its strong parliamentary representation “bullet and beef caucus”). During the pandemic, many of these groups allied with Bolsonaro, expanded their territorial control and strengthened themselves.

The neo-fascist approach of Bolsonaro and the military is keeping all of this unfolding. Are there possibilities for the social unrest to begin and the dead to accumulate in hospitals? That would be nothing more than a new chapter in the social outbreaks in the region, for example, those that ended neoliberalism at the beginning of the 21st century. But the government would react with violence and in turn will unleash more violence.

Suffice it to remember the murder of Marielle Franco (March 14, 2018), municipal councilor for the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) activist for the rights of the Afro-descendant population, women and the LGTBI collective. She was assassinated along with Anderson Gomes in an ambush perpetrated by two Military Police officers who operated as hitmen for a criminal organization of militiamen based in Rio das Pedras, linked to Bolsonaro’s brother.

The dangerous game it is also reflected in the role of Paulo Guedes, Bolsonaro’s Minister of Economy, plays. Along with his neoliberal gang, they are in charge of a portfolio that in 2018 absorbed the ministries of Finance, Industry Planning, Budget and Management, Foreign Trade and Services, as well as some areas of the Ministry of Work. From that strategic position they have been promising structural reforms, avoiding to tax the great fortunes, while trying to reduce the state and freeze the wages of public service workers.

As if that was not enough, they are making the workers and the poor pay for the crisis and bear the costs of the fight against Covid. Gedes wants to condition the release of resources to combat the pandemic on cutting the budget in other areas, such as education, social aid.

Venezuela’s President Maduro congratulates Lula and offers to “defeat neoliberalism together”.

The decision of Bolsonaro’s government is to command in chaos. This can have serious consequences. Why is it plausible that Syria or Venezuela have or had real wars inside and not Brazil? Colombia is experiencing a war that has been going on for more than 70 years. In different countries in Central America, as close as the late 90s, the civil war was ending. Could violence move to a higher level in Brazil? Does this upward spiral serve the interests of imperialism?

The real problem is whether the PT conquers power again. The likely new PT government would face much more powerful forces than it did years ago, to which Bolsonarism has been contributing in organicity, identity, coverage, propaganda, etc.

Do the elites, the dominant fractions of capital, the entrepreneurs, the economic groups continue to support Bolsonaro’s regime, while he continues to play with fire?

Situations are flowering in the country and it is very difficult to look the other way. According to a recent report by the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE), as a result of the political dynamics of Lava Jato, since 2015 the country has lost investments due to 64 billion dollars. This resulted in the loss of 4.4 million jobs, mainly in the civil construction sector, and $ 8.5 billion lost in taxes.

There are additional other factors of concern. For example, the rampant destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. Illegal land grabbers, loggers and miners felt (and in facto were) empowered by the deleterious measures of the Ministry of the Environment, and deepened their activities, destroying huge tracts of vegetation cover. All of this can have a huge negative impact on Brazilian meat exports and harm many Brazilian companies that operate around the world. Finally, also as a consequence of Lava Jato, Brazil is being monitored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the issue of the fight against corruption.

On the other hand, while hundreds of micro and small companies close daily, the financial power has not stopped enriching itself while economic concentration is deepening. During the coronavirus crisis alone, the wealth of 42 Brazilian billionaires increased by approximately $ 32 billion (Oxfam). The investment bank BTG Pactual, the largest investment bank in Latin America (co-founded by Guedes) increased its profit by 13% in 2020 and will continue to increase in 2021; XP Investimentos had a 111% higher net profit in 2020 than the previous year. Faria Lima, the financial center of São Paulo, has been openly supporting Bolsonaro and the handling of the pandemic.

It is in this framework that Lula’s figure gains shape as he immerses himself in the discussion of the handling of the pandemic, the place of Brazil in the world, the possible effects on the region and the weakening of the economy, as well as eventual social outbreaks or lack of control of violence. Lula led a negotiation between some Northeast Brazilian governors and the Sovereign Fund of the Russian State to obtain 37 million doses of the Spútnik V vaccine.

He also has begun to rebuild relations with China, after Bolsonaro joined the attack against that country by speaking of the “Chinese virus”. This outpost of Lula seems to gain support among different factors of power that do not belong to his social force. Following Bolsonaro’s refusal to approve the purchase of 45 million doses of the Chinese Coronavac vaccine, the conservative governor of São Paulo, João Dória, unilaterally authorized the manufacture of the Chinese vaccine in a public institute.

Biden appears to have won thanks to the Trump administration’s horrible handling of the pandemic, but also because having shifted to the center.

New scenario

Today is different then 2002, when Lula won in the midst of the neoliberal crisis that plagued Latin America, and economic growth was seen as possible. This tendency was occurring then on a global scale, complemented by a process of political stability. Neo-fascism had no entity, the middle classes followed, the army made a non-aggression pact with the PT, while big capital accompanied.

This changed with the coup of 2016. The economic stagnation was evident. The Brazilian bourgeoisie allied itself with imperialism around the need to impose new neoliberal reforms. The ruling classes rallied around the “Brazil cost” measures – business jargon that justifies the reduction of the cost of reproduction of the labor force (and implies pension reform, labor reform, budget cuts, etc.).

This new stage in the political process depends on the ability of the PT and Lula to avoid a new conviction and any kind of maneuver that could prevent his candidacy. It also depends on whether or not Lula can accumulate allies to consolidate himself as a candidate and eventually govern a divided country. The Military Party is the hegemonic force of the ruling bloc (there are more than 6 thousand militaries occupying civilian positions in the government, at the head of ministries and other offices). The financial power has not abandoned Bolsonaro. Fractions of the powerful religious caucus (Christian-evangelist) support the government. Neither are predatory landowners, mining, and big agribusiness.

Beyond any doubt, a new PT government would open up the possibility for regional coordination with Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, at the same time harboring the possibility of avoiding a showdown with the US, and dialogue with liberal governments such as Colombia, Paraguay or Chile. This context opens up the opportunity for the strengthening of anti-imperialist positions and the regional integration process, absolutely necessary for the construction of sovereignty and independence throughout the continent.

Facundo Escobar
Facundo Escobar is an argentinian anthropologist, journalist, researcher and  International Relations and Political History Professor at National University of La Plata (UNLP), Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is editor in chief at www.noticiaspia.com

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