Brazil - Election 2018
Brazil's political terrain is polarized due to seemingly-endless corruption investigations and a less than lukewarm economic recovery, which has fed into rising crime rates. Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, confirmed 11 January 2017 that "he is preparing" to run for the presidency in 2018, should it "be necessary." Bearing that his candidacy is not invalidated through a salacious corporate media and lawfare campaign, Lula will, more likely than not, win a third term in office next year.
In his first public speech of the year, the politician said he would be traveling the country in 2017 to restore his image and that of his Workers' Party, "which have been criminalized by the press and the justice system." Lula, who served as president of Brazil in 2003-2010, made the remarks at an event of the Landless Workers' Movement in the northern city of Salvador de Bahia. Lula was accompanied by Jaques Wagner, the former chief of staff to impeached President Dilma Rousseff, and the former president of Petrobras, Sergio Gabrielli. In reference to allegations that his opponents may seek a legal injunction to stop him from running through the courts, Lula said that everybody should be able to run for president.
Operation “Car Wash” corruption investigations, kickback schemes, the mere hint that someone uttered “Odebrecht” and non-stop corporate media proclivity for their darling candidates shrouded Brazil's October 2018 presidential election in uncertainty.
That comes without mentioning over a year lost since the country's first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, fell victim to what many observers denote as a parliamentary coup, giving way to senate-imposed President Michel Temer.
His gratuitous term in office, rejected by 88 percent of the people, according to the latest CNI/Ibope poll, is a tipsy walk down memory lane – austerity on steroids, labor reforms, proposed pension reforms, a 20-year cap on public spending, auctioning or sale of Petrobras and other publicly-owned companies and lapdog adherence to the whims of the international market.
Rhetoric of change has convinced few, especially compared to the daily struggle for basic necessities. Even the cost of residential gas cylinders, needed to fire up one's stove to prepare daily meals, had skyrocketed more than 67 percent since August 2017 by the end of the year.
Populism could be the big winner in 2018. Everywhere, endless waves of corruption scandals have destroyed people’s confidence in politics without strengthening their trust in the constitutional state. In Latin America’s two largest national economies, Brazil and Mexico, corruption is also discrediting efforts to implement a more sustainable economic policy that emphasizes self-supporting growth rather than redistribution.
Given the disastrous crisis of confidence in Brazil, what the country really needs first, before it holds elections, is a fundamental reform of the political system. Since the very contentious impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the political camps have become even more entrenched in their positions. Corruption investigations at the highest level have brought all the major parties into disrepute; President Michel Temer is the most unpopular head of state in the world, with approval ratings that barely scrape five percent.
The only politician who still enjoys a good reputation – among his party faithful at least – is the legendary Lula da Silva. However, he probably won’t be allowed to stand as he too is facing corruption charges. And so it is that the complex, patronage-based Brazilian party system has put Jair Bolsonaro, an unappetizing right-wing populist, homophobic racist and declared supporter of the former military dictatorship, in second place in the opinion polls, right behind former president Lula.
The seeds of Lula's mass popularity began to spawn back in 1968, in broad day of Brazil's military dictatorship, when he joined the Sao Bernardo Metal Workers Union, an organization he considered to be so "boring" that he preferred staying at home watching soap operas.
Elected president of the workers' union in 1975, Lula advocated for workers' rights, organized mass strikes and sought to improve communication within their ranks. Having experienced drought, famine, plagues and abject poverty during his childhood in Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco, Lula would never forget his less than humble beginnings, nor working as a shoeshine boy in 1953, when the people of Brazil elected him president in 2003.
What else but a slew of social programs to mark his two terms in office, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the U.N. World Hunger Map. When the World Food Program hailed the country as a champion in the fight against hunger, former Social Development Minister Tereza Campello said, “leaving the Hunger Map is a historic milestone for Brazil."
"We are very proud because overcoming hunger was a priority for the Brazilian state," she added. One of Lula's most ambitious and successful programs was, and still is, the Family Allowance (Bolsa Familia). Launched in 2003, it provides stipends to families living below the poverty line. In turn, those families must prove that their children are attending school and have been vaccinated. Also, his achievements in housing and education pale in comparison to those who ruled the country over the past 500 years.
Jair Bolsonaro is Lula's closest opponent in the 2018 election. In November 2017, during an audio-taped interview with the Financial Times, Bolsonaro took time to note that people enjoyed “total freedom" during the country's military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964-1984, claiming that Brazilians traveled “to Disneyland and returned home.”
In 2016, during Rousseff's impeachment vote, he used his congressional speaking time to not only rally in favor of her ouster, but also praise Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the dictatorship's notorious torture program in the 1970s. He cited Ustra as “the source of Dilma Rousseff's dread,” referring to the fact that she, as a young woman, was imprisoned for three years for being a leftist guerrilla and suffered torture, including electrocution under his watch.
Dilma maintained her composure before responding. She told reporters that Bolsonaro's remarks were “regrettable,” a dignified understatement considering the women who had rats shoved in their vaginas and tortured in other ways during those “dark days” marked by Latin American dictatorships.
Having proposed restoring military rule during his political career, Bolsonaro has also been quoted as saying that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet "should have killed more people.” Moreover, he has said, “Women should earn less because they get pregnant" and "I'd be incapable of loving a homosexual son."
Ultimately, the stakes are high when it comes to Brazil's 2018 presidential election. South America's geographic giant is a horse fueling its economic engine, trade and commerce in the broader region and beyond. Uncertainty standing in the way between Lula and his candidacy has mobilized people on the frontlines. Their mission: to regain the narrative of social progress over a debauchery of judicial meddling and a genuine media circus poised to neutralize the country's most popular politician The battle has reached almost messianic proportions, which, in itself, presents dangers in the way of the democratic process.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|