Brasil: What will come?

Passa Palavra, O que virá, 21-1-2021

We are facing a dispute for protagonism among the forces of the right: how will the forces of the left act in this new scenario?

The failure of the health system in Manaus, with the generalized lack of oxygen, seems to have taken the Brazilian situation to another stage. The great commotion caused by the live videos, by doctors’ testimonies, by the need to transfer premature babies, led to a mobilization of different social agents beyond the simple proclamation of absurdity. Some celebrities started to do cylinder donation campaigns, which, although derisory in terms of scale, give the idea that something must be done, since the government does not. At the same time, the call by a panel made in the nets, both for oxygen and the demand for the exit of Bolsonaro. Initially this call circulated in the left wing media, which have been opting for shares of this type since April of last year. However, the circulation of this call gained a lot of prominence when it was endorsed by the presenter and aspiring politician Luciano Huck.

This comes within a context in which the president appears to be weakened internally and externally. The 2020 municipal elections demonstrated a strengthening of the center parties and a growth of the right, and at the same time a decline in the political capital of the stock market, which elected only 15 of its 61 publicly supported candidates. The defeat of Trump and the invasion of the Capitol were interpreted by Brazilian managers as a prophecy of what could happen in Brazil, although it generated nothing more than public statements signaling an institutional movement. The wear and tear in relation to the parliament, which had comings and goings during 2020, was aggravated by the interference that Bolsonaro tries to make in the succession of the presidency of the Chamber.

Contrary to the institutional wear and tear that had already been felt at the end of the Trump administration, in Brazil the 2022 elections are still a considerable distance away. The Plateau was in a state of calm. This calmness seems to have faded, making room for the right, not Bolsonarismo. Will there be breath from then on?

From the point of view of international relations, Brazil has deliberately placed itself in a situation of isolation, which should harm Brazilian interests abroad, the attraction of foreign investments, and trade relations with major partners, namely China and the post-Trump United States. Against this isolationist tendency, there is a position of integration on the part of some governors, in particular João Dória (PSDB), who managed to get ahead of the Federal Government in the race for vaccination by entering into a partnership with a Chinese laboratory, ignoring China’s geopolitical disfavor on the issue. Other politicians, such as vice-president Mourão himself and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, publicly disagree with the positions of disrespect to economic partnerships and political attacks on China by the stock market wing.

Still at the international level, consideration must be given to the process of increasing the number of contagions and hospital admissions due to covid-19, forcing governments to increase restrictive measures indefinitely. The current speed of vaccination and vaccine production imposes the prospect of another year of strict restrictive measures for the reduction of coronavirus contagion, which may put the global economy in slow motion (or even in reverse).

The situation is aggravated by the clear economic degradation in which the country lives. With the end of emergency aid, millions of people are expected to return to extreme poverty, while the closure of Ford’s plant is read as a crisis in the industrial sector. Although the non-extension of aid and the non-granting of subsidies are taken as commitments to fiscal adjustment, financial actors seem to begin to take into account the president’s lack of commitment to reforms and the deep instability in which he places the country. The structural problem of Brazilian education will increase the difficulty of retraining workers because of the acceleration of technological trends in the world of work. At the same time, the increase in the cost of living further worsens the situation of the mass of self-employed workers in large cities, which again puts pressure on public authorities to create forms of financial aid for the vulnerable.

In this sense, the Bolsonist argument that there is a choice between economy and lives opens its contradictions; the collapse of health systems and mass deaths make a full economic recovery impossible, which forces workers to decrease their circulation and follow hygiene and care protocols. On the other hand, the contradiction of those leaders who claim to be guided by “science” and in defense of “lives” is also evident, as they did not make an effort to ensure economic guarantees of stability for workers during the period of isolation, which gave room for a stock market turmoil that mobilized workers and bosses against restrictive measures, see the case of Búzios, Angra dos Reis, Manaus, and Belo Horizonte. Still, even for many supporters of the president, the need to fight the virus is greater than buying his political fights, which can comically be represented in the marketing of protective masks with the face of Bolsonaro stamped.

The crisis of Bolsonarismo coincides with the most aggravated moments of the epidemic in Brazil. The current scenario is relatively different from the situation we faced in the first half of 2020. At the end of May of that year, with more controlled levels of occupation of ICU beds in the states, but high number of deaths, about half of Brazilians did not know someone who had contracted the coronavirus, which apparently made conspiratorial speeches more seductive. In a new research done in December, this percentage decreased to 21%, indicating that the most direct experience with the disease reached the daily life of the great majority. Moreover, it was in the months of March and April that Brazil registered the peak of social isolation rates, possibly leveraged by the financial support of families to their most vulnerable links. Is a new reproduction of this scenario feasible?

This set of factors helps to understand why sectors of the right, which had formally broken off with the president since the beginning of last year and had little mobilization to get him removed from office, started to move. At this moment they seem to be feeling a change of heart and have begun to openly advocate a mobilization around impeachment, calling both the panel and the carreatas to overthrow the president. It is too early to say if the capacity to mobilize groups like MBL and Vem Pra Rua is being maintained, but what is certain is that they are betting, at this moment, that they can take advantage of the political instability to regain a leading role within the forces of the right, at the same time as they intend to take the front of the left as elements of opposition to the stock market.

Although these right wing forces are betting on placing themselves as more moderate than the Bolsonar, one hypothesis to be raised is that the extreme right can live a similar process and with reversed signs to what the moderate left experienced in 2013. The Bolsonarismo, which, like the petism, thinks to have under its control the contestation and the manifestation of the street, could be ultra-assisted by other sectors of the extreme right in these manifestations.

How will the forces of the left act in this new scenario? Will they be able to build an opposition to Bolsonarismo that is not only discursive? Will they be able to mobilize the workers independently of the right and the bosses? Or will they remain tied to the right and to the parties of order?

Source: Passa Palavra, O que virá, 21-1-2021, translated WithDeepL.text

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