Presidential elections in Brazil: the choice “between the fascism of society and democracy”

Juliette Dumont, lecturer in contemporary history at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Latin America and researcher at Creda (Center for Research and Documentation on the Americas) analyzes the challenges of the presidential election in Brazil. Eleven candidates will be in the running on Sunday, October 2 in the first round, a poll polarized around the face-to-face Bolsonaro-Lula.

What do you remember from the record of outgoing President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro?

The record of Jair Bolsonaro (extreme right) is catastrophic at all levels. He never stopped attacking institutions, he made the political arena the scene of a war against “evil” where the adversary becomes an enemy to be eliminated.

Inequalities have been reinforced, food insecurity affects more than 30 million people (out of 213 million), even though this country left the UN hunger map in 2014. The dismantling of labor regulations has deprived millions of Brazilians of a minimum of protection, which, combined with the effects of the pandemic, has contributed to pushing many people into poverty.

An erratic economic and budgetary policy has been conducted with, according to many analysts, a “fiscal bomb” for the next few years.

And on the educational, scientific and cultural levels, the budget cuts have been drastic…

Bolsonaro, a benchmark for conservatives

Juliette Dumont judges Jair Bolsonaro’s record “catastrophic at all levels”, but “he did not change his speech between his 2018 campaign and today, he remained faithful to his ideas”, she underlined recently in 20 minutes. “He kept his promises” and retains “a base of sympathizers who adhere to his ultra-conservative values ​​around God, country, family”. “Bearmarks in a generally very turbulent period, not only in Brazil”, she believes.

Will the fate reserved for the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples also be played out at the ballot box?

Yes, totally. Bolsonaro’s government can be considered ecocidal: deforestation, in the Amazon but also in the Cerrado, the Pantanal and the Mata Atlântica, has reached unprecedented levels for thirty years.

This is explained by the considerable weakening of the federal bodies responsible for environmental protection, whose budgets have sometimes been cut by up to 90%.

By the fact that, eager to meet the expectations of agribusiness, the Ministry of Agriculture has authorized more than 1200 new pesticides in four years.

By the presence at the Ministry of the Environment, between 2018 and 2021, of Ricardo Salles, conspiracy and climate-skeptic, who notably encouraged gold panning and timber trafficking. For Bolsonaro and his supporters, the environment is a reservoir of resources to be exploited and
indigenous communities as obstacles to this objective, in addition
of anachronisms in the face of their vision of progress and modernity.

A new term for Bolsonaro would be a disaster, for Brazil and for the world.

What are the springs of the spectacular return of Lula after his passage through prison for corruption?

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) left power in 2011 with a very high popularity rating (80%). In a context of anemia on the left, as can also be seen in Europe, he remains charismatic.

Faced with a Bolsonaro who utters hate speech, who spoke of a “flu” about Covid-19 (at least 700,000 dead in the country) and contributed to making Brazil a pariah on the international scene, he appears as a statesman capable of reconciling a torn society.

What societal choices confront each other?

This election is neither more nor less than a choice between authoritarianism and the fascism of society on the one hand and the defense of democracy on the other. Even if the “republican front” around Lula cannot do without in-depth reflection.

“Blocking up” is not enough to give citizens the strength, the desire to keep the democratic game alive, we are well placed in France to know this.

Does this announce an unstable tomorrow if Lula comes to power?

It all depends on whether or not the parties of this republican front are ready to examine the underlying reasons for the crisis in the political system and to remedy them.

If the only thing that binds them is a common enemy, it’s a safe bet that the instability will be chronic. The structural inequalities of Brazilian society, the inefficiency of a tax system that does not allow the federal state to have budgetary maneuver outside the taxes levied on the export of raw materials, the existence of a multitude of parties which are only electoral machines and make the Parliament totally permeable to corruption and clientelism will have to be examined.

Bolsonaro, nicknamed the “Brazilian Trump”, will he also opt for the challenge in the event of failure?

Bolsonaro has been insisting for a year that if he is defeated, it will be the result of fraud. He has just changed this discourse because the prospect of an institutional rupture worried some of his military and economic allies.

This shift, however, does not guarantee that its supporters will unblinkingly accept a result that would be unfavorable to it and violence, already present, is possible. Especially since the circulation of weapons has considerably increased in Brazil over the past four years.

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