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Issue #1728      April 27, 2016

Attempted coup in Brazil

No-one should underestimate the stakes Dilma Rousseff is battling for in Brazil by her pledge to fight impeachment proceedings “tooth and nail.”

Dilma Rousseff.

There is a risk that the extreme bias of most Western media against Latin America’s left-wing governments will work to confuse the issue, jumbling the opposition bid to unseat Brazil’s elected president with the rumbling Petrobras corruption scandal or the Panama Papers’ exposure of a sleazy global elite.

Corruption certainly stalks Brazil, but it’s not Rousseff but her critics who are up to their necks in dirt.

More than half the congressional committee members who recommended impeachment proceedings on April 11 are under investigation on corruption charges.

Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the lower house who has led the calls for Rousseff’s head, appears to have taken bribes from offshore companies registered with Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca – while there is no suggestion that the president is implicated by any of the 11.5 million documents that have been leaked.

And while Rousseff was on Petrobras’s board up to 2010, no evidence that she was involved in wrongdoing has ever emerged. In fact Rousseff is not even accused of corruption.

Rather her enemies declare that she has broken fiscal rules by manipulating government finances to plug budget shortfalls and “bribe” the electorate with spending on social programs such as state-subsidised housing projects.

But in a democracy we elect governments to do things for us. If a government carries out policies which benefit the people, who then continue to vote for it, this is not bribery but democracy in action.

Only in the warped world of neo-liberalism, where markets are always right and sniffy voters who don’t like what’s on offer are dismissed as ignorant, short-sighted and out of date, can implementing popular policies be seen as a failure.

Brazil’s rules forcing the government to run budget surpluses even during a recession are anti-democratic and operate in the interests of the rich.

Rousseff is accused of using fiscal sleights of hand such as delaying the repayment of loans to state banks to meet these rules without cutting public services.

It’s not clear that there is anything illegal about this. As she says: “The acts that they accuse me of, they were practised by other presidents of the republic before me. And it wasn’t characterised as being illegal acts or criminal acts. They were considered legal.”

And if it were illegal, it would be an outrage – like the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact, enshrining neo-liberal ideology into law: so the cost of any economic downturn must be paid by working people as the state cuts back, with socialist or social democratic alternatives outlawed.

Brazil’s Attorney-General Jose Eduardo Cardozo, the Workers’ Party’s Lula and Communist Party of Brazil leader Luciana Santos have all called out this impeachment drive for what it is: an attempted coup against the elected government.

The ability to rally crowds in the street is no guarantee of majority support or democratic legitimacy. Such demonstrations preceded the far-right seizure of power in Ukraine in 2014 and the army’s takeover of Thailand in the same year.

In Latin America the right – which in Brazil as elsewhere has a rotten political tradition associated with dictatorship, disappearances, torture (including of Rousseff when she was younger) and murder – is on the march, emboldened by the defeat of Christina Kirchner’s government in Argentina and advances against the revolution in Venezuela, where again opposition deputies are seeking to overthrow an elected president.

Its victory in the continent’s largest and most populous country would have terrible consequences for the people of Brazil and the entire region.

Rousseff is a fighter – indeed a former guerrilla. It’s just as well. This fight matters to us all.

Morning Star

Next article – Israel – Targeting journalists

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