The Brazil that remains or what remains of Brazil

31 October 2018

For the first time Brazil has elected a president without the support of the poorest or the destitute. Though 55 percent of the electorate opted to steer the country into the abyss, people with lower incomes did not vote for Bolsonaro. In the new Brazilian Congress the military and police caucus overshadows all others.

A new cycle begins. Brazil is looking over the precipice of barbarism. The country could have taken a leap to rebuild its democratic future, but it decided to dive, and sink into the shadows. Understanding what has happened will take time. Any reflection on what comes next should be rooted in an analysis of the Brazil that remains. Or of what remains of Brazil.

Bolsonaro’s racist, xenophobic, sexist, violent, humiliating and bullying statements have been reported ad nauseum. Everyone who voted for him knew what they were voting for. His approval of torture, apologism for the country's earlier military dictatorship, and particularly his explicitly anti-popular government programme, apparently seemed less relevant than the risk of a victory of the PT candidate, Fernando Haddad. More than 55 percent of the population chose the candidate of hatred, who claims to represent renewal but whose main preoccupations point to a dramatic return to the past -- to the colonial, excluding Brazil, to the Brazil of the oligarchies who multiply their privileges at the expense of the suffering and misery of ordinary people.

The only ones who perceived his misrepresentations are the poorest voters, those who earn less than 1,908 reais (US$520 dollars). It is the first time in history that a candidate has won the presidency without the support of a majority of the population who live in poverty. Bolsonaro won the support of all the other social classes and castes upon which this giant country is organised.

The right or the extreme right triumphed in almost all 26 states that make up the federal union. In some of them, members of the military assumed the regional government, including a naval rifleman, an army commander and a colonel. Almost 1,000 candidates from the public security forces, active or retired, some of them women, will take office. At least 72 have been elected as deputies. The military and police caucus will be larger than the representation of the political formation with the largest presence in the National Congress, the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), with 56 legislators.

Major Olimpio Gomes, a lackluster provincial deputy, was elected to the national senate by the state of San Pablo with more than 9 million votes. Kátia Sastre, an unknown military police agent who a few days ago killed a young man who stole a cell phone in front of a school, was ushered into the federal parliament with the support of 264,013 citizens. The police agent, now congress-woman, took security camera images of her shooting and finishing off the thief as he was lying on the pavement and used them in her campaign. She was admonished by the electoral authorities for using such images, but the ban yielded her even more votes.

Bolsonaro announced that the killing of criminals (or those who appear to be criminals) will be considered self-defence. He also stated that social movements will be considered terrorist organisations and their activists criminalised as such.

The Brazilian congress is composed of 513 deputies and 81 senators, from 30 parties. The 2018 election was the largest change of representatives in three decades of democracy. However, the power of parliament is distributed not only according to the parties, but also to the corporate interests that the deputies and senators defend. There are three major cross-party blocs.

The caucus that defends agribusiness, known as the Agricultural Parliamentary Front, has more than 260 representatives. They support the deforestation of the Amazon and the use of agrotoxics. They live off and benefit from slave labour and are the face of the country with the highest concentration of land ownership on the planet.

The bancada armamentista or da bala (the ‘armamentist’ or ‘bullet caucus’), formed by the military, police officials and defenders of repressive violence by the state, actively fights against the Disarmament Act, approved under the Lula government. They argue that the civilian population should have the right to carry arms and use them in self-defense. This bloc is made up of 250 deputies and senators.

The evangelical legislators who compose the bancada da bíblia (the bible caucus) will include more than 100 representatives. They fight against legal abortion, gender equality, sexual diversity and marriage between people of the same sex, and demand religious education in public schools.

These three parliamentary blocs will have 610 representatives, in a national congress with 594 members. Naturally, this is explained because many deputies or senators are at the same time evangelical zealots who belong to the agribusiness caucus and are members of the military or police forces.

The political organisation that backed Jair Messias Bolsonaro for his presidential bid, the Social Liberal Party (PSL), had only eight deputies until the last election. From next year on it will be the second largest parliamentary group, with 52 legislators. It will also have three governors. Until now, it was not represented in government at the state level.

Bolsonaro said nothing substantive in his inaugural speech. He prayed and claimed that “the truth will liberate the country.” In addition, he affirmed that he will only do bilateral business with countries that benefit the economic interests of Brazil and provide Brazil access to technology. He also promised to end regional integration based on ideological affinities.

This is today’s Brazil, a country that remoulds a weak democracy, protected by the dictators and oligarchies of past times. This, in short, is what is left of Brazil.