If the Panama Papers confirmed the reality of concealed power by showing us the partial face of the Establishment, the coup that is being staged against President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil reminds us of those dark days when democratically elected governments in Latin America used to be overtaken by violent coups sponsored by the wealthy Establishment and staged by military juntas.
However, unlike those dark decades between the 50s and 90s, here we have a global hegemonic system that confirms two scenarios:
The first is that the local Establishment is bound to resist any radical democracy that gives way to social justice through an equitable system that rebalances wealth through progressive taxation, transparency, and clean governance.
Secondly, the division between a capitalist "West" and a socialist “East” is a myth that was convenient for the players of the Cold War as they divvied up the spoils of World War II, but which does not work anymore.
As the Guardian editorial of 12 May puts it, Dilma’s “own faults, which even her defenders concede are substantial, contributed to her downfall. But what is clear is that it is not only her career that has crashed, but the Brazilian democratic system as a whole. Dysfunctional to the point where corruption is virtually unavoidable and good governance constantly impeded, it worked, just about, in the skilled hands of Lula during a period of lively economic growth. Lula could finesse its inadequacies and manage the complex coalitions to which it gave rise. However, he resorted to corruption to do so.”
Lula was faced with constant criticism from the Left for the compromises he had to make, and more so for the dubious ways by which he had to navigate a democracy still held captive by a corrupt Brazilian Establishment. But when it comes to weigh this against the possible destruction of a democracy that was moving away from a dark past while bringing many out of poverty, one wonders how he could have done otherwise.
the division between a capitalist "West" and a socialist “East” is a myth that was convenient for the players of the Cold War
Given the vested interests of the corrupt elites and a history of violent coups, a progressive Brazilian President’s choices are limited: either play the dirty game with the system and try to win as many concessions and rights for the marginalized, or override the system and go for what Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela—i.e. use the full power of his electoral backing to reinforce a system which, indeed brought multitudes out of poverty, but is now in tatters.
But forget Dilma or Lula. Just cast your mind over the obstacles that President Obama had to face day in day out, especially when he dared suggest that the United States should have universal health care. I don’t recall Obama being a Marxist, and yet he found stiff opposition.
Is there an alternative? Some say no and push on and pretend that the local Establishment will somehow favour a welfare state, social justice and an equitable system. But where have any concessions been done without giving something in return, such as a system of concealed wealth and opaque markets propping up governments that sustain the status quo?
History’s lessons are very bitter. On that forgotten other September 11th, in 1973 Chile, when General Augusto Pinochet ordered the bombing of Salvador Allende’s Presidential Palace, many in the then “West” greeted this destruction of a democratically elected government with glee, and would later tell us that Pinochet revived the Chilean economy, even when his dictatorship murdered thousands of Chileans.
The critique of Allende then was pretty similar to that on Dilma: he should have seen this coming and could never succeed in a liberal democratic system. In their laziness, Allende’s detractors on the Right and Left accused him either of being a dictator or for trusting in liberal democracy to redress the gross inequality that plagued Chile.
Dilma’s predicament should concentrate minds. We are witnessing another tragedy where democracy is manipulated to stop an elected President from attempting to redress injustices and inequity.
As a young woman in the 1970s, Dilma Rousseff decided to join the Leftist guerrillas and fight the Military Junta. She was jailed and tortured together with thousands of Brazilians coming from all walks of life. It was in that jail that, the Dominican Frei Betto tells us, a wide array of individuals, ranging from Leftist militants to Catholic priests, met and engaged in deep dialogue.
We are witnessing another tragedy where democracy is manipulated
In his book, Against Principalities and Powers, Frei Betto recounts how while he and his fellow Catholic priests used to say Mass clandestinely, all prisoners—Catholics, communists and socialists, laics, believers and non-believers alike—gathered together to learn the basic principles of being human.
Of course, today, in the cynicism of the managerial politics of the “centre”, no one really wants to recall such times, let alone listen to the fact that real politics is not about politicians and their corporatist pride, but about human beings whose main aspiration is to fulfil their humanity.
Yet even as we see the face of the Establishment revealing itself in the darkness of its concealed offshore dealings, many argue that the only alternative is to keep pushing in the same direction—which amongst other, means ignoring the Brazilian multitudes who think otherwise.
Eu digo não ao Golpe! I say no to this Coup!
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