Questions following coup in Brazil [Part I: The coup d’état]

by Farooque Chowdhury

Frontier | 18 July, 2016

Recent incidents in Brazil is an old “game” – organizing a coup – the world capitalist system resorts to while it fails to manage contradictions or fails to reach a compromise or the system uses the tool to punish economies trying to chart a route different from the world lords’ choice as the new track hurts their interest. The failure to enter into a compromise or manage contradictions is an incapacity carrying crucial questions. The incapacity is of the state and of the classes controlling the state. Their preferred approach at that given moment – the time of organizing a coup – is increase conflict.

Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson in their book Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy use the term “coup” to describe all transitions from democracy to non-democracy. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, 2006) [However, at least one of their analyses is not supported by reality as they write: “One result of our analysis is that coups are more likely in societies where there is greater inequality between the elites and the citizens.” (p. 222) Many countries in Europe and North America would have experienced coups by this time as these economies, mainstream findings show, are home to greater and graver inequality today, and all of these economies are not having “consolidated democracies”.] Brazil, the seventh largest economy in the world, has experienced a “soft” coup – change of regime by manipulation of legal procedures within legislative structure – orchestrated by the country’s rich in collusion with their masters. So, there’s the unseating of elected president Dilma Rousseff, the ongoing process of so-called impeachment of Dilma, and installation of a neo-regime at the head of a corruption-ridden political arrangement. In a recent interview Dilma said: “This impeachment is a coup”. (RT, “Dilma Rousseff: Old Brazilian oligarchy behind ‘coup’”, full interview, May 19, 2016) The former guerilla turned president said: “This coup is not like usual coups in Latin America, which normally involve weapons, tanks in the streets, arrests and torture. The current coup is happening within the democratic framework, with the use of existing institutions”. Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa has referred it as the new Operation Condor – a US-backed attempt to wipe out opposition to dictatorships across South America in the 1970s and ’80s, during which about 50,000 people were murdered or forcibly vanished – aimed at undermining progressive governments in the region. Correa referred the impeachment process in Brazil with the following words: “Military dictatorships are not needed anymore; they need submissive judges, a corrupt media that even publishes private conversations, which is absolutely illegal.” Human rights activist Lucy Pagoada Quesada explained: Dilma’s impeachment was another Latin American “soft coup” that allowed the US to put in Brazil a puppet president in the form of Michel Temer. (RT, “Brazil’s Temer ‘just another puppet of US imperialism in Latin America’”, May 17, 2016) The observations help form a broad setting.

The gang usurping power is led by Temer, former vice-president, a key player in the impeachment-plot, and the current interim president; and an all-male, all-white cabinet has initiated its program – Uma Ponte para o Futuro, A bridge toward the future – to thwart a potential rising political force in Brazil by altering correlation of political forces, and to invert all the advancements the people there have so far made in the areas of economy and politics.

Recent revelations show, the world elites hatched the plan long ago. “Temer”, Forbes reported, “has global investors rooting for him”. (“Global Investors Put Brazil’s Interim President Michel Temer On Notice”, June 2, 2016) National and international economic and political forces including US foreign policy have continuously sought to constrain the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or the Workers’ Party’s political agenda, increasing uneasiness to the already complex terrain where institutional politics is decided. (William J. Mello and Altemar da Costa Muniz, “Class Struggle in Brazil: Who Will Defend the Working Class?” May 16, 2016) An AFP report said: “The Federation of Sao Paulo Industries is lit up in the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag, a giant black banner cutting across its facade with a blunt message: ‘Resign now’. The powerful industry group is not the only major player in the Brazilian economy that is openly hostile to embattled President Dilma Rousseff.” (“Brazil business world bets on Rousseff exit”, March 20, 2016) The hostility tells a fact.

But the world elites, the masters, the foreign policy of a country had to rely on players burdened with a huge mass of corruption. It’s a serious weakness. The following observation shows an inner-dynamics, tact and limitations of the masters: “Temer is not a solution, but it is a step in the right direction even though he and his party are involved in the Petrobras [Petroleo Brasileiro] scandal,” says Bert Van Der Walt, a fund manager with Mirae Asset Global Investments in New York. (Forbes, June 2, 2016, “Global Investors Put Brazil’s Interim President Michel Temer On Notice”)

Coup plotters in Brazil possess a brazen “purity”, which is strengthened by their external connection and submersion in corruption.
Temer, the right-wing leaderwith a lot of support in the Wall Street, with external intelligence links, and with a support of a “huge” 2 percent of the population, has recently been convicted by an election court. The court issued a decree finding him guilty; declared him “ineligible” to run for any political office; and banned him from running in elections for the next eight years. The court verdict came as a result of his “dirty record” in elections. Temer, the puppet-leader, was involved with violation of campaign financing limits and the Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, scandal. Temer has been accused of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme. His record of corruption is interesting. Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo revealed: Little Michel, 7-year old son of Temer, owns two offices in a luxury building, which also houses papa Big Michel’s political office in a rich neighborhood of Sao Paulo. The estate, each property of which is 196 square-meters, is estimated to be worth US$570,000.

A number of ministers in the Temer-led-usurper-government are being investigated on charges of corruption. A formal allegation of tax evasion and money laundering against former tourism minister Henrique Alves has been made, and Alves had to resign after being linked to a corruption scheme. Attorney General presented evidence to the Supreme Court saying that Alves had a secret bank account in Switzerland. Alves is the third cabinet minister to stand down [up to mid-June] since Temer took power on May 12.

Sergio Machado, president of state-owned Transperto, the country’s largest oil transportation company, for 11 years, has revealed in his plea-bargain agreement in the Operacao Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) investigation that he passed along at least US$ 32 million in bribes to 25 politicians from seven political parties. According to Machado, PMDB members received US$ 28 million. He said that he raised, at the request of a politician, resources from companies contracted by the logistics and transportation subsidiary of Petrobras. Temer (PMDB is the political party Temer belongs to) is accused of having negotiated a bribe of US$ 420,000 for Gabriel Chalita’s (PMDB at the time) 2012 campaign for mayor of Sao Paulo, through an official donation from the construction company Queiroz Galvao.  The list of politicians includes five PT members and two of Temer’s ministers (Sarney Filho and Henrique Eduardo Alves), in addition to six senators from the PMDB, one from the DEM (Jose Agripino Maia) and another from the PSDB (Aecio Neves). The president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros (AL), was given monthly stipends of US$ 84,000. Machado further testified that around US$ 7 million were passed along to 50 congressmen in the 1998 elections in exchange for their support for Aecio Neves’s internal campaign for president of the Congress. Machado also named interim Rio de Janeiro governor, Francisco Dornelles as receiving bribes. Neves is a leader in the impeachment ploy. Machado testified that Aecio received and controlled 1 million reals in illegal campaign donations.

Two top executives from Marcelo Odebrecht and OAS, the two construction multinationals at the center of a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal, are in competition to secure a plea bargain, which could implicate 29 percent of the elected officials. The legal defendants of Odebrecht told the press that their client has already agreed to participate in a deal that would implicate over 175 deputies and senators from the 594 currently serving in the National Congress. Odebrecht is in competition with former rival Leo Pinheiro, a former executive with OAS, since prosecutors have indicated they may only issue one plea bargain deal. As part of the agreement, authorities are requesting that both Odebrecht and Pinheiro provide new information and concrete testimonies to help prove that Brazilian politicians accepted bribes and in exchange granted infrastructure contracts to the Odebrecht and OAS. In 2014, Odebrecht built highways, shipyards, airports, subways and venues for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, netting US$46 billion. The Brazilian task force in charge of carrying out these investigations estimates that Odebrecht and Pinheiro can provide details of around US$13 billion in dirty contracts. (The mainstream media carried all the information cited here.)

According to the Transparency Brazil and reports from mainstream press including The New York Times, 60 percent members of Brazil’s Congress are facing serious charges including graft, electoral fraud, human rights abuse, illegal deforestation, kidnapping and homicide. Many of these lawmakers are stalwarts in the impeach-Dilma-campaign.

Accusations of accepting bribes relating to state-owned energy companies are now regular incidents. The Ethics Committee at Chamber of Deputies approved to remove suspended Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha from office for lying about having a foreign bank account. The Speaker of the lower house, evangelical Christian radio commentator and leader in the impeachment plot Cunha is facing trial for pocketing $40 million in bribes. Charges against him include laundering gains through a church. Senate leader Renan Calheiros is being investigated over claims of taking bribes in the Petrobras scandal. Other accusations against him include tax evasion and of allowing a lobbyist to pay child support for a daughter from an extramarital affair. Congress member and active with impeachment conspiracy Beto Mansur is charged with keeping 46 workers at his soybean farms in conditions equivalent to slaves. Congress member Eder Mauro is facing charges of torture and extortion while he was working as a police officer. Senator Ivo Cassol was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2013 on charges of corruption. An impassioned impeachment-driver Cassol is still in the Senate by making appeals against the court’s decision. Former Sao Paulo mayor Paulo Maluf supports ousting Dilma venture as he is “fed” up with corruption in the country although the former mayor faces charges in the US for stealing more than $11.6 million in a kickback scheme. Maluf had to pass weeks in jail a decade ago on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. But he was released under a law allowing people older than 70 to face such accusations at home. The former mayor then won a seat in Congress, which gave him a privileged judicial standing that keeps nearly all senior Brazilian politicians with such privileges out of jail. He is wanted by Interpol for the case against him in the US. A warrant of arrest also waits for him in France for his involvement with money laundering. Recently, photos of prostitutes operating in a part of Congress building brought condition of the politics there to public knowledge. These political characters form part of a perfect political atmosphere for the rich politicians engaged with impeachment of an elected president!

Temer’s seven ministers are already implicated in the Car Wash corruption. Three of them have already quit cabinet. The country’s chief prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to approve arrest warrants for four senior associates of Temer, for seeking to block probe of the Car Wash. The four leaders are former president Jose Sarney, the recently suspended leader of the lower house of congress Cunha, the current senate leader Renan Calheiros, and former planning minister Romero Juca.

Within the space of one week, Temer had to drop planning minister Juca, a key figure in getting austerity measures approved by Congress, and the minister in charge of fighting corruption Fabiano Silveira after leaked recordings suggested they had tried to derail the Petrobras investigation. Silveira, a recorded conversation showed, was criticizing the Car Wash investigations and giving advice to those being investigated. Among Temer’s prominent picks was Henrique Meirelles as finance minister, and Meirelles is a former Wall Street stalwart.

Farooque Chowdhury, a Dhaka-based freelancer, has authored/edited only three books in English: Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured(ed.), The Age of Crisis, and What Next? The Great Financial Crisis (ed.), and doesn’t operate any blog like “Farooque Chowdhury’s Blog



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