The Future of Brazil is at Stake: a Refugee From Pinochet’s Chile on the Threat Posed by Bolsonaro

Photo Source fabio montarroios | CC BY 2.0

On 28th October 2018 the people of Brazil face the dramatic choice to either vote for democracy, whatever its current imperfections, by electing Fernando Haddad, or an authoritarian, openly fascist, misogynistic, classist, racist and homophobic candidate, Jair Bolsonaro who is openly committed to its destruction.

A victory for Jair Bolsonaro is highly likely to lead to an intensification of the bigoted violence we have already seen in the streets on Brazil perpetrated by well trained and clearly well armed fascist thugs who, emboldened by Bolsonaro’s 46% in the first round, are going on the rampage in several Brazilian cities.

The crimes they commit are heinous and seem to be coldly planned since they involve, for instance, the carving of swastikas with knives on people’s skins. In other words, this is not just the uncontrolled violence of extremists it is well-planned and scientifically carried-out violence.

If 46% has produced this level of political violence based on the hatred of difference and diversity, imagine what a fully elected Bolsonaro government would unleash. The ideology behind this nasty development, is informed by the conception that those who disagree with bolsonarismo are not opponents to be politically defeated, but enemies to be physically exterminated.

Although we are still not there, such dynamic is irresistible once is unleashed. Many who supported Pinochet’s golpe in Chile, did no think it would lead to such brutal levels of repression, assassination and disappearances. Unfortunately, many of them, including former President Eduardo Frei Montalva, leader of Christian Democracy, who did everything in his power and abilities to bring about the military coup against Allende in 1973, was himself assassinated during an operation under the orders of Pinochet himself.

By supporting Bolsonaro what some right-of-centre and right wing politicians seem to be doing in Brazil is “resolve the PT problem” by going for what appears to be a short term solution but that will have long term consequences for them, their supporters, the people of Brazil, and above all, democracy, that imperfect but perfectible and precious political system. Democracy has been so eroded ever since Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in May 2016 that has been debilitated out of total recognition.

Brazilian democracy has already turned into a travesty of its former self: Lula is in prison charged with ‘undetermined acts of corruption’, and whilst many democratic politicians face the threat of judicialization, many on the political Right have outrageously received political privileges despite being convicted of corruption. Were the judiciary stopped being independent and accountable to a legal and constitutional principle, there cannot be Estado de Direito, Rule of Law, thus inevitably making it to become increasingly partisan and therefore, prone sanctioning legal arbitrariness that will erode democracy even further.

The ‘constitutional coup’ that began back in 2016 is following its logical dynamics and threatens to grow into an extreme right wing and undemocratic Bolsonaro administration. A Bolsonaro government will not only deepen Temer’s social and economic neoliberal programme but it will also muscularly institutionalise it. Repression will be central to obtain the citizenry’s compliance to it.

Accordingly, the unrestrained violence we have witnessed in the last few days of fascist thugs going on the rampage, is also likely to be institutionalised in one form or another. Consequently, any resistance to any turn of the neoliberal screws against free and public education, subsidies, or any other manifestation of the expansion of social democracy that has taken place in Brazil since 1985, will be seen and depicted as subversive, and thus dealt with brutally as it is already happening with the de facto Term government.

Such outcome is not inevitable since there is a choice and Brazilians might still be able to defeat it. Fernando Haddad has de facto become the candidate of democracy confronting a fascistic authoritarian threat. He is a member of the PT, party that has demonstrated not only it is democratic, but that it is also committed to social progress and the performance of the governments it led from 2002 to 2016 convincingly confirm this. Furthermore, the PT and Haddad himself as Mayor of Sao Paulo, have demonstrated to be prepared to work with others in a respectful and trustful way, something that unfortunately cannot be said of many of its coalition partners in the past, let alone of its Right Wing opponents. Never once the PT threatened the nation’s democracy.

In the first round on 7th October there were 10 million voters who either abstained or voted void (nulo). We know there are many elite politicians (FHC, Ciro Gomes, and others) who have warned of the Bolsonaro danger to Brazilian democracy. We also know there are many voters who having voted Bolsonaro in the first round, have changed their minds because they have realised of the ominous threat he represents for the nation’s democracy. It is, however, lamentable that several centre right and right wing politicians who have spoken out against Bolsonaro are not prepared to call for a Haddad vote. So, in these few days, you Brazilian man and woman have the chance to persuade as many among your own family, friends and acquaintances who may have voted Bolsonaro, blank or void, to positively defend Brazilian democracy by both voting Haddad and actively call to vote for Haddad. As important it is to put almighty pressure on right and right-of-centre politicians who have spoken out against Bolsonaro, to positively call to defend democracy and vote Haddad.

A Haddad victory does not guarantee perfect and/or immediate democratic restoration, even less a full restoration of the socio-economic gains lost under Temer’s sustained attacks. But it will create a context which will reduce the violence, intolerance and bigotry, and which will gradually restore confidence in democracy and democratic processes. Although under different political conditions, a majority of Chileans in 1973, faced with externally-induced scarcity and shortages, intense deliberately-provoked street violence and political turmoil, and subjected to intoxicating levels of media demonization of Salvador Allende and his government and supporters, wrongly went for a simplistic solution: a military coup d’état. Many of them became victims themselves of the US-supported Pinochet dictatorship. Chile is still healing from the open wounds left by the murders, brutalities and systematic violations of human rights perpetrated by Pinochet and his henchmen.

Future generations of Brazilians will never forgive us for having (un)wittingly contributed to have created a context for them to be born under conditions of dictatorship because either we did not bother to vote or because we let ourselves to be falsely impressed by Bolsonaro’s simplistic certainties. We do not deserve it, they in the coming future deserve it even less.

This article originally appeared in Spanish on Mision Verdad.