FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

History Repeats Itself as Neoliberals Flock to Bolsonaro’s Side

The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil comes as a shock to no one who’d been paying attention. The country’s judiciary, led by the neoliberal, PSDB party-aligned judge Sérgio Moro, chose to indict Lula on dubious charges of corruption. In May, the courts then upheld the sentence against Lula’s appeals, in spite of the very questionable validityof the evidence against him.

By then, polls had long made it clear that Lula was by far the most popular potential candidate, with Bolsonaro a distant second. Despite this, the judiciary continued to reject his appeals. By this point, they were very aware of the fact that if Lula wasn’t allowed to run, the election of Bolsonaro would be likely.

The reason for their decision becomes clearer with even a cursory glance at Bolsonaro’s economic platform. He ran on the promise of free-market reforms at the directive of his economic advisor, Paulo Guedes. Guedes is an unabashed capitalistfree marketeer, a graduate of the same University of Chicago that produced the Chicago Boys, the group of neoliberal economists famous for their cooperation with the mass-murdering and torturing Southern Cone dictatorships of the 70s and 80s. But he’s more than just an alumnus of the same school. In fact, he is something of a Chicago Boy himself, not only having studied alongside the others, but also teaching classes in Chile during Pinochet’s dictatorshipthat espoused the virtues of the same economics that were being forced on the country at the barrel of a gun.

To Brazil’s capitalists, Bolsonaro is not the same terrifying fascist that he is to others. Rather, he’s one of their own. He was their natural choice, one they consciously opted for over the leftist alternative. His alignment with their interests is reflected in the stock market’s overwhelmingly positive reactionto the news of his election, as well as the fact that he received97% of the second-round vote from the most well-off regions of the country, yet only 2% from the poorest regions. His base are the same people who celebrated the prospect of Michel Temer’s neoliberal regimein 2016, entirely ignorant of the everyday struggles faced by the country’s poor.

Neoliberals have been expressing faux shock at his election, not pausing to ponder why Bolsonaro considers their economic ideology completely compatible with his anti-LGBT, pro-torture, anti-democratic and anti-environmentalist agenda,and even trying to divert attention away from his economic policies by drawing false equivalences with the protectionist Donald Trump.

Yet as they well know, in Latin America, the authoritarian neoliberalism that Bolsonaro promises is nothing new. It is, after all, the very source of the modern usage of the term, which first gained worldwide prominence as a description for the economic policies of the Pinochet dictatorship.In the 70s and 80s, neoliberal dictatorships dominated the bottom half of the South American landmass: Pinochet’s in Chile (1973-90), the civic-military dictatorships of Argentina (1976-83) and Uruguay (1973-85), and Stroessner’s in Paraguay (1975-89). They shared the same common traits: systematic human rights violations, including over a hundred thousand confirmed instances of extrajudicial murder, torture, and/or detention (mostly of leftists); the enforcement of ‘Western, Christian values’; and, of course, sweeping free market reforms at the behest of Chicago School economists, who were all too happy to collaborate.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all of this sounds oddly similar to Bolsonaro’s program, because it is his program. His party’s very slogan includes the phrase ‘God above all’, he has threatened to purge opposition to his regime, and he’s even managed to find himself his very own Chicago Boy to be his future Minister of Economy.

To top it off, Moro, fresh from his political prosecutions of Dilma and Lula, has accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s cabinet as Minister of Justice. The neoliberal-aligned judge who just got done purging the only viable opposition to Bolsonaro’s election joining up with him immediately afterwards? It’s difficult to imagine a scenario that better demonstrates their adjacency. While the aforementioned dictatorships came to power in military coups, Bolsonaro’s rise to power was assured by a judicial one.

Quite clearly, like other unabashed Latin American fascists before him, Bolsonaro sees no threat nor contradictions to his project from neoliberalism. On the contrary: it is his preference. As capitalists worldwide express empty concern about the future of Brazil, the fact that yet another fascist’s interests are perfectly aligned with theirs looks set to remain the eternal elephant in the room.

George Ganitis is an Australian writer based in Argentina. He is an alumnus of La Trobe University’s History and Spanish departments. He can be contacted at ganitisgeorge@gmail or on Twitter at @george_ganitis.

More articles by:

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail