Saturday, May 14, 2016

The soft coup in Brazil and the so-called Pink Tide governments

Argentine political theorist Atilio Boron writes about the "soft coup/institutional coup" in Brazil, Salto al poder en Brasil Página/12 13.05.2016.

Boron calls the soft coup in Brazil, a "serious setback for all of Latin America," of which Brazil is the most populous country.

He means this in two senses. One is for what we might call democracy in general. The Brazilian opposition used the impeachment process for illegitimate purposes, and barely even put up any pretence there was any legal substance to their action. The other is more specifically for the democratic left parties and movements, including elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT), that have come to power during the last two decades and have successfully implemented development and social policies at odds with the neoliberal orthodoxy of the IMF and the World Bank known as the "Washington Consensus."

This is referred to in the American press as the "pink tide," kind of a throwback to Cold War lingo of "pinko" referring to non-Communist leftists. It's not a very meaningful label. And often carelessly described, e.g., Linette Lopez, We may be witnessing the downfall of an international political revolution Business Insider 12/07/2015. "Post-neoliberal" would be a more appropriate term. Although it doesn't refer to a group of parties formally connected like the social-democratic Socialist International. It generally is used to include these South American governments:

  • Argentina: the governments of the post-2001-crisis, especially the "kirchernista" governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). Defeated by the hardline neoliberal electoral coalition behind current President Mauricio Macri.
  • Bolivia: The Evo Morales government of 2006-present; Morales' party is the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS-IPSP)
  • Brazil: The Workers' Party (PT) governments of 2003-2016, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016)
  • Chile: The current President Michelle Bachelet beginning in 2014; her center-left/left Nueva Mayoría electoral coalition even includes the Communist Party, whose most famous member and now a Deputy (Member) of the Chilean Parliament is the former student leader Camila Vallejo Dowling.
  • Ecaudor: The government of current President Rafael Correa, first elected in 2007; his electoral coalition is the Alianza País (AP).
  • Paraguay: The government of former Catholic bishop and liberation theologian Fernando Lugo (2008-2012), also ousted in an "institutional coup/soft coup"; he was elected in 2008 as the candidate of the Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio (APC)
  • Uruguay: The Frente Amplia governments of Tabaré Vázquez (2005-2010), José Mujica (2010-2015) and Tabaré Vázquez again (2015-present) (See: Matt Beagle, Uruguay’s Tabaré Vazquez: Pink Tide or Political Voice of the Center? Council on Hemispheric Affairs 03/04/2006)
  • Venezuela: By far the one most perturbing to Washington and the Latin American right, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) governments of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) and Nicolás Maduro (2013-present).

See also:

Nick Caistor, Latin America: The 'pink tide' turns BBC News 12/11/2015

Robie Mitchell, The Pink Tide Recedes: End of An Era? Council on Hemispheric Affairs 01/14/2016

Jason Tockman, The Rise of the "Pink Tide": Trade, Integration, and Economic Crisis in Latin America Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 10:2 (Summer/Fall 2009)

In a recent post, I wrote, "I'm sure it's pure coincidence. But Liliana Ayalde, the current US Ambassador to Brazil, served as US Ambassador to Paraguay from 2008-2011. A very similar "institutional coup" took place in Paraguay in 2012. (Benjamin Dangl, Behind Paraguay's coup Aljazeera 07/26/2012)"

Boron writes:

La confabulación de la derecha brasileña contó con el apoyo de Washington –¡imaginen cómo habría reaccionado la Casa Blanca si algo semejante se hubiera tramado en contra de alguno de sus peones en la región!– En su momento Barack Obama envió como embajadora en Brasil a Liliana Ayalde, una experta en promover “golpes blandos” porque antes de asumir su cargo en Brasilia, en el cual se sigue desempeñando, seguramente que de pura casualidad había sido embajadora en Paraguay, en vísperas del derrocamiento “institucional” de Fernando Lugo.

[The plot of the Brazilian right counted on the support of Washington - imagine how the White House would have reacted if something like that had been hatched against one of its peons in the region! - In his moment Barack Obama sent as Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde, an expert in promoting "soft coups" because before assuming her post in Brasilia, in which she is still filling, surely by pure chance had been Ambassador to Paraguay on the eve of the "institutional" overthrow of Ferando Lugo.]
And he points to the collaboration of other rightist parties and governments in Latin America:

Pero el imperio no es omnipotente, y para viabilizar la conspiración reaccionaria en Brasil suscitó la complicidad de varios gobiernos de la región, como el argentino, que definió el ataque que sus amigos brasileños estaban perpetrando en contra de la democracia como un rutinario ejercicio parlamentario y nada más.

[But the empire is not omnipotent, and to make the reactionary conspiracy in Brazil viable, aroused the complicity of various governments in the region, like that of Argentina [the Macri Administration], which defined the attack that his Brazilian friends were perpetrating against democracy in the form of a routine parliamentary exercise and nothing more.]
Left parties and governments, including the Argentine opposition Frente para la Victoria and the citizen mobilizations led by former Argentine President Cristina Fernández, have also recognized the international dimensions of the soft coup against Rousseff and expressed their support for her in this crisis.

Boron calls attention to three major groups of actors in the coup against Rousseff. One group is composed of the opposition legislators who abused their Constitutional powers to nullify the results of the 2014 Presidential election. The second is the judiciary dominated by pro-oligarchy conservatives and reactionaries. (In Argentina, the kirchneristas refer to the rightingwingers in the Argentine judiciary as the Judicial Party to emphasize their crass partisanship.) And the third is made up of the media companies that joined in the soft coup. In the United States, the center-left has been very reluctant to challenge the nature and structure of the corporate media directly; the conservatives have been far more perceptive about exploiting them very much to their benefit, all the while whining about the evil "liberal press." Boron writes on the
Brazilian media:

El tercer protagonista de esta gigantesca estafa a la soberanía popular son los principales medios de comunicación del Brasil, cuya vocación golpista y ethos profundamente reaccionario son ampliamente conocidos porque han militado desde siempre en contra de cualquier proyecto de cambio en uno de los países más injustos del planeta. Al separar a Dilma Rousseff de su cargo (por un plazo máximo de 180 días en el cual el Senado deberá decidir por una mayoría de dos tercios si la acusación en contra de la presidenta se ratifica o no) el interinato presidencial recayó sobre un oscuro y mediocre político, un ex aliado del PT convertido en un conspicuo conspirador y, finalmente, infame traidor: Michel Temer. Desgraciadamente, todo hace suponer que en poco tiempo más el Senado convertirá la suspensión temporal en destitución definitiva de la presidenta porque en la votación que la apartó de su cargo los conspiradores obtuvieron 55 votos, uno más de los exigidos para destituirla. Y eso será así pese a que, como Dilma lo reconociera al ser notificada de la decisión senatorial, pudo haber cometido errores pero jamás crímenes. Su límpido historial en esa materia resplandece cuando se lo contrasta con los prontuarios delictivos de sus censores, torvos personajes prefigurados en la Opera del Malandro de Chico Buarque cuando se burlaba del “malandro oficial, el candidato a malandro federal, y el malandro con contrato, con corbata y capital”. Ese malandraje hoy gobierna Brasil.

[The third protagonist of this gigantic swindle on popular sovereignty are the principle media of communication of Brazil, whose coup vocation and profoundly reactionary ethos are very well known because since forever they have actively opposed every project of change in one of the most unjust countries of the planet. {Presumably here he's referring to social injustices in Brazil, not just to the general problems of their governments.} To separate Dilma Rousseff from her office (for a period of maximum 180 days in which the Senate will have to decide with a two-thirds majority if they agree with the accusation against the President or not) the interim Presidency fell to an obscure and mediocre politician, a former ally of the PT who converted into a conspicuous conspirator and, finally, into an infamous traitor: Michel Temer. Unfortunately, everyone is assuming that in a short time from now the Senate will convert the temporary suspension into final removal of the President because the vote that separated her from her office {temporarily} obtained 55 votes, one more than needed to remove her. And that's how it will be despite the fact that, as Dilma recognized when she was notified of the Senatorial decision, may have committed mistakes but never crimes. Her pristine legal record in this material shines when it is contrasted with the felonious criminal records of those who censure her, grim personalities prefigured in the Opera del Malandro by Chico Buarque when he made fun of the "official scrounger, the candidate of federal scrounging, and the scrounger with a contract, a tie and capital." This scrounging is now governing Brazil.]
Boron doesn't mention any of the Brazilian media companies by name, but the Grupo Globo is surely one of those he has in mind.

He discusses three broad mistakes by Dilma and the PT, lessons for the democratic left in Latin America more generally, particularly at the moment in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, whose governments are targets of the conservative opposition parties and their international allies and all three of which, he notes, were the target of some kind of coup attempt in, respectively, 2008, 2010 and 2002.

The first two mistakes he discusses are closely related: the failure to maintain active mass political movements outside the traditional party structures, as well as neglecting to maintain popular militancy within the PT itself, coupled with an excessive faith that the established state structures would be sufficient to achieve the social reforms they PT leaders envisioned without relying on the popular militancy.

Tercer error: haber desalentado el debate y la crítica al interior del partido y del gobierno, apañando en cambio un consignismo facilista que obstruía la visión de los desaciertos e impedía corregirlos antes de que, como se comprobó ahora, el daño fuera irreparable. Por algo Maquiavelo decía que uno de los peores enemigos de la estabilidad de los gobernantes era el nefasto rol de sus consejeros y asesores, siempre dispuestos a adularlos y, por eso mismo, absolutamente incapacitados para alertar de los peligros y acechanzas que aguardaban a lo largo del camino. Ojalá que los traumáticos eventos que se produjeron en Brasil en estos días nos sirvan para aprender estas lecciones.

[Third error: having discouraged debate and criticism inside the party and the government, arranging instead an easy self-confirmation that disregarded the mistakes and impeded their correction before, as they are experiencing today, the damage was irreparable. There's a reason Machiavelli said that one of the worst enemies of stability of governments was the disastrous role of their counselors and advisers who are always ready to adore them and, for that very reason, are absolutely incapable of alerting them to dangers and the unexpected along the road. I hope the traumatic events that are occurring in Brazil these days will help us understand these lessons.]
Boron believes that the left-leaning governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have generally avoided those mistakes.

Meanwhile, "a gang of bandits took the Presidency of Brazil by assault." ("Una pandilla de bandidos tomó por asalto la presidencia de Brasil.")

See also:

Vincent Bevins, In post-impeachment Brazil, the new conservative Cabinet is 100% white men Los Angeles Times 05/13/2016

Vincent Bevins, Three months before Olympics, Brazil suddenly has a lot to resolve Los Angeles Times 05/13/2016

Daniel Gallas, Michel Temer: The man who now leads Brazil BBC News 05/12/2016

Tim Johnson, U.S. officials warn of looming crisis in Venezuela McClatchy Newspapers 05/13/2016

Clarice Silber, Panama Papers lob ‘atomic bomb’ on Brazil’s political class McClatchy Newspapers 04/13/2016

On the "soft coup" concept:

Juan Sebastian Chavarro, Soft Coup in Brazil: A Blow to Brazilian Democracy Council on Hemispheric Affairs 05/12/2016

Ted Snider, A ‘Silent Coup’ for Brazil? Consortium News 03/30/2016

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