Jair Bolsonaro (left) was recently elected the next President of Brazil, finally putting an end to a generation of highly corrupt and incompetent leftist rule. And yet, when Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared Mr Bolsonaro the next leader of the world’s fourth-largest democracy, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Jose Dias Toffoli made this highly unusual pronouncement: ‘The future president must respect institutions, must respect democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary branch, the national Congress and the legislative branch.’ Those remarks were widely taken to be a rebuke of Bolsonaro’s political views.
It is ironic that the real threat to democracy in Brazil comes not from Bolsonaro but from a highly anachronistic left. Indeed, Bolsonaro was one of the few Brazilian politicians willing to publicly attack what the communists from the Workers Party (PT) were doing: the destruction of the family through gender ideology and sexualisation of children; the promotion of organized crime as a stylish way of life and counter to the ‘capitalist system’; the promotion of abortion on demand; the deep and unprecedented corruption scandals perpetrated by President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party, and the endemic violence that is claiming tens of thousands of murders every year.
As Brazil’s most powerful party, the Workers’ Party is structured along Leninist lines, with a central committee and strict rules about adherence to party decisions. It brings under the same banner Trotskyists, Leninists, Maoists, former guerrillas, the Left’s standard issue pseudo-intellectuals and militant trade unionists. The leading group, comments Bernardo Kucinski, a journalist who acted as a special adviser to former President Lula da Silva, ‘is made up of trade union leaders, intellectuals, and members of the old Aliança Libertadora Nacional – ALN [a guerrillas movement], [and] the armed struggle group created by Carlos Marighela’. It has moderate supporters of social democracy, but its radical wing consists of hardliners eager to create a dictatorship of the proletariat.
It is clear that numerous members of the Workers’ Party consider the use of violence a feasible strategy. They argue that laws must be obeyed only as long as they contribute to radical social changes. The idea comes from the writings of Engels, who argued in a March, 1884, letter: ‘The proletariat needs democratic forms for the seizure of political power but they are … like all political forms, mere means’. This sort of mentality is opposed to democracy but helps to explain why, in March 2005, Veja, Brazil’s leading current-affairs magazine, published a cover story about the illegal offering of five million dollars by the Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the campaign of Workers’ Party candidates in 2003.
See also Brazil’s Crime
Lula da Silva, the charismatic leader of the Workers’ Party, was popularly elected President of Brazil in November, 2002, and took office in January 2003. As the party leader who founded the Foro de Sao Paulo (FSP), he was appointed chairman of this umbrella organisation which helps coordinate the program of political extremists. For instance, the July, 2005, conference of the FSP was attended by delegates of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, Peru’s TUPAC-AMARU guerrillas, Chile’s MIR guerrillas, Basque separatist group ETA, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US State Department considers all of these to be terrorist organizations. Dr Constantine Menges, a former CIA intelligence officer, observed:
Lula da Silva has been a sponsor of international terrorism because these annual meetings [of the FSP] are used by the anti-US terrorist and radical organizations to coordinate their plans for taking power in their respective countries and for planning actions against the United States.
Official documents from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN – Agência Brasileira de Inteligência) attest to the existence of ‘close liaisons’ between members of the Workers’ Party and the FARC drug guerrillas. For instance, ABIN’s document number 0095/3100, from 25 April 2003, reveals that at a April 13, 2002, meeting at a farm near Brasília, the Colombian guerrillas donated illegal money to the electoral campaign of Workers’ Party’s candidates. An undercover ABIN agent who attended the meeting reported that the money would arrive via Trinidad. It would be sent firstly to businessmen who supported the party and distributed as if it were their personal contribution to the Worker’ Party’s regional committees. The Colombian government subsequently confirmed the connection between members of Workers’ Party and the FARC guerrillas. In 2003 interview with the daily Folha de S. Paulo, FARC leader Raul Reyes said that his terrorist organization had close ties with the party leadership, including highly-placed members of the leftist government. What is more, the Workers’ Party, in an official note entitled ‘The Truth about Colombia, the FARC and PT’, openly admitted that FARC and the PT are both members of the subversive FSP, although it falsely and ludicrously denied any and all evidence of FARC’s involvement with kidnapping and drug-trafficking.
Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez had no better friend than Lula, even as the former muzzled the media, bullied rivals, smothered trade unions and plunged his country into penury. Lula told Newsweek he saw Chavez as a democratic leader, and how ‘each country establishes the democratic that suits its people’.
Under President Lula and his Workers’ Party, the Brazilian government was entirely silent on the genocidal policies of the Islamic government of Sudan. It even refrained from voting to grant human rights monitors a wider brief, reversing course in June, 2017, after a public outcry by prominent civic rights groups.
President Lula and his Workers’ Party also developed very strong ties with Iran’s then-president Ahmadinejad. As president he was a staunch defender of Iran’s nuclear program and even invited Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil. During the bloody aftermath of Iran’s elections, he called protesters ‘losers’ and compared the Iranian government’s crackdown to a row between fans of rival football clubs. Hence, the United Press International (UPI) says that Lula even questioned the democratic right of the Iranian people to protest against those fraudulent elections, pointing out: ‘In Brazil we also have people who do not accept electoral defeats’.
It is common knowledge that relations between Lula and the notorious communist dictator of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, Fidel Castro, were extremely cordial. Lula was a self-declared admirer of the Cuban tyrant. In April, 2003, perhaps as a way of expressing its solidarity with Castro’s repressive regime, Brazil even abstained from joining the UN Human Rights Committee’s condemnation of the brutal assassination of Cuban political dissidents. Speaking on behalf of his government, Brazil’s then-ambassador to Cuba, Tilden Santiago, actually endorsed the execution of those dissidents, calling them traitors for attempting to ‘destabilise’ the Havana regime.
Among those exposing the corrupt machinations of the Brazilian government were brave politicians such as Bolsonaro. By contrast, the party of the other presidential candidate, Fernando Haddad, was a creator of the FSP and a supporter of tyrannical regimes and terrorist organisations.
Jair Bolsonaro recovers in hospital after being stabbed by a supporter of rival candidate Fernando Haddad during the election campaign.
Predictably, media reports, especially overseas media, blandly described him merely as “leftist” or “liberal”. Far-left or extreme-left far more accurately convey his ideological inclinations and the nature of the political party that has driven Brazil into desperate economic straits, along with social turmoil and skyrocketing crime.
Because Bolsonaro had never been involved in any corruption scandal, he was a credible spokesman to channel and focus all the feelings of massive public frustration with the Worker’s Party. It goes without saying the media has been merciless in its coverage of him of his conservative values and anti-leftist views.
By contrast, under President Lula and his Workers’ Party, corruption in Brazil reached unprecedented levels.
The Lula administration was responsible for the biggest series of corruption scandals in the country’s history. Indeed, every sector of the ruling Workers’ Party was implicated in bribery, fraud, vote-buying, theft of public funds, failure to report illicit campaign financing, and a host of other felonious behaviour. As widespread protests made the citizenry’s disgust palpable (left), all of Lula’s closest and most important advisers, congressional leaders and party bosses were forced to resign for illegal large-scale transfers of funds into electoral campaigns and, of course, for their private enrichment.
Shrinking the State
Bolsonaro’s campaign gained momentum with promises of enacting market-friendly reforms that would reduce the size of the state, including cutting ministries and privatizing state companies. The bureaucratic sector in Brazil resembles in many respects the notorious nomenklatura of the former communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, aspiring entrepreneurs were unable to seek relief, because economic decision-making was based on political concerns rather than rational economic dictates and the rule of law. Brazil witnessed a huge increase in the size of the bureaucracy, making an ineffective behemoth even more so. The country’s resources were squandered while private and corporate interests were protected, the latter reaping immense, often illegal, benefits from the institutionalised corruption.
Not surprisingly, this cozy relationship has resulted in grossly ineffective government action in areas such as public security, healthcare and education, areas where the government’s constitutional obligation is to exercise its power much more effectively. Of course, whenever public authorities enjoy a vast range of privileges denied ordinary citizens, and are subject to few of the economic constraints of private institutions, vulnerability to tyranny is the inevitable consequence. Undoubtedly, the sound process of privatisation promised by Bolsonaro will significantly reduce the amount of resources and positions subjected to political bargaining.
Bolsonaro has demonstrated strong commitment to the pro-life cause. He also holds that marriage is between a man and a woman. In 2011, Bolsonaro was also one of the most vocal people denouncing what became known as the “gay kit,” a set of sex-ed materials for children as young as six and designed by the then Minister of Education, the very same recent candidate for the presidency Fernando Haddad. By contrast, Bolsonaro promises include opposing sex-ed material that promotes homosexuality in schools and any efforts to decriminalize drug use.
“We are signing a commitment defending the family, defending the innocence of children in the schools, defending the freedom of religion, against abortion and the legalization of drugs,” Bolsonaro promised.
Bolsonaro entered politics when he retired from the Brazilian Army, becoming a federal deputy in 1990. In 2003, he started to gain media attention because of an argument about law and order with communist politician Maria do Rosário. Bolsonaro had proposed that the legal age at which a person could be charged as an adult be lowered from 18 to 16. Maria do Rosário argued against the reduction even in the case of a terrible crime committed by the 16 year old rapist Roberto Aparecido Alves Cardoso, known as Champinha, who along with a gang of four raped, tortured and murdered Liana Friedenbach and her boyfriend Felipe Caffé).
Whereas teenagers are allowed to vote at the age of 16, they are not criminally liable until 18 years. According to the Brazilian Constitution, ‘minors under 18 years of age may not be held criminally liable and shall be subject to the rules of the special legislation’. As a result, every 17-year-old murderer, even if a notorious serial killer, is interned for no more than three years in an ‘education establishment’. This impunity has led thousands of adolescents to join criminal organizations, where they often form the backbone of ruthless gangs, insulated from effective legal sanction by their age. It is an absurd situation which officialdom has sought to minimise and conceal by classifying murderous teens as ‘abandoned children’. On the streets brutal and ignorant police officers have responded to the law’s impotence by implementing their own ‘justice’ and killing those they arrest on the spot.
This is one of the key problems Bolsonaro insists, quite logically, can be remedied by reducing the age of criminal liability to 16.
Bolsonaro’s campaign first gained traction with his promises to go after violent crime in a country that leads the world in homicides and where Brazilians live in daily fear of muggings or burglaries. Brazil suffered 63,880 murders in 2017 alone. As noted by Timothy Cahill, an investigating leader for Amnesty International, the number of deaths in Brazil falls easily within the UN parameters that define a civil war.
It is worthwhile to consider that crime is often interpreted by the left-wing elite as being the result of a deprived social environment. Although this interpretation is understandable in light of their guilt feelings and shame over their own responsibility for the poor state of the nation, it fails, however, to consider that crime can also be the result of moral choices. While there is truth in suggesting that many criminals have emerged from a background of social deprivation, such social determinism is proven particularly inadequate by the many exceptions to the rule. It is an unfair slur on the many millions of poor Brazilians who have grown up in utterly deprived socio-economic conditions yet remain honest citizens. Indeed, it may be pointed out, by way of contrast, that many crimes are committed by members of Brazil’s left-wing elite, particularly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. The main motivation for such crimes is not need, but greed.
Of course, the combination of poor education, poor work habits, and a difficult economic environment can make some people find, in crime, an alternative form of employment. In the context of impunity and a lack of legal incentives for honest economic activity, the option of crime may indeed appear attractive. It is surely more attractive in the current circumstances than if there were real fear of punishment. Unfortunately, the easiest targets for dangerous criminals is always ordinary people who cannot afford to pay for ‘special protection’. Indeed, the majority of Brazilians attribute high levels of crime and everyday violence to weak authority. The ‘law and order’ approach adopted by Bolsonaro is particularly appealing because there is a strong sense in the country that, as is often heard, ‘justice is a joke’ when ‘impunity is widespread’.
The coup, its origins and aftermath
A former army captain with an undistinguished career in Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro has been accused of threatening Brazil’s democracy, this criticism being based on his laudatory remarks concerning the military regime that ruled the country for two decades from the mid-Sixties. In 1964, Brazil’s army, answering a legitimate call from the civil society, decided to take over power in order to thwart the imminent prospect of communist taking control of the country. As a visiting American communist reported, “potential Fidel Castros” were rising and, with conditions getting worse, the final result would ‘be a dictatorship of the Left, as in Cuba’.
When the coup came in March, 1964, it enjoyed widespread support from leading newspapers, churchmen, and the population as a whole. The women of São Paulo held a massive rally, the ‘March of the Family with God for Liberty’ (Marcha da Família com Deus pela Liberdade), which filled the streets with more than a million protesters. Organizers described the huge demonstration as an effort to protect Brazilian women ‘from the fate and suffering of the martyred women of Cuba, Poland, Hungary and other enslaved nations’.
After the coup, when the radical Left took up arms against the military government, it did so not on grounds of freedom and democracy, but rather for its replacement by a totalitarian regime’. As one guerrilla group explained: ‘Our major objective in the fight against the military dictatorship is not democracy but its replacement by a revolutionary government based on popular dictatorship’. In 1967, a dissident faction of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) decided to create the ALN (National Liberating Alliance). During the years of the military regime, the communists acted in two different fronts: through guerrilla action on one hand and a cultural strategy learned from Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party and progenitor of the ‘long march through the institutions’. The aim was to embed and advance socialism via infiltration of the media, the universities, and all major cultural elements of society. The strategy worked as it has elsewhere, and with the promulgation of the post-junta 1988 Constitution leftists controlled all presidential elections. The main political rivalries were between the radical leftist Workers’ Party and the centre-left PSDB party (Brazilian Social-Democracy Party).
The road ahead
Bolsonaro is promising to reduce the size of deeply corrupt government and reduce taxes in a country where, day after day, the press is full of reports on cases of corruption involving bureaucrats and politicians. His electoral motto was “Brazil Above Everything, God Above Everyone.” This combination of a belief in national sovereignty and the recognition of God is what particularly angers the radical Left and motivates such a ferocious campaign of vilification against him. Accordingly, the mainstream media, both national and international, regularly portrays his election as a major threat to democracy in Brazil, when such a threat actually comes not from him but from the intolerant left.
Indeed, while it still too early to know, Bolsonaro may well save Brazil’s democratic system by breaking through the leftist’s cultural monopoly with his bold brand of conservative free speech. At home and abroad, however, the mainstream media do not acknowledge this fact and many keep spreading the unsubstantiated claims that he is a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, a fascist, a neo-Nazi, etc. Bolsonaro is none of those things. In reality, he has supported prominent female politicians, including Jews and members of other minority groups.
Basically, Brazil’s new leader is a patriot who has been willing to identify and to fight the corruption and leftist toxins that have laid his country low and hobbled its potential. Is it any wonder his leftist critics and their media allies are determined to see him depicted as other than he is. After all, the popular vote has foiled their plans to see Brazil re-shaped as the next Cuba or Venezuela.
No one can tell how this era will work out, but one can say with some confidence that the Brazilian people, having looked at the state of their nation, weighed their options and made a wise decision.
Dr Augusto Zimmermann LLB, LLM, PhD (Monash) is Professor of Law at Sheridan College in Perth, Western Australia, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), and a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017). Dr Zimmermann is also the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, Murdoch University (2012)