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Friday, September 21, 2018

Elections, Brazilian style.

Brazil is in the middle of an election process that, if you believe that's possible, is a bizarre-world version of Trumpland - so maybe the square of bizarre, if you like.

The candidate far ahead on polls, Mr. Bolsonaro, who is more of a Duterte figure than a Trumpian one, is famous for many infamous declarations. Not only the usual racist, homophopic stuff you can easily hear on America, but a more refined art.  Mr. Trump could learn with Mr. Bolsonaro.

For example, where Trump got on defensive mode denying ever assaulting women, Mr. Bolsonaro plays on offense: he once yelled at a congresswoman (he being a congressman himself) something like "I only won't rape you because you are too ugly".

He is famous for his defense of our last dictatorship. Mr. Bolsonaro himself is a former Army captain, nearly expelled for planning to plant a bomb in an Army bathroom while in service in the begin of the 80's, mad because the generals were moving to give power back to civilians. He has been elected and reelected to Congress for the last 27 years, basically counting on the vote of fellow armed force men.

In 2016, he famously gave his vote, on national television, to impeach the previously elected president, Mrs. Roussef, "in honor of Colonel Ustra", one of the most infamous torturers of the dictatorship, with at least 40 deaths plus a few hundreds of people tortured and raped under his eyes (Mrs. Roussef was herself tortured in the period, hence the jab).

His most repeated and emphasized campaign point is, you could easily guess, about guns. In a country where violence is rampant, he promises to solve it all by abolishing human rights and giving free rein for the police to kill. Not only the police, but citizens. He wants Brazilians to arm themselves against the bad guys, so we can all be more like America.  I am not such an anti-gun kind of person - maybe I would like to have one myself - but I sure think incidents like the previous link would be the norm down here, for I know my countrymen pretty well.

More worrying though is not the soon to be elected Captain, with a long record of incompetence: in his 27 years in Congress, he was able to pass exactly 2 projects. Who I truly fear is the General, Mr. Mourão, his fellow Vice-President candidate.

In 2016 Mr. Mourão was the General in charge of Brazil largest and strongest military force, the South Command, when he gave public declarations asking for the Army to revolt. He was not successful, and was demoted of the position to a more bureaucratic one until retirement last year. Since their election campaign started, Mr. Mourão already gave a number of high caliber declarations, the most prominent being that he believed the necessity of self-coup after winning the election could not be discarded, and that he'd like to order the writing of a new Constitution by his appointed "notable experts", without the need of elected people involved. The General, contrary to the Captain, has a long record of achievements.

Being a firm believer of a Big and Strong State his whole life - and that's clear on his voting record and projects - Mr. Bolsonaro has converted recently (six months ago, what a coincidence) to economic liberalism, which has apparently attracted the support of a number of businessmen and financial operators to his side. Not everyone was fooled though, and publications widely read by the international markets look to have seen Mr. Bolsonaro for whom he really is.

There are at least other three candidates with liberal economic programs - Chicago school style - on the race, but none of them were able to provide the masses what they really want: the smell of blood. Social networks - both virtual and real - are clogged by the same kind of divisive rhetorics you can see in America (hey, we import everything) in a dumbed down version (yes, that's possible). If you enter into those magical bubbles, Brazil is turning into Venezuela any minute now if Mr. Bolsonaro doesn't win (though he is the only candidate uttering anti-democratic discourses), the elections are being frauded by the Supreme Court, and the Universities must be closed down to fight Communism. The gay community will destroy families by teaching kids how to be gay, so they urge Brazilians to vote for him to "defend God and family" (the candidate is on his third marriage and famously said he uses his official residential apartment in Brasilia, paid for by the People, only to fuck women).

Quite tellingly, the politicians and businessmen most promptly turning to the new fanaticism are often the ones from old corrupt oligarchies, and crony capitalists who hardly can make their business to get by without a little hand from their friends. Many come from the groups who were in power back in the good old days of dictatorship, and they really long for a better and stronger Pinochet this time around. What we will really get, though, is fury and chaos, for in Brazil the economic elite always fear totalitarism from the Left, while it is always delivered by the Right.

Having a few laughs from you guys before - particularly our readers who are supportive of Mr. Trump - it is now my turn to be the butt of the joke.


30 comments:

Bret said...

Geez Clovis, I sure hope you're exaggerating here, because that's an intensely grim picture you've painted of Brazil's situation. Hopefully I'll have time this weekend to learn a little more about it (while you get to hear all about the U.S. and Trump, we rarely hear anything about Brazil unless we go out of our way to learn about it).

Are you going to leave Brazil?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

Good question. For all my sober views on Brazil, I never thought we would be en route to breaking down our democracy yet again.

My wife and kids have German citizenship, so to get out would be easier for us than for most other people. If we get to the point where individual rights will be no longer observed, I guess we will leave. I don't want the kids growing up under the boots of generals.

The paradox is, what the General in the VP position actually would like to have is, per his own words, a Constitution more like the American one. Just as in the 1964 coup, the people talking about liberty are the ones least practicing it. We had about 8 different constitutions during the time you guys sticked to yours, so I am not optimistic that, if we change the rules of the game all over again, this time around we will get it. The problem of the guy who marries 8 times is obviously not the partners, but his absolute lack of commitment.

Peter said...

I don't think Clovis is exaggerating. The incessant focus on Trump and today's polarized American politics makes it easy to miss that this phenomenon is widespread in the West and getting wider. Europe is cracking on several fronts and some pretty nasty, very unconservative characters are emerging under the banner of conservatism, while soi-disant progressives are busy trying to silence and marginalize anyone who disagrees with them. We've escaped most of it so far up here, but there have been a few worrisome signs. Never have I been so grateful for our reputation for being dull and uninteresting.

Peter said...

BTW, this line from my link is worth framing: "Many urbane Brazilians have been shocked to see old friends backing him on social media, which has become a poisoned agora in which people on all sides have been slamming shut the window of friendship and storming off to coddle their alternative versions of the truth."

Remember when the Facebook and Twitter gang promised they would connect us all and bring us together? And we all bought it? Today that looks as laughable as the old ad about bringing the world together by buying everybody a Coke.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

Indeed, I place half the blame on social media.

The other half on our lack of Canadian skills. I deeply envy you.

Bret said...

I was gonna write a post about the great evils of social media but it seemed iffy to me to use social media (blogging) to bitch and moan about social media. I have stopped using facebook at this point though so I don't do a whole lot of social media stuff at this point.

I do agree that facebook and twitter have at least partly enabled the damage suffered by politics pretty much everywhere. I see at least two major problems with those two platforms (and other related ones). First, they're too quip-based (a) to provide for meaningful discussion and (b) to provide sufficient context for most thoughts; at least with blogging it's straightforward to include a lot of detail and caveats. Second, they reduce the amount of actual human interaction. Reading and throwing about quips and pics is very isolating. When actually talking in person there are huge numbers of non-verbal clues that mitigate misunderstanding and also enable connection and intimacy. It's also much harder to be critical, aggressive and nasty in person because, I think, of an innate human reluctance to pursue in-your-face confrontation.

An armed society may be a polite society but a social media society is as impolite as a society can be.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

The point being that such impoliteness won't be confined to the virtual social media for too long.

Many people down here ask themselves if the Army will accept losing the election, after a too tight race. There are many generals working for Mr. Bolsonaro's campaign, both in the foreground and in the background. It doesn't help also that he repeatedely questions the security of the electronic voting (a point I agree, actually, but that has been done by him in purely opportunistic ways by now).

There is a general derangement induced by social media (much like America), but places like Brazil don't have the solid institutions you guys do.

I don't buy the conspiracy Trump supporters pose about the FBI trying to meddle with the elections (hello Mr. Skipper), but I can well believe a few stray cats inside the system may have had second intentions. In weaker systems, like ours, it is easy for such inside actors to really organize subversions unimpeded. The temptation is too great, and the radicalization-over-nothing-and-over-all (which is what social media does) takes away the restraint of everybody, including people in unelected positions of power.

Bret said...

Clovis,

What makes you think that Brazil's system is weaker than ours? I'm not necessarily disagreeing, I'm just wondering what you're observing. I'm looking at our system right now and it looks really bad to me.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

For one, you can hold elections without worrying if the military will accept the results.

In general, we have a far more corrupt judiciary, and an increasingly partial one, where the litigation against political enemies run fast and harsh, while the political friends are treated with great complacency. In a place where every political party has some (or much) corruption to hide, it amounts to making the King.

I concede your system doesn't look too beautiful right now either, but somehow it is proving my point: neither Trump nor his opposition (including the unelected bureaucrats working against him from inside) have been able to wreak havoc over the citizenry or are anywhere close of throwing out the constitutional norms. Your system of checks and balances still work reasonably well. Ours is a joke.


Hey Skipper said...

Clovis:

That makes for disturbing reading.

Having a few laughs from you guys before - particularly our readers who are supportive of Mr. Trump

There are two conceptual mistakes here. First, that those who support Trump's policies approve of Trump the person; and, second, that attacking Trump Derangement Syndrome constitutes support for Trump himself.

I don't buy the conspiracy Trump supporters pose about the FBI trying to meddle with the elections (hello Mr. Skipper)

Just to pick one example from many, what part of this is wrong?

(NB: National Review hates Trump.)

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Just to pick one example from many, what part of this is wrong?
---
I read it all, and I kept asking myself what part of that text indicted the FBI as conspiring to meddle with an election.

Even if I were to accept the main point the article delivers - that the FBI treated Clinton's mess more favorably than Trump's - it still doesn't show the FBI as trying to meddle with an election, for you would need to factor in how their actions (the FBI) impacted Trump's campaign (most of the points the author cites happened *after* it).




Peter said...

Clovis:

I saw what happened yesterday. Can you give us a brief post mortem? Will the run-off be a horse race or is Bolsonaro a shoo-in? Will it be more or less corruption-free and peaceful/orderly?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

He already won, the run-off is unlosable for him.

His party, previously tiny and unknown with a handful of congressmen, and where he entered months ago only to run for this election, made the second largest (50+) block in congress.

His two sons were also running, one for congress, the other for senate, and both won setting record levels of votes. A few other parties, taking a ride on his image, elected many supportive figures too.

He will win with a more clear mandate than ever seen in our recent history.

There won't be effective checks and balances anytime soon down here. Whatever the King wants shall be his. May God have mercy on us.

Peter said...

Take care, Clovis. Keep us informed if you can, ok?

erp said...

... So who will get your vote Clovis?

Clovis e Adri said...

They say it is secret, Erp. What's your guess?

erp said...

If these too are the only options, I guess you have a second cup of coffee and stay home with your beautiful wife and adorable kids.

erp said...

If these two (2) ...

Clovis e Adri said...

As they say, there is no place like home, isn't it?

erp said...


👍

Bret said...

I noticed this (https://www.americasquarterly.org/content/what-expect-jair-bolsonaro):

"Just 8 percent of Brazilians told the Pew Research Center in 2017 that representative democracy is a “very good” form of government – the lowest of all 38 countries surveyed."

Though I guess I would say representative democracy is the 2nd worst form of government. The worst is all systems that are not representative democracy. So if that's how Brazilians are responding to that question, it may not mean much. Given that Bolsonaro is likely to win, maybe not, though.

erp said...

Maybe they're channeling Churchill who said democracy is the worst kind of government, except for all the others.

NB: Mr. Google has reservations about who said it first.

Peter said...

Bret, I somehow doubt that many of Bolsonaro's supporters are into Churchillian irony. I assume a lot of them mean exactly what they say. If the chart from your article is accurate, it doesn't bode well for the whole continent.

But geez, almost 65,000 homicides? That's four times the U.S. number with 2/3 of the population. We up here come in with an anemic 600. And Brazil has tight gun control and one thirtieth the number of legal guns as the States. So much for the argument that there are direct causal connections between gun ownership, gun violence and gun control.

I don't care what the Founders said or intended. If people can't eat, find medical care for their kids or walk the streets safely, it ain't going to work. And that's a problem for both sides.

erp said...

Peter, in your opinion, who should solve the problem of food, medical care and safety ... and don't forget housing, transportation, entertainment ... ?

Peter said...

I was actually thinking about Brazil, erp. You know which way I tend on most of those questions, but in a polarized world where people aren't speaking to one another and some pretty dark clouds are descending in a lot of places, I don't find them nearly as interesting as I once did.

erp said...

I know practically nothing about Brazil. We took a month and traveled all around Mexico in the middle 70's. It was a wonderful trip. We bought a new Dodge Caravan mini van and just drove all around. I found Mexico familiar yet exotic. My old bucket list included driving to Patagonia and then selling the van and flying back, but the old man doesn't share my lust for adventure, so that didn't happen.

My take is that the dark clouds descended a hundred years ago and got whipped up to a frenzy in the 60's to the dark place we are today. I believe we have a chance now to undo most of the socialization and restore to our country to the freedoms we had in my young days.

I despair of the school children today and fear they will be led into slavery of "equality" and dumbed down to the point they know nothing of their heritage as Americans.

I'm writing my memoirs so that my kids and grandchildren can if they wish get a first hand report of how we have allowed the greatest country in history to be tossed on the trash heap of globalism.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
I don't care what the Founders said or intended. If people can't eat, find medical care for their kids or walk the streets safely, it ain't going to work.
---

It does sound a bit condescending. Brazilians, for all our troubles, are generally in better absolute material conditions than the founding fathers' America of old. Mind you, even people in favelas have smartphones and antibiotics. Why can't they have due process and individual rights?

In the last few days, a Bolsonaro supporter killed an old black community leader for declaring vote for the other candidate. People have been beaten up by mobs of his supporters in half a dozen cities, some for wearing t-shirts against him, others simply for being gay.

And they are not doing it in the heat of a tight dispute: their guy is 16 points ahead in polls. They are doing it exactly because they know they are poised to win.

In Rio, the two most voted candidates for the state assembly were two Jiu-jitsu-type guys who vandalized, a few days before election, a tribute art in honor of Marielle - a black councilwoman assassinated months ago, probably by militia people (corrupt cops and ex-cops who create mafia-like organizations that impose 'taxes' over favelas and take up the drug business). She was black, gay and left-wing, so an obvious target for the racist hatred of many, as the votes they've got for this stunt can attest.

The father of one of those bullies, a former judge with no prior political career running now for governor, was catapulted by that trick, going from a few to almost 35 points the last few days. Now he is disputing the run-off with the previous mayor of Rio. They have a scheduled debate and he just declared that, if the other candidate tells any lies, he will imprison him. No, he can't, at least not yet, but this is the public animus he is surfing on and also collaborating for.

Down here in my university - the main one in the federal capital of the country - some people vandalized with knifes the books on human rights of the main library. Not a too subtle message, is it?

We sure have a huge criminality problem, the GDP went down by nearly 10% in the last few years, and people are fed up by our corrupt and inefficient state. But if you guys are imagining a desperate population of poor people running for a savior, you will be half-wrong. It is the middle and higher class the main base of Mr. Bolsonaro, who for all their troubles, still live comfortable lives, of thst kind the founding fathers would recognize: with black maids working for them in their kitchens. The son of the maid, who makes up for most of the 60 thousands killed by homicides (quite a few practiced by the police), won't be too safe under the new order either.

Peter said...

Sorry Clovis, I didn't mean to sound patronizing, I was just trying to deflect erp's gambit to divert me to another discussion on libertarianism, which our American friends (God bless 'em, every one) often like to argue in absolutist terms. Please remember, they're not my Founding Fathers either. :-)

I've never been to Brazil, but I am very aware you are no third world backwater and that your poverty and social dysfunctions are concentrated heavily in the favelas. It's actually the fact that you are as prosperous and powerful as you are that makes this all so worrisome. I did not, however, realize your racial fault lines were as deep as you say. Too many images of mixed-race crowds partying together happily at Carnival, I guess.

There is so much focus on Trump in the American-centric media that what is going on elsewhere is under the radar for many. The article Bret's mom sent him shows how constitutional democracy is in big trouble in places like Hungary and Poland and some pretty nasty movements that too many North American conservatives naively see as kindred spirits are in the ascendant elsewhere in Europe. Authoritarianism is growing in Asia and we all know about Russia and China. I don't believe Trump is a threat to American constitutionalism, but the deep political and social polarization is not healthy. There are often local flash points one can point to like corruption in Brazil, refugees in Europe, etc., but for me the trend is too widespread to put all the blame on them. What the hell is going on?

Predictably, many leftists are drawing parallels to fascism in the thirties because screaming about fascism is what leftists do. What is very different today is that, unlike in the thirties when a devastating depression left a lot of visible poverty and penury in its wake, today's authoritarianism is coming in most cases on the heels of historically high growth and prosperity. According to my professors in Economic Conservatism 101, that's wasn't supposed to happen. I'm not buying the economic inequality argument either because, as in the Brazil you describe, the trend is often most popular among those higher up the ladder. So I'm searching for explanations and coming up short. Is it possible that democracy and prosperity carry the seeds of their own destruction because people become bored with them and start looking for something more existentially exciting? I sure hope not, but what else explains it all? Thoughts?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,


I am as lost as you are. The main insight I get from that article Bret's mom sent, and which is clearly acting down here too, is the "medium lie" she posed. The majority of Bolsonaro supporters adhere to conspiracy theories on electronic voting fraud (even while they are clearly winning) and that communism is one epsilon from dominating the entire nation. It is all ridiculous form any reasonable point of view, but they are true believers.

People are pointing out to the fake news tsunami (which is the background behind people buying out all those conspiracy theories) and Bannonnite strategies that his party is employing, but maybe you got the right insight: people are just too bored with standard elections where projects are discussed from rational point of views, they want something more adventurous, something that gives a complement to the rush of adrenaline they feel while they are fighting their glorious culture wars in Facebook.

At some point all the dysfunctionality of their positions will materialize in real life, as it is happening with the mobs promoting violence in the candidate's name over the country, but maybe that's a little price to pay for al the fun they are having, or so they guess. We will see...

Peter said...

Here is another take I found very interesting. But it's entirely American-focused. Can tribalism be seen as a plague that is spreading globally?