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Brazil teeters on edge of electing reactionary pro-military dictatorship president

By staff

Interview with Luiza Bezerra of the Brazilian Workers Central (CTB) union federation

On October 28, Brazilians will vote in the second round of their presidential election. The first round on October 7 sent shock waves around the world as extreme right-wing pro-military dictatorship candidate Jair Bolsonaro won 46% of the vote and leads polls heading into the second round of voting, where he will face Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT). Brazil is a vast country which has the second largest economy in the Americas, behind only the U.S. economy. Brazil only emerged 33 years ago from a right-wing military dictatorship. Bolsonaro comes from the military and has openly called for returning Brazil to military rule. Unions and the left in Brazil face a potentially grim situation if Bolsonaro wins, since he calls for repression against trade unionists and leftists as well as promoting attacks on Black people, LGBTQ people and women.

Below is an interview with Luiza Bezerra, the Young Workers Secretary of the Brazilian Workers Central (CTB), a militant union federation in Brazil with 9 million members. The interview was conducted on October 22, about a week before Brazil’s second round election. Here Bezerra gives her analysis on the rise of Bolsonaro, what the unions are doing to respond, and the role of U.S. imperialism in these developments.

Note that when she describes Bolsonaro’s economic agenda as “ultra-liberal,” this does not mean 'liberal' like it’s used in U.S. politics. This refers to economic liberalism – extreme free market ideology, corporate power with no constraints from government or unions.

Fight Back!: Who is Jair Bolsonaro and what interests does he represent politically and economically? Luiza Bezerra, CTB: Bolsonaro has been a right-wing deputy for 28 years. He has long advocated the return of the military dictatorship and makes scary claims about torture, defending it. He has clearly misogynistic, homophobic and racist attitudes. Today he is in first place in the campaign for the presidency of the country, with a discourse centered on God (although the Brazilian state is secular) and on an anti-PT feeling [PT is the ‘Partido dos Trabalhadores’ in Portuguese, or ‘Workers Party’ in English]. The feeling is of extermination of the adversary and not more of a healthy and democratic debate. There are several cases of violence on the part of Bolsonaro voters against those who disagree with their ideas: we have five confirmed deaths and several beatings. With speeches similar to that of the military dictatorship (or even Hitler) against communism and minorities, his possible election calls into question the very recent Brazilian democracy.

Fight Back!: What threat does he and his agenda represent for workers and unions in Brazil? Bezerra: Besides the anti-democratic and fascist character of this candidacy, the economic project defended by Bolsonaro is ultra-liberalism. Mr. Bolsonaro voted as a deputy in favor of the measure that froze public investments for health and education for 20 years, for example, as well as in favor of the ‘Labor Reform’ law, which made the labor market even more precarious and aimed at weakening the unions. Therefore, he will most likely intensify the reforms initiated by the coup government of Michel Temer. On our side, if he wins the election, the moment will demand even more resistance, because along with these attacks on social and labor rights is likely to come political persecution against his opponents.

Fight Back!: What is the CTB doing to confront this threat? Bezerra: We are in the struggle with various social movements, participating in demonstrations for democracy, as well as talking to people, disseminating information that reveals the true face of the candidate Bolsonaro. This part of our message has been instrumental and I believe the CTB has played an important role, as this election is marked by a giant dose of fake news against the candidates on the left. Our task is to present the truth both with regard to the candidates of the popular and democratic camp and to reveal the true intentions of the candidate Bolsonaro. It has not been easy. Last week was a report on the scheme of sending fake news messages by Whatsapp, paid by Bolsonaro's big business supporters. This type of action is illegal in Brazil and violates electoral law, since financing by businesspeople is prohibited and, according to the report, millions were spent on the sending of such pro-Bolsonaro messages.

Fight Back!: Do you think Bolsonaro has the support of U.S. imperialism behind him? Bezerra: Although he was not the first choice of U.S. imperialism and even of the Brazilian elite, because of his ultra-liberal position and the alignment of foreign policy with the United States, I believe that he is the imperialist preference today. He has positions quite similar to those of Trump, diminishing the role of the UN and multilateral solutions, as well as tending to turn his back on relations with Latin America, Africa and even China (for ideological reasons) and preferring relations with United States. Bolsonaro has said more than once that he has in Trump a model to follow.

Fight Back!: What can progressive people in the United States and other countries do to support the workers and unions of Brazil at this difficult moment? Bezerra: I believe that all forms of solidarity are valid, but as I said one of the main battles that we have been fighting is to spread the truth. So spread what is happening in Brazil. The more people know about the situation, the stronger we will be.

I know the situation is complicated but we are not giving up. We will keep talking to people and try to show them what is at risk in this election. There is still hope and we continue to believe in the working people of Brazil.

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