Interview with Ricardo Atunes, sociologist at the University of Campinas, Brazil

By Mario Hernández

Translated by Danica Jorden*

[Note: On Tuesday the Brazilian federal police yesterday raided the homes of Eduardo Cunha as part of ‘Operation Carwash’ their corruption and money laundering investigation.]

MH: The impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff is a complex political situation in Brazil. Ricardo, I’d like to hear your opinion.

RA: The situation in Brazil today is a very profound economic, social and especially political crisis. Dilma’s administration was incapable of fashioning a new government when she was elected last October, faced with accusations of corruption, on the one hand, and economic crisis on the other.

Now there is a another element, i.e. Dilma’s break with the PMDB [Brazilian Democratic Movement Party], a centrist party that has guaranteed the power of the PT [Workers’ Party] without having demanded much more than some high level bureaucratic posts in states and ministries, etc. But right now there is an imminent rupture between the Wilma’s vice president Eduardo Cunha of the PMBD and the President herself Dilma, which has increased tension between the Chamber of Deputies [the lower house], which a few days ago selected an impeachment committee by secret vote. The committee has a very strong and well organized right wing membership which is in the majority.

So at the moment, the situation is the following: Dilma has 199 votes in the lower house and the other group 272, a considerable difference. Today, those 199 votes make it impossible to proceed with an impeachment, but the committee is going to start work under the control of Eduardo Cunha, a profoundly corrupt politician who oscillates between the right and the extreme right.

Dilma’s side has naturally deteriorated, the PT has lost a lot of working class support and today depends upon many who are to the left of Dilma, like the PSOL [Socialism and Freedom Party] and other leftist parties, who are not defending her government but are opposed to a coup.

There are two very important points: one is the left’s opinion that Dilma’s administration is awful, but that a coup represents Brazil’s dominant political elite’s attempt to eliminate get the PT out, and introduce a right-wing government. The move is similar to one that took place in Paraguay that deposed Lugo.

An Unstable Balance in Brazil

M.H.: The majority of state governors, 27 of them, have come out against the judgement, plus the governor of the Federal State of Brasília. The São Paolo Stock Exchange, however, went up 4% on Friday with the announcement of the impeachment proceeding against Dilma.

R.A.: The governors who just met with Dilma are from the Northeast and other parts of Brazil, including Minas Gerais, where the governor is PT, and Santa Catalina, but they don’t have the support of the governor of Rio Grande do Sul or of São Paolo, though they do have the support of the Rio de Janeiro government. What’s happening is that in terms of state governments, the PT and its allied base has a certain majority, but there are also opposition parties in the governments of various states that are clearly opposed to Dilma.

On the other hand, among the dominant classes, in the industrial financial haute bourgeoisie of agribusiness and services, the situation is doubtful, where one side fears that an open political crisis with an impeachment could completely paralyze the Brazilian economy, which would be worse. Another part of the bourgeoisie is beginning to see the possibility of impeachment as inevitable.

So there are doubts among the dominant classes. An economic review in England wrote a few days ago that it would be very risky to depose Dilma. On the other hand, the Brazilian banks don’t see an alternative to impeachment, so there is an unstable framework.

The real tragedy is that this political move by the right to remove Dilma’s administration is being led by Eduardo Cunha, a politician marked by the worst level of corruption imaginable. So there is, as Gramsci would say, an unstable balance in Brazil today, with one part of the dominant classes in favour of impeachment and the other not, one part of the working classes in favour and the other not. The latter segment of the working classes doesn’t like the Dilma administration, but knows that the situation would be worse with a right wing government. And the middle classes are also very divided. The traditional opponents from the rich districts or the most conservative are on the front lines demanding impeachment, but the more intellectual middle classes, the university educated professionals, know the situation is very complex.

If Dilma is subject to an impeachment process, the PMDB is completely involved in corruption, and if the vice president is also charged, the first successor in line is Eduardo Cunha, the most corrupt of all. The great irony in understanding the Brazilian tragedy is that the only one not personally corrupt is Dilma and the poor population know it.

Dilma produced an awful government for the poor and working classes, but they know she didn’t steal, that the PT is deeply involved in corruption but that Dilma is not, and there is a constitutionally established law that a president who is involved in an act of corruption can be subject to impeachment, but that is not the case with Dilma.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in the magazine ‘Herramienta’ where readers can obtain more information. The reality is that we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow or the day after if Dilma continues, if she will be impeached or recover. We simply don’t know.

The last point is that Cunha the vice president, the first in line of succession, also signed fiscal “pedaladas” [pedalling, or transfers of funds]. That is to say, Dilma is being charged with signing fiscal “pedaladas”, the illicit use of public funds, but not with stealing, and the vice president did the same thing, creating a very complex political situation.

M.H.: Would you comment for us about President-Elect Mauricio Macri by the Industrial Federation of São Paolo? Because we’ve heard that he was received with great honours.

R.A.: Yes, there is a feeling in Brazil among the upper classes, especially those in industry, that the liberalization of business between Brazil and Argentina under Macri will pick up speed. During the Cristina Fernandez Kirchener’s administration, the Brazilian upper classes were very unhappy with the barriers and limitations she imposed. Argentina is one of the main markets for Brazilian industrial products, and the reduction in sales produced caused very deep discontent.

The industrialist class now thinks there will be more liberalism, fewer barriers, fewer taxes and more possibilities for better business, and that’s why they support Macri and his victory. They assume it will introduce more neoliberal elements into Argentine politics that will positively affect the Brazilian economy.

M.H.: What do you think of the legislative election results in Venezuela?

R.A.: I think we are experiencing a situation, not only on a Latin American level but also globally, taking into account the election of Marine Le Pen representing the extreme right in France last Sunday. And with the election of the centre right in Venezuela, there has been a very great deterioration of the so-called left and centre left governments in Latin America.

There is a big difference between Lula and Dilma’s administrations and what was Chávez’s, or what is Evo Morales’ and what was Kirchener’s, but we know that the entire right calls them all “left wing” governments, which is not correct in my opinion.

There is a second point in Venezuela, which is that the Bolivarian revolution had a grassroots support very much tied to the personal figure of Hugo Chávez. Chavism was a Latin American phenomenon that combined the social movements of the masses with the figure of its leader. Chavez’ untimely death initiated a profound crisis because the Bolivarian revolution’s advances were not enough to create new leaders that were up to the challenge of replacing Chávez. Nicolas Maduro doesn’t have one hundredth of the force of Chávez.

On the other hand, it is very important to understand that on the right, those who own the resources are gambling with shortages, ceasing to produce foodstuffs, starting boycotts, and when this happens and the people cannot access the products, popular discontent grows, which is what led to the Bolivarian revolution’s fall.

*  Danica Jorden is a writer and translator of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and other languages.

Source: Rebelión