‘Soft coup’ finds soft target in Brazil

By Glen Ford

“The scandal exposed the entire system as pervasively corrupt-– but only Rousseff and her party are in the crosshairs.”

If the Brazilian politicians clamoring to impeach President Dilma Rousseff were opposed to corruption, they would impeach themselves, since 60% of them are facing some kind of corruption charges.

Rousseff is personally squeaky clean. Her nominal offence was manipulating budget numbers so her government could continue programs to help the poor after the bottom fell out of economy because of the global economic slowdown.

But, the actual charge against Rousseff almost never came up when the lower house of the Brazilian legislature voted to impeach her, which is why the speaker of the lower house briefly ruled the impeachment null and void – and then reversed himself less than a day later, clearing the way for the Senate to put Rousseff on trial and remove her from office.

Rousseff’s Workers Party and its allies on the left like MST, the Landless Workers Movement, call the impeachment drive a “soft coup,” and see the long arm of the U.S. at work. In 2013 Rousseff stood at the UN General Assembly, in New York, to denounce the Obama administration for spying on her.

U.S. spymasters didn’t get anything on Rousseff, who is clean, but they dug up plenty on the giant Brazilian state oil company, Petrobas, which is at the centre of a web of corruption involving billions of dollars in bribery and payoffs to politicians and businessmen affiliated with a whole range of Brazilian political parties, including, of course, Rousseff’s Workers Party.

The scandal exposed the entire system as pervasively corrupt – but only Rousseff and her party are in the crosshairs.

The Brazilian left says it will take the battle “to the streets” and mobilize internationally to defeat the “soft” legislative coup. But, sympathizers outside of Brazil must wonder how did it come to this? How did a party that, since 2002, has won majorities of the national vote even after the economy turned sour find itself being hounded out of executive power by yelping packs of thoroughly corrupt political hyenas?

The Workers Party had a huge national following but it makes up only about 15% of the country’s legislature. Early on, its charismatic leader, ‘Lula’ da Silva, made alliances with parties to his right, at the state and national level.

The more the Workers Party became enmeshed with its capitalist partners-of-convenience, the further it moved from its grassroots support. The Workers Party embraced neoliberal austerity when times got rough and shared cabinet positions and campaign funds with its erstwhile right-wing friends.

This relationship was apparently reflected in the realm of corruption, as well, with a host of parties sharing in the feast. All the while, the deeply reactionary and vicious Brazilian ruling class, which controls the monopoly media, awaited its chance to destroy the Workers Party, even at the risk of economic and social chaos. This “soft coup” could turn very, very hard, very quickly.

The left hangs by a thread in Brazil, has been ousted in Argentina and is halfway out the door in Venezuela because the power of the capitalists in those countries remained intact. Capitalism is the ultimate corruption that never quits until it is stamped out.


Glen Ford is executive editor of Black Agenda Radio. Contact him at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.