Impeachment – This Too Shall Pass

Even though the impeachment of Dilma has temporarily come to a reality, this cannot last. The situation, both in Brazil and in the wider world, is unsustainable. The Vice-President of Brazil stepping in has a very low degree of support within the country, and this will become increasingly evident in the coming days.

This absence of a any foundation for the stand-in government is not just political, it is also economic. The Vice-President’s economic policy rests on cutting back social policies that bring the less well-off into the mainstream of society, and cutting back on employment related benefits, in favour of the large industry organisations that helped organise and finance the coup.

This short-termist point of view, seeking gain for themselves to the detriment of others has to and will backfire, because it is against the laws of the Universe. When we fail to recognise others as similar to ourselves, as human beings, we really are acting against our own best interests, but it does inevitably take time for us to realise this.

But, there is no free lunch, however much anyone says or believes to the contrary.

The capitalist position is that money must rule or dominate the discussion, and this one has dominated the world stage ever since Margaret Thatcher took power in 1979. Just as there have been Marxist dictatorships in the east, so we are now under capitalist ones in the west.

The Marxist position is that labour must revolt because the capital will never cede its position.

Both these positions are to say the least, narrow-minded, each being blindly opposed to the other and not ceding their own point of view.

The true facts are that we are in this together and have to negotiate. The two sides have to get around the table and communicate. The situation illustrated in Brazil is that labour is being denied the right to be represented in government, because their position is that money should rule, that they should not support  government through paying taxes because the money is theirs, and that they have the right to take power.

But none of these governments with illegitimacy last, because eventually they realise that things are not working as they expected. Democracy is ultimately about sharing power, not taking it simply because you are unable to understand how the other feels. So neither the coup by force nor the revolution of the proletariat can work and last or be sustained.

In a coup of the right or revolution of the left, neither of these sides is recognising the existence of the right of the State to exist, a State which can hold the balance between the two sides. Once the two sides recognise that, a degree of harmony can be reached that is beneficial to all parties.

I am encouraged by the fact that the wider world is looking on with a certain degree of objectivity, seeing what is really happening and even outlets that can be let us say attached to or identified with a monetarist position, such as the weekly magazine The Economist, can see the absence of what we have come to expect from a democratic liberal state, the rule of law.

A story comes to mind that is useful in such situations.

A powerful king, ruler of many domains, was in a position of such magnificence that wise men were his mere employees. And yet one day he felt himself confused and called the sages to him. He said, “I do not know the cause, but something impels me to seek a certain ring, one that will enable me to stabilize my state. I must have such a ring. And this ring must be one which, when I am unhappy, will make me joyful. At the same time, if I am happy and look upon it, I must be made sad.”

The wise men consulted one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally they came to a decision as to the character of this ring which would suit their king.

The ring which they had devised was one upon which was inscribed the legend:

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

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Brazilian Congressmen articulate rewarding House Leader with pardon if impeachment is approved

Revista Forum

“Any other Congressman would not have resisted the pressures from the Planalto Palace. We are going to save him”, explained Congressman Dirceu Sperafico (PP-PR) to the site Congress in Focus.

Federal Congressmen are already articulating a pardon for the Leader of the House, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) if the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff (PT) is approved this Sunday. Cunha is facing hearings in the House Ethics Committee for having lied to the Petrobras Hearings in March 2015, when he stated he had no accounts in any tax havens.

The articulators of the pardon argue that the role of Cunha as the conductor within the House of the process to impeach the President justifies that he be saved by his peers. “Eduardo Cunha played a fundamental role in our approving the impeachment of the President. He deserves to be pardoned”, Osmar Serraglio (PMDB-PR) defended. “Any other Congressman would not have resisted the pressures from the Planalto Palace. We are going to save him”, explained Congressman Dirceu Sperafico (PP-PR).

Despite the grave accusations against him, the Leader of the House has the backing of at least 200 Congressmen faithful to him, many of them belonging to the BBB or beef, bullet and Bible sectors. Besides the leaders of the PMDB and PSC parties, the latter party led by the evangelical sector, the pardoning of Cunha has sympathizers in the PR, PP, PRB parties, the last one being linked to the Universal Church, as well as the SD, DEM and PSDB parties.

Swiss investigators identified deposits of US$ 4.8 million and of 1.3 million Swiss francs in two accounts identified by them as belonging to Cunha and his wife, the journalist Cláudia Cruz. The House Leader is also a defendant in a Supreme Court case under accusations of corruption and money laundering.

The articulation to save Cunha has already taken its first steps within the House, with the resignation of Congressman Fausto Pinato (PP-SP) from the seat held on the Ethics Committee. He was the first rapporteur of the House Leader case and defended that the investigations be proceeded. During the elaboration of his report, Pinato made statements to the Federal Police saying he had received threats against him. Congresswoman Tia Eron (PRB-BA) was nominated in his place, an evangelist like Cunha and his declared admirer.

With information from http://congressoemfoco.uol.com.br/noticias/bancada-pro-cunha-prepara-sua-“anistia”/ Congresso em Foco

Popular mobilization could stop the coup in the Senate!

Pro-democracy demonstration in Brazil

Change in public opinion could influence decision in the Senate, says consultancy

 

On the BBC

Despite the “probable” approval of the impeachment by the Senate, this is not guaranteed and could be influenced by a possible change in the degree of support from public opinion  for the exit of Dilma Rousseff as a result of the current process. The assessment is in the most recent bulletin from the Eurasia Group, one of the consultancies that attempts to translate for their clients from various parts of the world the political and economic crisis faced by Brazil.

“The government has obtained gains in the battle for public opinion against impeachment. (…) As long as all eyes are looking at the negotiations in Congress, public opinion may play an important role”, says the note.

Citing the results of the Datafolha poll, the consultancy also suggests that the support for impeachment may continue to fall.

“If the Planalto Palace and the Worker’s Party are able to continue to ‘hammer’ home the message that the impeachment is not legitimate, focusing on the leaders of the PMDB party, such as the Leader of the Lower House, Eduardo Cunha, support for impeachment, now at 61%, may fall”, says the note, forecasting a fall in this support to below 60%.

Besides this, “developments in Lava Jato operation threaten to involve the leadership of the PMDB. If the PMDB is affected by allegations of corruption in the next three weeks, this may reduce support for impeachment even further”, the consultancy forecasts.

The three politicians in the line of succession for the Presidency are from the PMDB. The Vice-President,  Michel Temer, the Leader of the House, Eduardo Cunha and the leader in the Senate, Renan Calheiros, are important leaders in the party that left the government coalition and voted en mass in favour of the impeachment.

Opinion polls have shown a fall in the support for the current impeachment process, led in Congress by Cunha and focused on the so called fiscal pedalling. According to research published by Datafolha on April 10, from March to April the percentage of interviewees in favour of the removal of Dilma Rousseff fell from 68% to 61%. The rejection of Michel Temer is also reflected in the recent opinion polls which puts support for impeachment of the Vice-President at 58%.

“This suggests that the efforts of the government are working, challenging the merits of the petition for impeachment based on the accounting manoeuvres. The regional differences are also becoming more intense. Whereas in the south and south-east support for impeachment is at 66%, in the north-east it is only at 48%, with 46% against impeachment”, says the note citing Datafolha.

Why the programme of the Brazilian Worker’s Party gets up the noses of the status quo

What has the Brazilian Worker’s Party done or promise to do that gets up so many people’s noses? The answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that they wish to change the way things have been done here ever since Brazil was colonised by the Portuguese over 500 years ago.

The Portuguese colonists established a system of royal patronage of appointed positions and revenue earning from such positions that survives more or less intact to this day. Families who have land or assets resulting from such privilege naturally are loath to give up such benefits that derive from their inherited positions.

The Worker’s Party was largely organised by middle-class student and teacher, artists and intellectual activists who were essential in getting the party legalised under the then military dictatorship. Once they got into power with the election of Lula, but especially during the first and the current term of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, these people became in large part disillusioned and the middle-class were neglected or overly suffered the burden of government policy.

When the investigations into the Lava Jato operation meant that Petrobras and several large engineering contractors had their funds for current or future projects blocked, the country stalled economically, hurting bastions of the stability and growth and job generation that had been a continuous part of the national economy since Lula was able to invest in many infra-structure projects both in Brazil and in Africa, for example.

Brazilian law requires that a good percentage of such projects be carried out by Brazilian companies, and it is with an eye to these contracts and markets that the U.S. is now pushing for the removal of this President and her party from government.

With support for their “free market” policies already on hand in Congress, should impeachment go ahead, many of these markets would be opened up to U.S. companies.

Opposition politician José Serra of the PSDB has already promised the Chevron oil company that he will back deregulation of the Brazilian oil fields, should he achieve suitable power. He has already introduced bills to Congress to that effect, but if President Dilma is impeached, forces against the current government see the way clear to opening up markets to U.S. friendly corporate and diplomatic policies. If impeachment is successful, her nominated successor and Vice President Michel Temer, has already alluded that there will be a return to market-friendly corporate policies.

Once the economy faltered with the anti-corruption investigations restricting investment, with the loss of many jobs for engineers, managers, accountants and economists, it was a relatively easy task to turn the climate of opinion against the government by heavy-handed use of selective reporting of scandals, launching opinion as fact in such large and repeated quantities, that many middle-class people now believe such accusations as the truth.

The fact that many of these schemes have been operating since at least the 1990’s are largely ignored by the mass media, when the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso was in power, privatising many lucrative state industries in the name of good management.

This is the policy that those already manoeuvring for power openly seek, and which the backers of the current government are trying to avoid. The costs of dividing society along lines of material wealth are heavy, although the numbers actually wanting that to happen are turning in favour of the Dilma government. Internet activists and bloggers have rallied behind the pro-democracy cause, counteracting the social media campaign that brought millions of the disaffected middle-classes into the streets to call for her impeachment. However, Brazil will have to mobilise if it is to turn the tide to counteract the negative influence that is currently appearing to be winning.

Even if Dilma is able to hold onto power, the problems she will face of governability and the questions of how to bring the Judiciary, the legislature and media under control remain. If this painful process of truthfulness, looking into the mirror and seeing the reflection as not being a pretty one, this could be the step needed for the country to finally make the reforms necessary a reality, only time will tell.

Brazil and BRICS – Geopolitics and the wider picture

Ever since Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, the ex-President of Brazil, won power in 2002, the foreign policy of this once slumbering giant changed the face of global geopolitics.

The battle for the impeachment of the current President, his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, is also about attempting to reverse this policy.

Lula’s foreign policy was to strengthen ties with neighbours in Latin America, and to forge strong ties with the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This has created a much stronger more active Mercosur, the Southern Common Market. President Lula’s and Dilma’s foreign policy has led to the admission of Venezuela, soon to be followed by Bolivia, with associate countries Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname.

Perhaps more importantly, in terms of the global balance of power, is the co-operation between Russia, China and Brazil, who have formed the backbone of an alliance that unseats the Washington Consensus as the basis of international politics.

An  agreement in 2015 set up an alternative international bank of finance to the World bank, the New Development Bank, which members and other emerging or developing countries may apply to for funding of infra-structure and sustainable development projects, thus sidestepping the World Bank-I.M.F. monopoly of international finance. Together with the weight of India, this has become a viable multi-polar alternative to the unipolar imbalance that the U.S. has held since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Thus China is able to obtain the raw materials it badly lacks in its domestic production, such as oil and gas from Russia, minerals and food from Brazil. In exchange, China invests in infra-structure projects, such as the rail link between Russia and China, the trans-continental rail link from the Brazilian eastern Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific and the second Panama Canal, bypassing the U.S. hegemony of the first canal.

These agreements and trade deals have outplayed the U.S. at their own game, who are more used to getting their way through the C.I.A. interference in national and regional interests, than by sitting down to negotiate. They prefer pressure tactics to negotiating. Latin America learned the hard way that assassinations, coups, torture and manipulation of the media through U.S. trained and placed editors of newspapers and media outlets was not the way forward. With their independently minded view, the U.S. has reacted strongly to defame it.

The discovery of the first mega-oil field off the coast of Brazil since the North Sea in the 1970’s, called the pre-salt because it is buried in ultra-deep waters beneath a layer of salt deposits, means that Brazil has become a strategic player and target because of this. Just as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan became targets of the oil industry and so-called U.S. interests, supposedly of terrorism, so has Brazil become the target of a campaign to unseat the progressive Worker’s Party government, which holds a state controlled oil industry giant, and which has refused to conform to the U.S. calls for a deregulated oil industry.

This has led to renewed interest by the U.S.A. in the Latin American region, which had been receiving less attention after the invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq. The Fourth U.S. Navy Fleet was reformed after many years of being disbanded, when the U.S. had its military dictatorships in place, who would do their bidding with no arguments. More recently, more independently minded governments have been elected who do not always agree with or cede to what the U.S. wishes. The free-trade zone of the Americas, ALCA, is a prime example, which was roundly rejected by Latin America. Presidents Kirchner in Argentina and Lula in Brazil, have strengthened the Mercosur economic community and implemented policies to lift the poor out of poverty and distribute wealth. This has not sat well with the traditional elites or the ruling neo-liberals in the U.S. who are more used to compliant southern neighbours, implementing corporation friendly policies.

In Argentina, Cristina Kirchner had managed to implement the Ley dos Medios, or Media Law, regulating the media industry. There was a big outcry that this was to limit freedom of the press, led by Clarin who would have to share their qausi-monopoly in the diversified media market. There are calls for the same to be implemented in Brazil where the Globo private domination of 16.2% of the print media , 56% of broadcast TV and 44% of the paid TV market. These media outlets have been leading players in the calls for corporation friendly governments and have called unfair when regulation is discussed. That, with other associated reasons as outlined in this series of articles, is why the coup against Dilma has been launched.

Brazil, although not alone in this, has been targeted by forces not wishing that their domination be challenged, hence the move for impeachment.

Political reform, Furnas and Political Party Financing in Brazil

AécioDuto

The norm up until now in Brazil is for companies to make political contributions, many of them in so-called second set of accounting books, illegal under the election law, either to parties or to political candidates directly. Thus, a tough rooted plant has been established that dominates Brazilian politics that has been fed and grown over decades. This tends to delay any movement that is made against such a system, because many people gain through it, to the detriment of the general well-being of the country. The politicians gain, who then place their chosen people in selected governmental or state company posts, and these people then work on their behalf, siphoning off funds and enabling favours.

The campaign to impeach the current President is in place to avoid any change to this established pattern. The Vice-President who is to take over should the move to impeach be successful has already alluded that the investigations into such political financing will be buried and suppressed.

Up until Dilma passed the recent law on political financing, every party was obliged to fund their campaigns by such irregular, under the table means. This was known and acknowledged, but accusations and investigations of such practises have been handled differently, depending on who the targets are. Opposition parties to the current government have been repeatedly accused and documented as having participated in such activities, but the Judiciary has not been seen to be even handed in who they investigate.

One such example of this syndrome is the Furnas List. This scheme for siphoning off funds from the state electricity company, Furnas, started in 1996 and was reinforced in 2003 when the then Governor of the state of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves of the opposition PSDB party, asked the newly elected President Lula, for Dimas Toledo to be placed in Furnas in a position of trust and this was accepted, being the only such request he made.

Through false front consultancy companies, Dimas Toledo then siphoned off funds to candidates from various parties, but 68% of the total of about US$10 million went to the then governing PSDB. Despite this list being public since 2006, no-one on the list has been prosecuted for it, although a journalist and the person who published the list were imprisoned to try and suppress public knowledge of the scheme.

President Dilma turned off this tap of irregular funding to her leading opposition party and has since passed a law to limit private corporation funding of political parties and politicians, which is one of the reasons why the opposition is up in arms against her and her government, baying for impeachment.

Lessons from the Mensalão scandal

The Mensalão or Big Monthly Pay-off scandal rocked the first Lula government in 2005, just as the campaign for his re-election was starting. It began with the denunciation by one of the party leaders within the government coalition, but not of Lula’s Worker’s party, that many members of the Congress in that coalition were receiving large payouts to vote through legislation. In exchange for support of the government, this party was given the freedom to place their men in positions within the Post Office in posts of trust.

To go back to an earlier point in the story, Lula had swept to power in 2002, to change the face of Brazil from one of feudalism into the great nation that it was destined to be. That was his and his party’s vision, and was the mandate he received at the ballot box, but this was to cause great opposition, which is why these scandals are surfacing now.

However, the key players in this scandal, not the ones who were vilified by the media, had been put in their respective positions in the previous government, which was a conventional neo-liberal monetarist one, privatising many of the huge key industries for multi-billion sums and generating many new billionaires. The scandals of this previous government in fact only came to light after it had left office, and have largely been untouched by either the Judiciary or the traditional mass media.

In fact, the video that caused a huge outcry that soon followed the first denunciation, showing the supposed paying out of large sums of cash by an ex-official of the Brazilian Post Office to two businessmen stuffing it into their underpants, was false. It was in fact made by the lawyer of the ex-Post Office executive in order to pressure for payment.

These  and other media outcry tactics led to convictions of 25 of the 40 defendants, despite the lack of concrete evidence on the concocted charges. However, the mass media continue to push the message that these convictions were part of a pattern of corruption of that government, which both the media and elements of the Judiciary wished to see ended and replaced. As the Americans say, the elephant in the room is that there was no evidence. Only the bloggers and a handful of journalists actually tell the truth, with the rest prancing about like the emperor with no clothes.

There has been a consistent pattern during the Mensalão episode, the Lava Jato operation and the whole impeachment effort, of distortion of the truth, of a coordinated campaign by the mass media, elements of the Judiciary and a targeted social media campaign to implicate the PT and Lula at any cost. The desperation to find evidence has become obvious to many people now, of judicial abuse of power, of media bias against the truth, a media which is controlled by five or nine families, depending on the breadth of scope of inquiry.

This mass media has a vested interest in defeating democracy, because they control an oversize proportion of revenue and of opinion-forming capacity, and a less democratic government would enable exchange of favours as they have always been used here, as well as Globo, the largest of these media organisations being investigated for tax evasion through tax havens and offshore companies in the Panama leaks, to give but one example. This information is only available through the bloggers, who are hounded and persecuted judicially, and can be censored in this manner, because the truth is ugly, from the point of view of the mass media at least. These few families receive a large amount of advertising revenue from government and public companies which they are not anxious to lose or share out, much less lose that power of influence over opinion-forming, which is a powerful mixture, and the reality is that it has gone to their heads.

Just as in the impeachment farce, the mensalão convictions were obtained through lies uttered by Supreme Court Judges and the Chief Prosecutor, that there was in this case illicit use of public funds from the Chamber of Deputies and from the Banco do Brasil for use by the PT. These have been shown by various official reports and by documents from Banco do Brasil to have been all perfectly legal, and was a regular bank loan taken out to finance the Party`s election campaign, but the lie that was propagated was preferred, because it served the purpose of dirtying the image of the PT and of Lula.

One can conclude from examination of the evidence and the facts that, at best, the Judiciary, the Prosecutor and Judges were negligent with the truth, which would lead one to expect that for Justice to be done, this would be admitted and corrected. But that is not so. Not one of these people have come forward to express even a doubt about the conclusion, from which we have to conclude that these people choose to believe in the correctness of their conclusions, and are therefore fully responsible for having chosen sides already, not with the truth, but in accordance with a pattern that has repeated itself in the Lava Jato operation and the effort for impeachment of the President.

So consistent is the bias, that we are obliged to conclude that this is by choice. The characters involved have shown by their conduct and absence of backing of their words that they are not concerned with ascertaining the truth, but prefer to convict on the basis of concoctions of untruths. Such blindness or bias, gives Justice a bad name.

One of the key persons and witness in this circumstance fled to Italy to avoid persecution, but was successfully extradited back to Brazil in October 2015. This, of course, is very embarrassing to Brazilian Justice, when justice has neither been served or seen, when the only hope is that the country wakes up and rectifies such patterns of injustice.

The question remains, if that consistent pattern of injustice, repeated and criticised by legal experts in Brazil in the handling of the Lava Jato “scandal”, who is behind it and what is there to be gained or lost by such handling?