Brazil: After Rousseff’s Impeachment, Temer’s Interim Government Deepens Attacks on Brazilian Workers

The coup was mainly against the workers and social movements

by Corrente Comunista Revolucionária (CCR), 12 June 2016, http://elmundosocialista.blogspot.com

 

Last May 23, the Minister of Planning, Budget, and Management, Romério Jucá (PMDB [1]), one of the main leaders of the campaign to impeach President Dilma Roussef, was exonerated by the interim coupist president, Michel Temer. In a recording made by his colleague, Senator Sergio Machado (PMDB), Jucá admitted that the need to remove Dilma from office was in order to put an end to the “Operation Car Wash” (Operação Lava Jato) investigation. [2]  The crux of this conversation is what Jucá calls “a national pact” — involving all of Brazil’s most powerful institutions — to leave Michel Temer in place as president (notwithstanding the multiple corruption scandals to which the latter’s name has been linked) and to entirely kill the corruption investigation once Dilma will have been removed from power. In the words of the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Jucá made clear that impeachment will “end the pressure from the media and other sectors to continue the ‘Operation Car Wash investigation’” which played such a key role in toppling the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores – Workers’ Party [3]), led by Roussef and former president Lula. The exonerated Jucá was the leader of Temer’s PMDB party in the senate and was one of the “interim president’s” three closest confidants.

 

But in this same recording secretly made by Machado, the two most important bits of information are the roles of the Supreme Court and the Armed Forces in the coup. Without knowing that his words were being recorded, Jucá openly admitted that the Brazilian military supported the plot: “I have been speaking with the generals, the military commanders. They are fine with it, and have said that they will guarantee it.” Jucá also indicated that the military is “monitoring the Landless Workers Movement” (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST [4]), the social movement of rural workers which supports PT’s efforts on land reform and the reduction of inequality in Brazil, and which has been in the forefront of the protests against Dilma’s impeachment. The second bombshell revelation — perhaps even more significant than the first — is Jucá’s unwittingly revealed declaration about the involvement in the plot of numerous justices in Brazil’s Supreme Court, the very same institution that impeachment defenders have repeatedly pointed to as vesting the process with “legitimacy” in order to deny that Dilma’s removal is a coup. In the recording, Jucá claims that “there are only a small number” of Supreme Court justices whom he did not manage to access.

 

Just two days after the publication of this report, Folha de São Paulo made yet another astounding revelation. The president of the senate, Renan Calheiros, had also been secretly recorded by the same Sergio Machado, in which Calheiros admitted his support for modifying the law that grants witnesses immunity, so that anyone indicted would not be rewarded for becoming informers (the so called “whistleblower prize”). Renan also suggested that, after dealing with this matter he could "negotiate" with members of the Supreme Court the "transition" of Dilma Rousseff, i.e., the impeachment of the duly-elected president of Brazil. Therefore, in light of the two newspaper reports just cited, it has become perfectly clear that two of the most important figures from the PMDB in the senate, Minister Romério Jucá, the leader this party in the senate, and Renan Calheiros, no less than the President of Brazil’s senate, have admitted that they had exercised strong influence on members of the Supreme Court to ensure that Dilma Roussef would in fact be removed from the office. In short, Brazil’s parliament, its Supreme Court, and its Armed Forces were not at all in disagreement about the need to impeach the president and put an end to the Popular Front government at the head of which she stood.

 

Naturally, the bourgeois-dominated media has only focused on the “attempt” of these PMDB politicians to get rid of all the criminal charges of corruption, but only after all the important leaders of the PT, including former president Lula da Silva, were already in prison or had been denounced. But, for the press, the fact that the Supreme Court and Armed Forces were mentioned as being involved in the plan to impeach the duy elected president is simply a matter of secondary interest.

 

In light of all this, we unconditionally affirm that what has taken place in Brazil during the past year or two was an authentic coup d’etat, and the deceptive fight against PT’s alleged political corruption was just surreptious camouflage designed to hide the true goal: To remove from power a Popular Front government which had a strong ties with both Russia and China, the new imperialist powers, and to force Brazil to withdraw from the bloc of Bolvarianist popular governments in Latin America. Clearly, it is no mere coincidence that the US ambassador serving in Brazil since 2013, Liliana Ayalde, is the diplomat who served as US ambassador to Paraguay in 2012, when that country’s rightist and fascist movements reappeared on the scene after the end of the military dictatorship which lasted almost 30 years. 

 

The same process occurred in Ukraine, where NGOs financed by American imperialism launched a campaign against the elected government, i.e., in America’s eyes, against communism, against social movements, and for liberalism and capitalism, etc. In Brazil the names of these NGOs are: “Revolted Online” (Os Revoltados On Line), “The Free Brazil Movement (O Movimento Brasil Livre), and the “Come to the Streets Movement” (O Movimento Vem Pra Rua). Behind “Revolted Online” is an evangelical Christian group that works for enhancing connections between the United States and Brazil. According to independent and left-wing websites, among the funders of these groups and NGOs are: The Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann; the notoriously reactionary billionaires American brothers, Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch (better known today as the “Koch Brothers”); the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP); and of course direct western imperialist support comes from the embassies of US and EU. On May 12, the WikiLeaks website announced that the current coupist interim presidente of Brazil, Michel Temer, served in the past as a CIA informer.

 

Over the past two weeks alone, new policies adopted by Temer’s government confirm our analysis that an authentic coup d’etat has taken place in Brazil, and furthermore that far from the coup’s having been direct merely against PT or the government of Dilma Rousseff, it is in fact directed against the entire working class of the country. Following is a description of these recently adopted measures.

 

1. Ministry of Social Security Now Part of the Ministry of Finance

 

The Ministry of Social Security, which is in charge of the pensions and other retirement benefits of private and public sector workers, has lost its independent status and now belongs to the Ministry of Finance. The implications of this move are that accounting and financial logic will be imposed on the entire social security system in Brazil, severely degrading these benefits for retired workers. The handling of pension reform by the Ministry of Finance is aimed at keeping the workers out of the discussion, justifying this with the often-used argument that Social Security is running a huge deficit. Furthermore, the authentic goal of this ministerial restructuring is to increase the minimum age for retirement from 55 for women and 60 for men, to the age of 65 for all private and public workers.

 

2. Cost-of-Living Increment – No Longer Obligatory for Calculating the Minimum Wage

 

The adjustment of the minimum wage is currently based on a formula that includes a “cost-of-living increment” in order to reimburse workers for real wages eroded by inflation. The adjustment which is currently being negotiated in Congress does not necessarily guarantee that the minimum wage will be fully incremented by the rate of inflation. Or, in other words, the worker’s real wages are no longer guaranteed. Currently the minimum wage in Brazil is R$ 880,00 ( U$ 245.00) per month.

 

3. Pension Benefits – No Longer Indexed to the Minimum Wage

 

Under the pretext of "disengaging" the economy and improving the profile of public accounts, there will no longer be an automatic increase in the value of pensions based on the current minimum wage. Consequently, retirees will have to depend on the good will of the government economic staff in promoting readjustments instead of transparent criteria that will protect them from losses due to inflation.

 

4. Increases in Pension Contributions and Minimum Age for Retirement, Including for Active Civil Servants

 

The pension reform being planned by the coup government will severly impact active public service workers by significantly extending the contributory period to their eventual retirement, increasing it across the board for public workers, as mentioned above (paragraph 1),  to the age of 65 from 55 for women and 60 for men.

 

5. Increased Taxes

 

The coup government claims that its main priority is to reduce Brazil’s public debt. “If there is need for a tax, it will be imposed.” This disingenuous phrase is from the coupist minister, Henrique Meirelles, who is determined to reduce the country’s public debt on the backs of the working class by taxing this sector of the population. Meirelles’ statement recalls the infamous remark by Delfim Neto, a former finance minister during the military dictarorship, who said that first we have to wait for the cake to grow, and only then distribute the increased income to the entire country.

 

6. Green Light Given to Overturn Collective Workers’ Agreements

 

Bill 4193/2012, authored by Congressman Irajá Abreu (PSD), provides that agreements and collective bargaining accords reached between trade unions and companies may be superseded by the undemocratic Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT). The result is clear: a loss of worker bargaining power and a reduction in the protection currently given by the state whenever employers disregard the law. In addition to this bill, there are at least six other legislative proposals before Congress that, if passed, will harm the interests of workers.

 

7. No Women Ministers

 

While we certainly understand that the mere presence of women in a government in no way assures its progressiveness, the total absence of women does reveal the flagrant unimportance that gender inequality poses for the coup plotters. Symbolically, this is as if to say to the Brazilian society that women are relegated to the background, and occupy a secondary position. Specifically, the reduction of women's participation in decision-making spheres which determine the direction of the country, reverse the trend set by PT governments which sought to increase the influence and the political power that women have.

 

8. An End to the “Secretariat for Racial Equality”

 

Any government that is formed without direct elections, and which is composed entirely of economically well off white men of advanced age, can in no way be representative of multiracial Brazilian society. And just so there can be no doubt about the matter, Michel Temer has terminated the “Secretariat for Racial Equality,” a step which will directly impact affirmative action policies, will reduce governmental activity against historical prejudices in Brazilian society, and will impair the struggle against inequality between whites and blacks, constitutinga huge social setback for the country.

 

9. Ministry of Education to the Rightist DEM Party

 

The coupist Minister of Education, Mendonça Filho, is affiliated with the DEM party [5] which opposed the PROUNI program allowing needy students to enter Brazil’s colleges and universities for free, their expensees being funded by 50% of the pre-salt fund for education and 75% of the royalties from this oil sector. The DEM party is for the complete privatization of education. Last week, in a mockery of sorts and contrary to all good sense or taste, Minister Filho received a visit from a famous porn star of the past, Alexandre Frota, to discuss “proposals for education.” This same actor had confessed in a television interview conducted in 2015 that he had once raped a woman after she had fallen asleep.

 

10. Foreign Ministry to José Serra from PSDB

 

We remind readers that, since 2001, the PSDB [6] is the party which lost the presidential elections 4 times to the PT candidates, first Lula da Silva and then Dilma Roussef. On the second day of the government of interim president Michel Temer, the newly appointed foreign minister, Jose Serra, presidential candidate for the PSDB in the 2010 elections, strongly criticisized Bolivarian countries which had been closely allied with previous PT administrations.

 

The now PSDB-led Foreign Ministry issued two diplomatic messages noteworthy in their drastically different tone, against what it called "falsehoods" propagated by Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, nations which had questioned the legality of the removal of President Dilma Rousseff.

 

Last week interim Foreign Minister Jose Serra went to Buenos Aires to conduct dialogues with rightist president Macri. Serra was received with cat calls of “coupist!” by Argentian leftist militants.

 

The downfall of the unwittingly recorded Romério Jucá (see above) has made Foreign Minister José Serra the big winner inside the coupist government. He is the man of the São Paulo bourgeoisie who has direct links with Washington, so his displomatic scolding of the Bolviarians is not at all coincidental. Serra is the author of a proposal, which has already been approved by the senate, to cancel Petrobras’ exclusivity in activities related to Brazils’s exploitation of the pre-salt layer, [7] and terminates the state’s obligation to cover at least 30% of investments in all layer-exploration consortia. Information leaked by Wikileaks indicates that Senator José Serra had promised US oil companies that he would end the Petrobras semi-monopoly in Brazil’s pre-salt exploration.

 

11. Changes to Family Allowances (Bolsa Família)

 

Official statistics reveal that the bolsa familia program has freed 50 million Brazilians from poverty, constituting 25% of the country’s population. Under the previous PT governments, social programs like bolsa família were regularly adjusted for increases in the cost of living. The last such adjustment took place on May 1, International Workers’ Day, when President Dilma Rousseff authorized a 9% increase to the benefits included in these family allowances. The coup government has ended the indexing of the bolsa família, meaning that it no longer commits itself to making regular adjustments. Even worse, the Minister of Social and Agrarian Development, Osmar Terra, said in an interview with the newspaper O Globo that the control mechanisms of those entitled to bolsa família benefits must be improved. What does this mean? That the ministry will undertake an "external audit" that could bring about denying benefits to up to 10% of those families currently eligible.

 

12. Cuts to the Public Unified Health System (SUS)

 

In the same spirit, Health Minister Ricardo Barros has already presented a "package" of measures that will jeopardize the future of health care in Brazil. In an interview with the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, Barros said he will not "be able to sustain the level of rights that the Constitution provides." The phrase itself is already a huge attack upon the Brazilian constitution, but reveals something more sinister: the Unified Health System (SUS) is to be reduced in size and weakened. The scenario is nothing new, but its implementation would involve the gutting of one of the greatest achievements of Brazil’s poor and of the Constitution of 1988, all for the benefit of private health companies.

 

13. Budget Cuts for Public Health and Education

 

Ricardo Barros also wants to relax the mandatory application of the minimum percentage budgeted for healthcare in Brazil. Today, the federal government is required to allocate for health at least the same sum as it did the previous year, plus an increment reflecting growth in GDP, while states and municipalities must respectively allot 12% and 15% of their budgets to health. With the proposed relaxation, the publicly funded health budget for Brazil’s citizens will no longer have the guaranteed levels of funding it currently has.

 

Today, the Brazilian constitution obligates the federal government and the states to dedicate 25% of their budgets to the educational system. The PMDB program named "Ponte para o Futuro" (“Bridge for the Future”), which was released several months before Rousseff’s impeachment, includes a proposal to eliminate this constitutional obligation. As a result, the public educational system in Brazil, already plagued by so many funding problems resulting in poor working conditions, low wages, too many students per classroom, etc., will surely only get worse.

 

14. Review of the Allocation of Lands to Indigenous Peoples

 

The coup government’s announcement of its intention to review of all acts taken by the duly-elected government of Dilma Rousseff is providing the interim president, Michel Temer with the justification he wants to modify the laws his predecessor enacted regarding the allocation of lands to indigenous Brazilians. From April 1 of this year, Rousseff signed 21 acts expropriating 56,000 hectares of land, setting them aside for indigenous populations. Osmar Terra, the coupist Minister for Social Development, has declared that the allocated "indigenous land is an invasion legitimized by the state." The Deputy Attorney General of the Republic, Deborah Duprat, has said the coup government’s review of the allocation of 56,000 hectares of land [approved by Rousseff] is a blow to the Federal Constitution. Groups active in the rights of indigenous peoples have already announced their intention to go to court against the measure.

 

15. Privatization of Large Publicly-Owned Companies

 

One of the aims of the coup is to fully restore the neoliberal agenda which was democratically defeated at the polls starting from 2002. (While the ostensibly “socialist” PT also engaged in such privatization, it did so more timidly than what the current coup government is planning.) The Temer government agenda includes privatization of state companies which it argues should have been scrapped. The economic cabal of the coup government has talked about privatizing the federal mint, the post office and federal power plants in the Brazilian states. Two large public banks, the Bank of Brasil and the Caixa Econômica Federal, are also being targeted.

 

16. End of the Road for the My House, My Life ( Minha Casa Minha Vida) Program?

 

Despite the speech by Bruno Araujo (PSDB), Minister of Munipal Development, that the Minha Casa, Minha Vida program would be preserved, just two days after Rousseff’s impeachment, he already revoked authorization for the construction of 11,250 homes.

 

17. Repression of Social Movements and Parties of the Left

 

Bad news for Brazil’s social movements is the choice of Alexandre de Moraes as Minister of Justice. Moraes is the former Secretary of Public Security of the State of São Paulo in charge of the infamous military police who, according to an Amnesty International report, kills more people each year than all US police departments combined. Last year, de Moraes ordered the violent repression of the movement which occupied schools by students protesting their closing. He also made a statement characterizing the movements that were blocking city streets in favor of Rousseff on the day the Senate voted to impeach her as organized "guerrilla" acts and they should be treated as as such. Such a comment is a harbinger of how he, in his new role, will undoubtedly treat the strikes, the occupation of land, the blocking of roads and streets of big cities by workers on strike, the homeless movement, the leftist parties, etc.

 

This determined policy of repression gives a clear indication what will be in the near future under the coup government of Michel Temer for the workers and oppressed. It is entirely consistent with the policy of deliberately reducing social and democratic rights which in turn exacerbates poverty and misery while increasing investment security for the bourgeoisie.

 

18. The Real Possibility of Intervention by Brazil’s Armed Forces

 

The recordings we have cited above clearly demonstate just how grave a mistake it was to contend, as some leftist groups previously did, that what was taking place in Brazil was only a struggle between two sectors of the bourgeoisie. Firstly, this analysis is superficial because the entire matter boiled down to the Popular Front government’s being abandoned by its bourgeois wing, obviating any conflict between two ostensibly opposing bourgeois factions. In truth, over time the Popular Front was continually eroded until it consisted only of the workers’ bureaucracy and some popular organizations and their mass bases. So as the conflict evolved, it became more and more NOT a conflict between two bourgeois factions, BUT one between the working class and popular organizations with their bureaucratic leaderships at the top on one side against nearly the entire bourgeoisie on the other side.

 

Secondly, even if it would have “only” been a conflict between two bourgeois factions, this would not automatically mean that revolutionaries remain neutral. This would entirely depend on the concrete situation and the significance of the program of each side. Trotsky once explained that revolutionaries could never vote for the right-wing ex-general Hindenburg in the German elections of 1932 when he ran against Hitler. However, Trotsky argued, would Hindenburg have called for armed resistance against Hitler in 1933, Marxists would have supported him as the lesser evil.

 

The history of the class struggle is not familiar only with outright military coups. It also has experienced “soft” or “institutional” coups. Hitler, by the way, came to power in an “institutional” way, with no formal coup. The same happened in Honduras in 2009 and in Paraguay in 2012. Those who contend that only a military coup is an authentic coup are guilty of formalism.

 

Conclusion

 

In the final analysis, can it be said that the Popular Front governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef were no different than the current coupist government of Michel Temer? Let’s examine some reasons given by various leftists groups to justify not only their not opposing the coup, but even their standing on the coupist side of the barricades.

 

 

1. The Economic Crisis

 

The current economic crisis which started in 2008 spread throughout the entire world. Indeed, we agree that Brazil was not and is not out of the crisis, but things did significantly worsen in Brazil after the events of 2013. What in particular caused things to get worse in the Brazilian economy was the boycott conducted by the large corporations in which they cut nearly all their investments, ostensibly because of the pessimistic forecasts of the Brazilian stock markets. This in turn caused a rapid increase in unemployment. At same time, the bourgeois-controlled media placed the blame on the incompetence of Rousseff’s government. Venezuela was the laboratory for this strategy of undermining an elected government.

 

2. The Declining Popularity of Rousseff’s Government

 

Many “leftists” in Brazil, the PSTU among them, favored a coup because of the president’s declining popularity. Can we possibly call such flagrant idiocy a good reason to support a coup d’etat, without even attempting to analyze the class strugge behind it? From now on, will all governments which find themselves in a similar situation under capitalism accept the same medicine? Doesn’t the PSTU remember 1973 Chile? How do they explain what’s happening in Venezuela today?

 

In addition to the boycott cited above which exacerbated the economic crisis in Brazil, we all understand that not only are the research institutes themselves capitalist companies, but that they are in the service of large capitalist corporations, just as the media are. The research institutes, the media run by the O Globo group, the Supeme Court, the big bourgeoisie, western imperialism, parliament, most reactionaries and the conservative sectors of the middle class including the fascists, all these forces were in an alliance to bring about the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

 

3. The Process of Impeachment is Provided for by Bourgeoisie Democracy

 

Indeed it is; on this we have no doubt. But is this a good argument to be neutral? What about the need to analyze the class struggle motives behind such an initiative? We repeatedly say that the PT, based on its origins, could never have been able to completely implement the tasks dictated to it by western imperialism. Neither could a Popular Front government, just like some now-deposed populist governments couldn’t, like those of Honduras, Paraguay, and Argentina; nor will this be possible for goverments for which the road to a coup d’etat is still ahead of them, like in Equador, Bolivia, etc. And note, we are only talking about Latin America! If we take examples from the rest of the world, or even from history, the list would be far longer. In any event, shouldn’t the defence of impeachment or the toppling of a government be contingent on the existence of a revolutionary (or pre-revolutionary) process, with the guidance of a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program? Where is there such guidance in Brazil? Of course, the extent of attacks now being waged against the workers in our country can in fact open the road to a revolutionary process in Brazil; and not only must we believe in this possibility, but we must help in bringing it about, even if the present conditions are less than optimal, because instead of the Popular Front government headed by Dilma Rousseff we will now have to go up against a thoroughly bourgeoisie regime backed by social-democrats, Stalinists, and opportunists of all kinds, to say nothing of religious and other reactionaries.

 

At this moment the Frente Brasil Popular, (Brazilian Popular Font) which includes more than 60 working class organizations (PT, PCdoB, PCOCUT, CTB, MST, etc.), as well as the Frente Brasil Sem Medo (Brazilian Front Without Fear) located primarily in the city of São Paulo, are preparing for a tremendous national day of mobilization on June 10. We in the CCR will participate in this mobilization, presenting our policies, and will make demands, including the call for a true general strike.

 

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* English Language editing by Gerard Stephens

 

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THE INTERCEP.COM about the recordings

 

https://theintercept.com/2016/05/23/new-political-earthquake-in-brazil-is-it-now-time-for-media-outlets-to-call-this-a-coup/

 

President Temer was informer/ spy / to USA

 

http://www.brasil247.com/pt/247/mundo/231967/WikiLeaks-afirma-que-Temer-foi-informante-dos-EUA.htm

 

Ministry of Education with Porn actor to “discuss” proposals ....

 

http://www.diariodocentrodomundo.com.br/essencial/policia-federal-censura-dcm-em-suas-instalacoes/

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

[1] PMDB – Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Democratic_Movement_Party

 

[2] For details on Operation Car Wash, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Car_Wash

 

[3] PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers'_Party_%28Brazil%29

 

[4] MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landless_Workers'_Movement

 

[5] DEM – Democratas, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrats_%28Brazil%29

 

[6] PSDB –  Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Social_Democracy_Party

 

[7] Pre-salt layer: For a general discussion of this which also refers to Brazil’s own deposits, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-salt_layer