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Brazil: Neoliberal drift and repression of popular movements

Brazil: Neoliberal drift and repression of popular movements

José Luis Carretero Miramar writes on recent Brazilian state crackdowns against anarchists amid increasing fascist confidence, and how social movements are rising to meet it.

The social and political situation in Brazil is increasingly compromised. Since Michel Temer’s ascent to power through an institutional and palatial coup the main BRICS representative in Latin America has seen a neoliberal economic drift and a fascistic shift in civil rights.

The emerging economic giant has initiated an increasingly authoritarian process of confronting social movements in the wake of the deployment of a whole host of adjustment measures and “flexibility reforms” of Brazil’s labour and pension regulations. And the libertarian movement has also suffered in its claws.

The key man in the “tasks of government fear” is finance minister Henrique Meirelles who maintains an aggressive neoliberal policy. Without reform of the pensions, he says, one can not comply with the Constitutional Amendment 95 approved a year ago (which limits increases of public spending for 20 years). Without new privatisations and outsourcing (which would begin shortly with electric power utility Eletrobras) there will be no extended benefits for the elites. Without deregulation of extractive activities, investment will not increase (and hence regulations are in the making to enable mining in a strategic area of ​​the Amazon). Without labour reform the pipes of a labour market based on hyper-exploitation and flexibility will not be greased (a reform that even proposes to modify the legal meaning of slave labor). All part of a recipe book for hard neoliberal adjustment of the major economy of Latin America.

In addition, from a geostrategic point of view, the line of the new Brazilian government is also clear — subordination to the economic and military interests of the United States, and an express desire to become a military platform for the imperial North, with worrying effects on the political balance in neighbouring countries like Venezuela. In fact, from November 6th-12th, a joint military exercise sponsored by the Brazilian Armed Forces took place on the triple border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru with the participation of the United States. The exercise has been called “Operation United America” ​​or “Amazonlog 17.”

For the first time in decades, a temporary international military base has been installed in the city of Tabatinga (Amazonas, Brazil) on the border with Colombia and Peru. The exercise has had the “official” objective of preparing for a situation of “humanitarian character.”

The real background of the US military participation in these maneuvers is clearer however if we look at the words of US Southern Command chief Kurt Tidd, in his report to US Congress this year: ” The growing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela could force a regional response.

A new wave of repression

All these measures have been accompanied by a drastic increase in the repression of social movements and an expansion of organisations and the public influence for the extreme right. Declarations by deputies, such as Bolsonaro, have attempted to vindicate the last military dictatorship and torture. Violent actions by hard right groups such as the Movimiento Livre Brasil (MBL) have prevented the development of artistic countercultures (as in the Santander Cultural of Porto Alegre). And then there is generalised criminalising, sexist, conservative, anti-popular and racist discourses being pushed by public figures or organisations such as Vem pra Rua, Aliança Brasil etc.

This process, of course, has been answered with determination by Brazilian social movements, through mass mobilisations and through increased activity by organisations of settlers, landless peasants, precarious workers, women and excluded peoples of all kinds. It is in this context that aggressions against the libertarian movement and the rest of the popular movements have been ramped up by a state power which is totally delegitimised and increasingly authoritarian.

Cases of this repression have precipitated at an enormous speed, such as the incrimination of 18 students and a teacher in the State of Goiás (which finally ended with an agreement before the court) for their participation in the occupation of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (Seduce) and at least 27 schools as part of a wave of student struggles against school closures between December 2015 and January 2016.

But the most serious aggression against the libertarian movement in Brazil took place on October 25th, when Rio Grande do Sul police began Operation Erebus, whose main objective was to criminalise the Gaucho Anarchist Federation (FAG), a popular organisation with a long history in the South of Brazil.

Within the framework of this operation the headquarters of the FAG was raided, along with the Parhesia cultural space and the Pandorga urban occupation. Computers, USB drives and hard drives were confiscated, as well as plastic bottles which the police claim were going to be used to make homemade explosives. Books and materials of anarchist theory and propaganda were also confiscated (illegal under Brazilian law). Thirty activists were accused in a gigantic criminalisation campaign in which the Rede Globo, the main Brazilian media group, in its flagship program “El Fantástico”, presented a decontextualised parody of FAG militancy, while supposed experts debated about the criminal types that could theoretically be applied. The SBT television network also jumped on the bandwagon, describing a longstanding anarchist group to be “neo-Nazis.” FAG has worked for decades with the most excluded and racially discriminated sectors of society.

Fascist upsurge

Meanwhile, the popular movements of Rio Grande do Sul we warning that fascist proto-militias and a broad increase of hate crimes have been developing with impunity. Meeting as “support groups” for deputy Bolsonaro, the militants of the extreme right have been highly active on social networks, teaching firearms and encouraging “good citizens” to attack the “leftists.”

In fact, at a rally by municipal officials of Porto Alegre (capital of Rio Grande do Sul) a teacher was hit with a retractable bat by a thug known from youtube, supposedly linked to the MBL – an organisation which was received with great cordiality by the mayor the very next day. And in the nearby university, an academic whose work related to the centenary of the Russian Revolution was attacked, with the cry of “military intervention, now!”

We could continue indefinitely with this narrative of the growing fascist tint to the exercising of power by Brazil’s ruling class, linked to the forces that sustain the government of Michel Temer. Social tensions are accumulating in Brazil and In the words of Emir Sader, Brazil today constitutes, due to the lack of legitimacy of the neoliberal government and growing activity of social movements, a weak link in the neoliberal chain in Latin America.

The process of “righting” the continent, after electoral victories such as that of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, or palace blows like that developed in Rio de Janeiro, can still be stopped and reversed by the mobilisation of popular organisations, which are therefore the object of an increased repression. Solidarity and mutual support are a virtuous circle, the chain of tenderness and friendship that runs and makes strong the red thread of rebellion that extends throughout the world. To pull that thread, to feed it, to support those who build tomorrow, is also to work for our most precious horizon.

This is an edited machine translation of an article from alasbarricadas. Any problems, let us know!

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