Brazil Could Return to a Dictatorship. Glenn Greenwald on Possible Election of Far-Right Demagogue
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Voters in Brazil head to the polls Sunday in an election that could reshape the political landscape of South America. Polls show the current front-runner is the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army officer who has openly praised Brazil’s military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985.
Exit polls should be broadcast at 7 p.m. local time and results will start flowing shortly after that because Brazil uses an electronic voting system.
Bolsonaro also directly benefited from the jailing of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in April, who had been leading all presidential polls. Lula remains in jail on what many consider trumped-up corruption charges to prevent him from becoming president. Lula, the head of the Workers’ Party, was then forced to drop out of the race. Lula’s handpicked successor, Fernando Haddad, is currently placing second in most polls.
On Saturday, tens of thousands took part in women-led rallies in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities to protest Bolsonaro. The theme of the protests, “Not Him.”
PROTESTER: My name is [indiscernable], and I’m here because Bolsonaro is dangerous. He represents hatred for our country, because he represents the loss of the few rights that the people he targets, such as the black people, the indigenous people and the LGBT community and women, have conquered so far. He represents a threat to democracy in our country, a democracy that we are still building.
AMY GOODMAN: Joining us in Rio de Janeiro is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who co-founded The Intercept.
Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of what is happening right now in Brazil, and particularly on Sunday, the election?
GLENN GREENWALD: To begin with, the significance is that Brazil is a country of 210 million people, so it’s the fifth most populous country in the world, right behind the United States, the second largest in the hemisphere and the most influential in all of Latin America. It’s also the seventh-largest economy in the world, with major oil reserves.
And what the Western media has often been doing and talking about Bolsonaro is calling him Brazil’s Trump, which drastically and radically understates the case. He is much closer to, say, Duterte in the Philippines, or even General El-Sisi in Egypt, both in terms of what he intends to do and wants to do, and what he is able to do, given the fragility of Brazil, which is an extremely young democracy that exited a military dictatorship only 33 years ago, and therefore doesn’t have the same kind of institutions to limit what someone would want to do, the way, say, the United States or the U.K. would. So it’s an extremely dangerous moment for this country.
Polls do show that he’s unlikely to win in the first round on Sunday, but there is a possibility that he might, rhat he could actually just get 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff entirely. But even if he does make the runoff, the signs are really showing that he is likely to win against Lula’s handpicked successor because of how much animus has been built up by the media and the business class toward PT in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk more about just exactly what Bolsonaro represents, his homophobic comments, his anti-women comments, his support of the Brazilian military dictatorship?
GLENN GREENWALD: And you can go through the whole list of shocking comments. He once said in an interview that he would rather hear that his son died in a car accident than hear that his son is gay.
He told a colleague in the lower house of Congress where he served for 30 years, when she accused him of defending torture and rape, which he did during the dictatorship, that she need not worry because, in his words, she didn’t deserve to be raped by him, meaning that she was too ugly to deserve and merit his rape. There’s a whole slew of comments like that about black people, about the indigenous.
But the much more worrying aspect are not these kind of comments, but the policies that he is explicitly endorsing. His model for how he wants to deal with crime are the world’s worst dictators, people like Pinochet. He’s advocated that we do things like in the Philippines, where we just send the military and the police to just indiscriminately slaughter whatever—whoever they think is a drug dealer or a criminal, without trials.
He believes in military rule. He doesn’t regard the military coup of 1964 and the 21-year resulting military dictatorship as a coup or as a dictatorship. He regards it as something noble and wants to replicate it. And he has the entire top level of the Brazilian military supporting him and behind him.
So, you really don’t have institutions the way you do in the U.S., like a strong Supreme Court or a kind of deep state of the CIA and the FBI or political parties that would constrain him in what he wants to do. And especially given how much popular support there now is behind him, there’s a substantial part of the country that is genuinely terrified about what he intends to do, and intends to do rather quickly, and probably can do—namely, bringing back the worst abuses of the kinds of dictatorships that summarily executed dissidents, that shut down media outlets, that closed congresses, that we thought was a thing of the past here in Latin America but is now on the verge of returning to its most important and largest country.
AMY GOODMAN: Last month, the world-renowned dissident, linguist Noam Chomsky met with Brazil’s imprisoned former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, his visit coming shortly after Lula officially pulled out of the presidential race. Speaking outside the prison after a visit, Noam Chomsky condemned the right-wing media in Brazil.
NOAM CHOMSKY: We had just had the great privilege of spending an hour with Lula. And one of the points that he emphasized was that during his entire tenure in office, there was just a constant flood of attacks from all the media, constantly, thousands of attacks from every direction, which, of course, confuses and undermines public opinion. So the answer to your question is, something is needed to counter the concentrated power of right-wing media, which, particularly in Latin America, just overwhelms everything.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Noam Chomsky. Glenn Greenwald, a couple questions about that. How is the media allowed to cover Noam Chomsky visiting Lula in prison? And also, the significance of what’s happened to Lula, and then who Haddad, the person, the handpicked successor to Lula, is?
GLENN GREENWALD: So, I met with Noam Chomsky after that meeting in São Paulo, and we talked a lot about the dynamics that have brought us to this point. And one of the things we focused most on during our discussion was the fact that the dynamic is so similar to what’s happening in the U.S., the U.K. and in Western Europe, where you see this spread of extremism and this rise of right-wing fanaticism, and the media outlets and the establishment factions that have laid the groundwork for its rise refuse to take any responsibility. And that’s definitely the case here in Brazil, where a very oligarchical media is in the hands of a small number of very rich families and has sewn the seeds and has kind of created the climate in which Bolsonaro’s victory is possible.
Even to this very minute, even though these journalists are themselves afraid of a Bolsonaro win and are not supporting him, they nonetheless continue to endorse this narrative, that is the biggest asset for Bolsonaro, which is the idea that PT, the Workers’ Party, and Bolsonaro are just opposite sides of the same coin: You have left-wing dictatorship or right-wing dictatorship, and both are equally bad. PT ran this country for 14 years, and whatever else you might want to say about it, whatever mistakes they made, you certainly had a very free and open press that constantly attacked it. They impeached one of their presidents and put the other one in prison. So, the idea that it’s a dictatorship on par with what Bolsonaro wants to do is grotesque, but it’s the sort of thing that’s normalizing Bolsonaro.
And the thing that he has done, Bolsonaro, that’s probably the smartest, is he has chosen as his kind of economic guru, the person he said he was going to put in charge of the economy, a kind of classic, right-wing, University of Chicago, neoliberal economist that the international market and that the oligarchic class absolutely adores. And so, it’s kind of neutralized what otherwise would have been the opposition to them.
And what they’ve done to Lula, not just putting him in prison when he was leading the polls, but since then, what they’ve done is they’ve banned all media outlets from even being able to interview Lula. We’ve tried. Others have tried. There’s a prior restraint order on the part of the Supreme Court to prevent Lula from being able to speak out at this crucial moment. It’s not enough just to put him in prison and to stop him from running when people wanted him to be president; they’ve silenced him through censorship orders that apply not just to him, but to all of us in the media. And so, Brazilian institutions, the Brazilian establishment bears a lot of blame, just like U.S. institutions do for the rise of Trump, British institutions do for Brexit, and just the general globalization policies of Europe does for the rise of right-wing extremism in that part of the world, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to former Brazilian president—or, the former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva himself, front-runner until he was jailed. I spoke to him right before he went to jail, and he was talking about the presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] He is a member of the federal Congress. He was an Army captain in the Brazilian Army. The information that we have is that he was expelled from the Brazilian Army. And his behavior is far-right-wing, fascist. He is very much prejudiced against women, against blacks, against indigenous persons, against human rights. He believes that everything can be resolved with violence. So, I don’t think he has a future in Brazilian politics. He has the right to run. He speaks. He projects a certain image to please a part of the society that is of the extreme right. But I don’t believe that the Brazilian people have an interest in electing someone with his sort of behavior to serve as president of the republic.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was happy with Marielle’s death?
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I think so, because he’s preaching violence every day. He preaches violence. He believes that those who defend human rights are doing a disservice to democracy. He thinks that those who defend women’s rights are doing a disservice to democracy, likewise those who defend the rights of the black community. He is against everything that is discussed when one is talking about human rights.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speaking in March on Democracy Now! for the hour. You can check it out at democracynow.org. And at the end, he was talking about the assasination of Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco. Your comments on what he said, as we begin to wrap up, Glenn?
GLENN GREENWALD: So, I mean, just the last part about the assassination of Marielle Franco, which I have spoken on your show about before, just to give you a sense of what the climate is like here, just this week, two candidates from Bolsonaro’s party, including one of whom who is running for Congress and ran as the vice-mayoral candidate of Bolsonaro’s son, who ran for mayor of Rio four years ago, took a street sign in commemoration of Marielle Franco and broke it in half, and wearing shirts that had pistols on them, pointed directly at the camera, displayed it proudly for the camera. And then, the last line of the post on social media that they wrote to accompany the photo was, “For you scumbag leftists: When we take over, your days are numbered.”
Exactly as Lula said, the climate is one of violence. Bolsonaro’s signature gestures for his campaign is to put his fingers in the position of a pistol. They want to use violence to solve political problems here. They’re very explicit and open about that. But, unfortunately, everybody who’s been in charge of Brazilian society, including PT, including the establishment, needs to also ask itself what it has done to make this country lose so much hope and faith that it’s willing to abandon democracy and turn to a demagogue and an extremist like Bolsonaro. That’s the key question that I think needs to be asked if he does end up winning.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, we’re going to do Part 2 of this discussion and post it online at democracynow.org on a number of issues. But in this last minute—you are a constitutional lawyer—your thoughts, as you look north to the United States—you are an American citizen—on the nomination and possible confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in just 30 seconds, if you can?
GLENN GREENWALD: So, I do think there are real due process questions when it comes to accusations about somebody that we ought to take very seriously. At the same time, there’s a lot of credible evidence. And I think, even more important, the behavior that he displayed and the very partisan messages that he’s been delivering his whole life and at that hearing make it impossible to imagine him on the Supreme Court in a way that could be—have that institution be a credible, apolitical body. I think that’s the real overarching issue.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Glenn, for being with us. Again, we will do Part 2 and talk about a number of issues, including President Trump and Vice President Pence’s attacks on China, saying they are the real threats to the midterm elections, the indictment of Russian hackers, as well as more on Judge Kavanaugh and what’s happening in the world today. Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. Also, you can go to democracynow.org for our hour with Lula, who is now in prison in Brazil.
Far-right former army captain widens lead over second placed leftist Workers’ Party candidate ahead of October 7 poll.
A supporter of Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro is seen in front of Bolsonaro”s condominium at Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro [Sergio Moraes/Reuters]
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro widened his lead over fellow election hopefuls a day before Brazilians go to the polls to choose the country’s next president.
In DataFolha polling institute’s latest poll, published on Saturday, Bolsonaro was projected to win 40 percent of the vote on Sunday.
Fernando Haddad, the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) replacement candidate for jailed former president Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, was projected to win 25 percent of support.
Lula topped opinion surveys gauging presidential candidates’ popularity levels prior to renouncing his candidacy last month after being barred from running by Brazil’s country’s top electoral court.
Opinion polls published hours earlier by private-polling firm CNT/MDA suggested Bolsonaro will win 36.7 percent of the vote in the October 7 election. Haddad trailed in second place with 24 percent of voter support.
If none of the 13 candidates competing for the presidency win more than 50 percent support, a runoff poll between the top two performers will take place on October 28.
A head-to-head vote involving Bolsonaro, a self styled political outsider, and Haddad remains the most likely scenario, with CNT/MDA data projecting the far-right candidate would win such a poll.
On Saturday, Bolsonaro tweeted that Brazilians no longer “had to choose between options that didn’t represent them”.
“Now it is different! We love Brazil, we defend family and the innocence of children, we treat criminals as such and do not involve ourselves in corruption schemes,” he said.
Haddad, meanwhile, claimed he was sure he could count on the Brazilian people to win, “vote by vote, until the last minute”.
“I don’t believe in violence, in the dictatorship, in the lack of liberty. Let’s create opportunities, that’s how you do politics,” he tweeted.
|Fernando Haddad, presidential candidate for the Workers Party, campaigns in downtown Rio de Janeiro [File: Leo Correa/AP Photo]|
‘Confrontation between opposites’
About 147 million people are expected to vote on Sunday, with participation compulsory for “literate” Brazilians aged 18 to 70.
More than 1,650 positions are up for grabs, including most of the seats in Brazil’s congress and all 27 state governorships.
Polling stations will be open from 8am local time (11:00 GMT) until 5pm local time (20:00 GMT) and results are expected to be announced close to midnight GMT.
The election takes place amid a period of deep polarisation in Brazilian society, with the two frontrunner candidates also widely despised by many voters.
Ricardo Ribeiro, a political analyst at MCM Consultores, said there was a “lot of fear” among the electorate about a possible second-round showdown between Haddad and Bolsonaro.
“Everyone can see the polarisation at large, which is heightened because on one side you have an extreme right-wing option. I don’t think the PT is an extremist party but it is a left-wing party. So you have this confrontation between two opposites,” Ribeiro said.
“The discussion of whether or not democracy can be sustained is now relevant again,” he added.
|All 13 presidential candidates have higher rejection levels than support [David Child/Al Jazeera]|
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has repeatedly spoken out in favour of Brazil’s military government, which was in power from 1964-85.
He has promised to fill his cabinet with military generals and his running mate, retired army general Hamilton Mourao, hinted last year that he would be in favour of a military takeover of government if corrupt officials were not dealt with by Brazil’s courts.
Bolsonaro has also made numerous overtly discriminatory comments about women, black and homosexual people.Marielle Vive
Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets to march against his candidacy as part of the social media driven and women-led #EleNao (#NotHim) movement. Thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters also rallied throughout Brazil in response.
Bolsonaro’s combative rhetoric and pledges to crack down on Brazil’s spiralling violent crime rates have found favour amid a backdrop of converging domestic crises.
Many Brazilians are deeply frustrated with the country’s stuttering economy, public security crisis and a political class tarnished by several high-profile corruption scandals in recent years.
Ricardo Luis Couto, a taxi driver in Rio de Janeiro, said Bolsonaro would help “change the country”.
“The PT are a bunch of robbers, they stole a lot from Brazil, the crisis in Brazil only began after the PT got into office,” 46-year-old Couto told Al Jazeera, referencing the corruption scandals which have rocked the party in recent years.
Malena Alberti, a former PT supporter, said she would also turn out for Bolsonaro, who has represented Rio de Janeiro in Brazil’s congress since 1991.
“Not only is he a military man, his goal is to preserve family values and to go against spreading communism in schools,” 30-year-old Alberti said.
“Bolsonaro is the only one who has a clean slate … he’s going after the criminals, he doesn’t believe in human rights for them, only for good people … he’s in favour of progress and order for the country,” she added.
Despite Bolsonaro’s rise in popularity ahead of Sunday’s vote, he also remains the candidate with the highest rate of rejection among the electorate.
About 44 percent of voters say they would not support him under any circumstances, according to Datafolha.
Haddad’s rejection rate stands at about 41 percent, by comparison, a reflection of many voters’ distrust of the PT.
A former mayor of Sao Paulo, Haddad has pledged to “make Brazil happy again” and revive the country’s ailing economy by cutting taxes on the poor and creating more employment in a bid to help the nearly 13 million Brazilians currently out of work into jobs.
Pedro Gomes, 63-year-old newspaper stand owner, said he would be voting for Haddad on Sunday as he was “more qualified” than Bolsonaro for the presidency having served as a minister of education under Lula for seven years.
“Haddad is [also] really focused on helping the poorer part of the population, the working class, and bettering education,” Gomes said. “[And] I think Bolsonaro is a very conservative person … he’s not very respectful.”
But for Sheila Xavier, 35, neither of the two frontrunners or any other candidate offer a solution to Brazil’s problems.
“I don’t know who I’m going to vote for, but I know I’m not going to vote for the PT or Bolsonaro,” Xavier, who is currently unemployed, said.
“All the options right now for president say they are going to help provide better education and end violence but nothing actually happens,” she added.
SOURCE of 2nd article : Al Jazeera News, ( illustrations added, shared with thanks)