Shortly before leaving the Palacio de Planalto, Brazil’s constitutional president, Dilma Rousseff, warned that those behind the coup would “hold state institutions hostage so that they could be used to promote the most radical form of economic liberalism and social regression”.
Moisés Pérez Mok
It was 31 August 2016 and the Federal Senate had just ruled by a majority of votes to revoke the mandate granted at the polls by over 54 million voters in order to, in the words of the incumbent herself, seize power through a coup d’état fuelled by a legal farce.
Ms Rousseff argued that the progressive, inclusive and democratic project she espoused was being blocked by a powerful conservative and reactionary force, supported by a factious and venal press, also warning that her definitive ousting would lead to a power-grab by the very politicians who were desperately seeking to avoid justice.
“It is frightening,” she remarked, “that the strongest measures against corruption in our history, facilitated by the action taken and laws adopted since 2003 and expanded during my tenure, should result in power falling into the hands of a group of individuals under investigation for corruption.”
Long before the Federal Senate delivered its final verdict on that fateful 31 August, Ricardo Noblat (columnist at the O Globo newspaper) had written: “Let’s be frank: politicians who are scared of ending up in jail are conspiring to oust President Rousseff.”
Those in power, according to Noblat, whether politicians or not, were always adept at doing deals and saving their own skin – and, by extension, their own fortunes and positions in the social hierarchy – at the expense of morality and justice.
Chief among those conspirators was Michel Temer, who described himself as a “decorative figure” in December 2015. Three months later, he inflicted the first mortal blow to the government coalition when he ordered the expulsion of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which was its primary support base.
As an unconditional – and indebted – ally of the national economic elite, Temer has pandered to them ever since his inauguration as president. For instance, in his first speech, he announced his decision to embark upon two controversial, anti-populist reforms of employment and retirement laws, in addition to freezing public spending for 20 years.
All this, he argued, was to “get Brazil on the right track” – a promise that, one year since he took office, he still seems a long way from keeping.
Denounced for corruption
Having entered the Palacio de Planalto by the back door, Temer has received the unenviable distinction of becoming the first president in the history of Brazil to be denounced for passive corruption while in office.
A compromising conversation with the head of the executive branch recorded last March in the official residence (Palacio de Jaburu) by the businessman Joesley Batista gave Brazil’s Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, grounds to file corruption charges against the president with the Federal Supreme Court.
However, the judicial process was blocked when the Chamber of Deputies refused to allow the Supreme Court to try the case. In any event, the accusation worsened the political crisis gripping the country as well as the critical economic situation.
The record unemployment figure of 14.2 million at the end of the first half of this year, the 61% fall in public spending, and the largest primary deficit of the last 16 years (BRL 35.183 billion or USD 10.994 billion) at the end of H1 2017 all speak volumes about Brazil’s current outlook.
The latter was worsened yet further by the announcement of the sharp increase in the central government’s budget deficit (national treasury, crime prevention and the central bank), which, according to estimates published by the online newspaper Brasil 247, will amount to approximately BRL 199 billion (over USD 62 billion) in the next three years.
According to the minister responsible for taxation, Henrique Meirelles, this year’s treasury shortfall will increase by BRL 139 billion (over USD 43 billion) to BRL 159 billion (around USD 50 billion), while the figure for 2018 will rise from BRL 129 billion (around USD 40 billion) to BRL 159 billion.
For 2019, the hole in the budget will more than double, rising by BRL 65 billion (around USD 20.3 billion) to BRL 139 billion (over USD 43 billion).
Meanwhile, the surplus of BRL 10 billion (around USD 3.1 billion) that was forecast for 2020 has suddenly transformed into a deficit of BRL 65 billion (around USD 20.3 billion). “What was already a lie has become a scandal. What was abuse has become a catastrophe. What was a ruse has become chaos in the public accounts,” commented Rousseff.
Supposedly to cover the vast budget deficit, Michel Temer’s government announced a flurry of privatisation measures that, in the opinion of the economist and professor at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Luiz Gonzaga Belluzzo, will aggravate several problems without solving any.
The decision, he argues, worsens the state’s fiscal management and weakens the power of the government as a catalyst for stimulating the economy, while also harming the job-creation chain.
In the complex, urban and industrial economy of Brazil, administrative capacity will fall. “This is an attempt to weaken the ability of the Brazilian state to promote labour policy,” stressed the expert.
The privatisation programme covers 57 projects, including airport management, electricity supply lines, port terminals and the strategic Eletrobras, created in 1962 to coordinate all of the Brazilian state’s electricity companies. The latter manages 47 hydroelectric plants, 270 substations and six distributors. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Roz Harvey)