Brazil: The hundred days of Bolsonaro´s government

Apr 11, 2019 | Latin America

After the first 100 days of this government, and still unable to implement his program of attacks on the rights of the working class, we can reaffirm what we said in our first article after the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president: “The project of the new president and his allies serves the banks, the corporations, agribusiness, religious fundamentalism. The program they want to implement –and are already implementing- is a real recipe for social chaos.”

In the same article, we analyzed that “Although Bolsonaro won with the votes of many workers that did not see a way out of this broken system, who couldn’t stand the betrayals of the PT, that does not mean that they will not break soon with the government, once they realize that the former soldier works for the bourgeoisie and the powerful”. We could say that we were right, but the truth is that we were not expecting this to happen so quickly. According to opinion surveys, Jair Bolsonaro is the president with the worst evaluation of the first months of government, at least since 1985. Only 20% considers his government optimal or good. This undoubtedly means that for Bolsonaro it will be harder to apply his ultra-liberal and reactionary program, but it will be the streets and not the investigation institutions that will have the last word.

A real war against the workers, the poor and the diverse

One of the most alarming and criticized points of the administration of Bolsonaro -mostly by the bourgeois media and its political analysts- is the picturesque composition of his government, with the main ministries led by polemic and unprepared people. We analyze this government from the point of view of the workers and their class interests, we care about more than just the competence or incompetence of the ministers of the president, mostly because the more competent they are, the worse it is for the people; we care about the program behind the absurd declarations that hurt the sensibility of the establishment.

The truth is that the heart, the center, of the government of Jair Bolsonaro is the Minister of Economy, led by Chicago Boy Paulo Guedes. It is no coincidence that he seems to be one of the best ministers. Along with Justice minister Sergio Moro, he plays the essential role of being the bondsman of Bolsonaro, with the banks and the capitalists. The apparent negligence of the president with the rest of the ministries reveals that, to him, it does not matter who takes control of the education system, human rights or science and technology, the basic rule for every area is clear: budget cuts, privatizations, etc. And there is more than enough ideological speech that pleases his most consolidated social base, which mostly comes from the middle class.

The witch hunt against the so-called “gender ideology”, “cultural Marxism” and “leftist indoctrination” has the only purpose of covering up the lack of a clear program for his government and the government´s minimal interest in resolving essential problems like the lack of infrastructure in most public schools, teachers´ poverty wages, the high numbers of violence against women and femicides, the fact that Brazil is the country that kills the most members of the LGBT community in the world, the failure of the war against drugs, over 13 million Brazilians are unemployed, the rising impoverishment of most of the people, among others. For all of that, Bolsonaro does nor have an answer. Not because, like Bolsonaro himself said, he “wasn’t born for being president”, but because he does not care, and the people are becoming aware of this.

Bolsonaro´s lack of commitment with the needs of working people clarifies that his government is at the service of the bosses, the banks and the great companies.

A government in deep crisis

It is worth remembering that the crisis that daily affects the government of Bolsonaro began even before his inauguration, when his son Flavio Bolsonaro, currently senator, with his adviser Fabricio Queiroz, were investigated by the Council of Control of Financial Activities for transactions of over a million reales during his term in office as a state representative in Rio de Janeiro. This investigation completely destroyed the anti-corruption image of the Bolsonaro family and began their discredit.

The first great crisis of the government happened in February, while Bolsonaro was in the hospital recovering from another surgery, when the newspaper Folha de São Paulo informed that the PSL, the president’s party, had used orange(1) candidacies to fulfill the obligatory quota of women in the electoral slates. One of the cases was the use of of 400 thousand reales for a candidate in Pernambuco that only got 274 votes. This was the first case of the “PSL orange grove” scandal that fell to then chief of the General Secretary of the Presidency of the Republic, Gustavo Bebianno, who was the national president of the party during the elections.

The crisis between minister Bebbiano and Bolsonaro aggravated after the councilman of Rio de Janeiro Carlos Bolsonaro (son of the president) stated on his social media that Bebbiano was a liar and, contrary to what the minister had said, he had not contacted Bolsonaro to talk about the crisis of the orange candidacies and trips that were not approved by Bolsonaro. As a reaction, the minister started threatening the government that if he fell, he would take the president down with him. It was not long before the messages exchanged between the president and Bebianno got out, also involving the minister of the Civil House, Onyx Lorenzoni. It was in these last messages that Bolsonaro affirmed that “if he (Bebianno) individually charges me the minimum, I’m f…, he has to sell one of my houses to pay for it”. After a week of the government bleeding all over the media, Bolsonaro demoted Bebianno.

Another focus of the crisis in the current government was the trembling of the relations between Bolsonaro and the President of the House of Representatives, Rodrigo Maia, theoretically an ally of the government and one of the main creators of the Pension Reform in that House. The fight began with Carlos Bolsonaro criticizing Maia, who reacted criticizing the government and even said on a live interview that Bolsonaro “played pretend”. Another reason for that clash would be the temporary imprisonment of Maia’s father-in-law, the former minister of Temer´s government, Moreira Franco. He was detained in the same Lava-jato operation last month. In a clear mention to what happened, Bolsonaro said that Maia was “shaken” for personal reasons and that he thought those were the motives for his friction with people close to the government. This clearly affected the negotiations of the “Reform” and, while the problem seems to be resolved, it shows the fragility of the relationship between the government and the National Congress, and the volatility of Bolsonaro´s social base.

Lastly, there is the latest casualty of the government, the minister of Education, Ricardo Velez Rodriguez, who, despite being in office for a short term, will probably be remembered for his absurd declarations and positions and for his total lack of knowledge on the area. Just to quote a few cases, he first said that the idea of a “university for everyone” did not exist and that they would be reserved for an “intellectual elite”. In second place, after the beginning of the school year, he sent a letter to the schools recommending that teachers read a declaration saluting “the new Brazil” and singing the national anthem, adding the campaign slogan of Bolsonaro “Brazil above everything, God above everyone” to its lyrics, a clear attack on the democratic culture and secular character of state schools. And finally, he defended the revision of the educational books, insinuating that they should have a re-reading of the period of the civil and military dictatorship (1964-1985), probably justifying the coup and having a softer version of the twenty years of total restriction of democratic liberties, human rights violations and the state terrorism.

Despite everything, that was not the reason for resignation of Velez Rodriguez, because his opinions are aligned with those of the rest of the government staff, even with Bolsonaro’s. Although his fall was expected, his assistance to a Saturday session of the House of Representatives was likely the last straw. He was clearly unprepared and inexperienced, and became the target of harsh critiques by the opposition, exposing the government´s total lack of commitment to the education system. The proof of this is that the substitute of Velez Rodriguez, Abraham Weintraub, who sells himself as a “technocrat”, not a politician, is also known for polemic statements and everything points out that he will prepare the path for privatizing policies in the educational system.

The struggle against the Pension “Reform” must be the center of the next mobilizations

Despite the fragility of the government, we must not forget that if there is something that currently unites the different sectors of the bourgeoisie and the elites, it is the approval of the Pension Reform, which looks to close the fake deficit of the economy of the working class. Although it is true that there is certain tension between powers, the fact is that, when it comes to defending their class interests, they are capable of overcoming all their conflicts, so we cannot trust the National Congress. It is the poor and working people on the streets who will impose the greatest defeat on the government of Bolsonaro, defeating the reform and defending the right to retirement. The main unions of the country, including CSP-Conlutas, CUT, CTB, Union Force, Intersindical, among others, have already set a date for the general strike on May 15. It must be more than just an indicative, and, as we did on April 2017, we must stop the country once again. For that, we must prepare a plan of struggles that culminate on May 15 and that facilitates the dialogue with the working class and the youth about the lies spread by the government and its media, to explain the importance of the defense of social security. We also think the perspective of a unified May Day of the unions in preparation for the general strike is important.

Only by occupying the streets can we defeat that reform and every attack of the ultra-liberal and reactionary government of Bolsonaro.

Luiz Domingues y Lucas Tiné
Alternativa Socialista

1. Fake candidatures to receive funds and deviate them.