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Who’s Who in the Brazilian Crisis

Every day, there is a new development in the Brazilian political crisis, with new evidence and new moves from right wing parties, the judicial branch, the media and the Workers’ Party. Will President Dilma be impeached? By who? The daily news can be confusing, given the number of names of people and parties involved. The following is a “who’s who” in the Brazilian crisis, meant to present the main forces and interests at play.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 11, 2016
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Photo from Esquerda Diario. In the picture (from left to right): “Lula”, Eduardo Cunha and President Dilma

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”): Rising to prominence in 1979 after a major metal workers’ strike, Lula was one of the leading founders of the Workers’ Party (PT) in 1980. After, he went on to help create what later became the CUT (roughly translated to the Center of Workers), the largest confederation of labor unions in Brazil. After three attempts, Lula was elected president in 2003 with massive backing from workers and served until 2011, when current President Dilma Rousseff took office.

Lula has his sights on regaining the presidency in 2016, capitalizing on his continuing popularity. However, his ambitions have been complicated by Judge Moro’s leaked wire taps, which the media largely interpreted as evidence that President Rousseff assigned him the post as her chief of staff in order to shield him from further investigation (since only the Supreme Court, full of PT-nominated judges, can try federal officials).

Workers’ Party (PT): After founding the PT in 1980, Lula and the leadership built an organization with massive support from workers and a union apparatus that won the presidency 23 years after its founding. During a period of national economic growth, the PT provided some gains for workers such as establishing a welfare program and expanding the public and private university systems. The reforms of the PT benefited the capitalist class, as they vastly expanded working class people’s purchasing power via access to credit. Now, in a moment of economic crisis in Brazil the PT is implementing austerity measures such as increasing the age of retirement and cutting funds to health care and education.

Dilma Vana Rousseff: Current President of Brazil and member of the Workers’ Party. She is in the second year of her four-year term after her re-election in 2014. She is presiding over the government in a moment of drastic economic decline and has passed vastly unpopular measures, such as the sale of pre-salt reserves to imperialist powers and cuts to health care and public education expenditures.

Rousseff is currently undergoing impeachment proceedings –ostensibly for concealing that she spent more money than was in the budget, something which almost all Brazilian politicians are guilty of, including all former presidents.

Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash): Federal corruption investigation being carried out by the police and the judicial branch. The investigation has uncovered numerous corrupt politicians, as well as corruption schemes in Petrobras, the national Brazilian oil company, which is increasingly being put up for private ownership by the PT.

Judge Sergio Moro: Judge in charge of Operation Lava Jato. His wife is a lawyer for Shell, showing a clear tie to imperialist interests. His family also has ties to the PSDB. He is clearly using the Lava Jato investigation to wage a campaign selectively against the PT — from forcibly taking former President Lula in for questioning to leaking a tapped phone call between Lula and Dilma.

Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB): The centre-right party that currently holds the Vice Presidency. The PMDB has held important positions in government ever since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985 . The leaders of the PT decided to run the two parties together on the Presidential ticket in order to appease right-wing and wealthy voters, as well as demonstrate the PT’s willingness to implement neoliberal policies. The connection with the PMDB has been a hallmark of the PT government; PMDB has been in the Vice Presidency since Lula’s first term. The party includes Eduardo Cunha, the President of the Chamber of deputies and a leader of the effort to impeach the PT. Currently, the pact between the PMDB and the PT has been broken nationally, which further erodes President Dilma’s ability to stay in the presidency.

Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB): The right-wing party that has been the main opposition to the Workers Party. They held the Presidency before the PT, implementing vast neoliberal policies such as beginning the privatization of the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, a process that has met with substantial resistance, including a 32-day oil workers’ strike. The PSDB also privatized national mining company Vale in 1995, setting the stage for the ecological and humanitarian disaster of 2015, when the dam at Rio Doce gave way, flooded the surrounding areas, caused devastation to water and wildlife, took the lives of 12 people and left hundreds homeless.

Rousseff’s primary rival during the previous elections, Aecio Neves is a member of the PSDB. Ever since Rousseff’s re-election, the PSDB has been organizing protests and rallies and calling for her impeachment. Although there is no lack of corruption in the PSDB, it has been under much less scrutiny from the Lava Jato investigation than the PT.

Judicial Party: The “Judicial Party” is not a political party– but a term used to refer to the judicial branch of the government. However, the judicial branch is currently far overstepping its powers with actions such as barring Lula from his appointment as cabinet minister in the absence of an indictment. Time and time, again the judiciary powers have demonstrated a clear political campaign against the PT, largely ignoring corruption in the other political parties. Court officials and prosecutors have largely replaced Cunha as the primary actors in pushing through a possible impeachment of the President.

Media Party: A term being used to describe the mainstream media, signaling its new and prominent role today as a political force allied with the right wing. Central to this “party” is the Rede Globo news channel with its unveiled anti-PT orientation; the channel notoriously supported the military dictatorship in Brazil. A clear example of Rede Globo’s bias was its refusal to cover a protest of 5,000 teachers in Rio de Janeiro and its minimal coverage of pro-PT mobilizations that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets, instead dedicating the entire day to round-the-clock coverage of anti-PT protests. Rede Globo’s political actions without a doubt strengthen the right wing and add fuel to the anti-PT fire.

Eduardo da Cunha (PMDB):

President of the Chamber of Deputies who led the charge for Dilma’s impeachment at the end of 2015. Cunha himself is being investigated by Lava Jato for receiving millions in bribes. Often compared to Frank from House of Cards, he is notorious for blackmailing political leaders. He is also a leader in reactionary politics in Congress, putting forth laws that would further criminalize abortion by increasing punishments for women who seek abortion and for those who assist them.

Odebrecht Scandal: Odebrecht is a Brazilian-based multinational construction company involved in the bribery of politicians. Recently, a list of 300 politicians involved in bribery at Odebrecht was leaked, implicating allthe major political parties. Judge Moro quickly ruled that all investigations into the Odebrecht scandal be closed to the public.

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Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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