#21 - Brazil’s Trump, But Worse w/ Alex Hochuli
That title isn’t a lie. Brazil is on the cusp of electing Jair Bolsonaro as President, a man who many are calling a fascist.
Alex Hochuli joins me to explain Brazilian politics, the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, what his election means for Brazil and why the most popular politician in Brazil is locked up in prison.
Alex’s podcast Aufhebunga Bunga
That title isn’t a lie. Brazil is on the cusp of electing Jair Bolsonaro as President, a man who many are calling a fascist.
Alex Hochuli joins me to explain Brazilian politics, the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, what his election means for Brazil and why the most popular politician in Brazil is locked up in prison.
Alex’s podcast Aufhebunga Bunga
Speaker 1:0:12My guest on this week's episode of Cable Street is Alex fatuously he's written for Jacobin and is a host of APHA bunga bunga podcasts and global politics. Alex joined me to discuss Brazilian politics and the rise of the far right politician. Airballs Serrano and what his influence and potential win in the upcoming Brazilian elections could mean. For the country of Brazil. BALZ Serano is a far right politician mold of Mayor Ritchey other populist leaders. The difference is his rhetoric and polls he's proposing are far more. Arguably you could say fascist than almost any other leader that that we've covered on the show. So thank you to Alex for coming on we got into the history of Brazilian politics. You know how we got to this point who you airball Serrano is and what led to this rise of power and why Brazil's most popular politician who you'll find out later and Sepp said why he is in jail even though he's the best one who could actually defeat the airball Serrano.
Speaker 2:1:22So thanks again for coming on the show. If you're interested in hearing more please make sure to subscribe to this you get notified whenever we release a new episode. Make sure to subscribe on our website to our newsletter and updates on new shows. Check out Family Compact our show on Canadian politics which episode just dropped I believe yesterday or today. What Brunos is in the future in the past and and if you like what we're doing with this show please consider becoming a cable member you get access to additional perks members only content and you help support the work that we're doing with these shows. So without further ado here is my interview with Alex on Brazilian politics.
Speaker 3:2:07So move forward we like jump into the first round of the election results and what all that means. Lay out the key players in issues in Brazilian politics and maybe maybe explain to listeners how we got to this point where we have someone like Bassano. That's how you pronounce it both Serrano make sure I'm get it. Also Naro Bolsinger are there. Maybe explain just how we get to this point where both NRO is poised poised to win.
Speaker 4:2:35Okay so I mean I guess the way I normally explain these things is do a potted history of the past five years because that's where it starts. So I mean you had Peetie being elected in 2002 and they governed for 11 years until 2013. With things kind of going relatively well. The economy was booming. You know Brazil probably had its best period in its history in terms of being both a democracy and seeing economic growth and general material improvement for the majority. What happens in 2013 though is that you get this sudden unexpected mass protests on the streets.
Speaker 5:3:11It starts with a focused around free a kind of autonomous group calling for free transport. But because of heavy police repression it explodes into a really mass movement. You know millions across the street across the country and which brings in a whole range of different demands democratic demands you know kind of social democratic demands for schools for hospitals. Stop spending money on the World Cup spend money on hospitals. If we have world class stadiums why can't we have world class hospitals. But also this demand around corruption focusing on kind of a way of interpreting politics through the Master Frame of corruption.
Speaker 4:3:50They are all corrupt. That's why things are bad and slowly the right is able to take hold of this. So over the course of 2013 2014 by the time 2015 rolls around you've got a lot of these street demonstrations really narrowly focused on corruption and focused singularly on the team. I'm going to say Peetie from here on in. I mean the Workers Party but I can't remember to say Worker's Party in English some of them say no worries and feel that's a left wing center left party right that's leftwing center left party which is based in the trade unions and social movements and left wing parts of the Catholic Church. But by the time it had been in government for a long time it had become sort of ossified its social base had become demobilized as a lot of the kind of activists had been brought into government and civil service and so on.
Speaker 4:4:40So it had been sort of demobilized as a sort of active left wing force. It had become a left wing centre left party of government. And so that's why it gets completely caught by surprised by the June 2013 protests and doesn't react especially well to it it has a sort of ambiguous response. And so and you know the left is unable to take hold of this moment really partly because it's part of it is defending peaty and government. The other part which is extra BTS takes a whole range of positions onto which you could get into the kind of left sectary onea about this but but maybe it's best not to. But what happens in 2014 is you have this very tightly contested election in which the centre right the peace DBI party which is the party of social democracy in Brazil but which has really become a basically a center right neo liberal party and they don't accept the election results a fiercely contested.
Speaker 4:5:34They think there's been fraud which already lays the grounds for the kind of rancor that we see today. 2015 2016 these massive antipoverty protests under the banner of anti-corruption which leads to Jumah who's being deposed in an illegitimate illegitimate impeachment which not just that but the whole process leading up to it and what came after leads us to call it a soft coup or a parliamentary coup because it posed a hurdle in you know it through illegitimate means and they implement a program which is which has been rejected at the polls three times over four times over and in a really harsh neoliberal program which involves a 20 year constitutional limit on spending which basically kill health and education spending. No other country in the world has ever tried this. I think the nearest example is they tried in Holland which was a five year thing.
Speaker 4:6:28So it's really brutal and you know it's especially absurd I think at a moment in which the world as a whole is turning away from neoliberalism to kind of bring this into Brazil as a kind of latter day after the fact kind of thing is really insane. So you get the impeachment and you then get one and a half years of an absolutely disastrous post coup government led by Michel Temer of the kind of centrist centre right. PM DBI now MDC party. We love our acronyms in Brazil are to follow. But it's it's a party which is basically a big morass of a centrist party with exists just to remain in power. It'll ally with the left align with the right. There's never been a government in Brazil which hasn't featured the MBB despite the fact that they've never stood for election in a presidential election until this year.
Speaker 5:7:20And you know if you want to talk if you want to get a picture of what Brazilian institutional politics is especially in a kind of parliamentary congressional sense is that you have like 30 parties in Congress now and the vast majority of them are not ideological they're cold physiological parties in Brazil. There are things that exist just to perpetuate power. Their cartel parts I guess technically speaking their cartel parties right so that they they have their own local bases perhaps in kind of local you know local dignitaries you know in various states across Brazil but really have no ideology and will just act as vehicles for power. And so you know you can kind of understand the kind of right some of the aspects of the anti-corruption anti-corruption protests anti-corruption sentiment because it's like yea these guys should be removed from power. But the fact was that that whole anti-corruption movement ended up being narrowly focused on the Workers Party as like as somehow the Worker's Party being a gang which has taken over the state and has corrupted it like as if the Brazilian state was kind of fine before was kind of democratic and fair.
Speaker 5:8:31And now this kind of crazed band of leftwing thieves and radicals has taken over the state which is completely contrary to facts because it's. You know the party in power has become as been a very moderate tumah party which has ruled which has gone through very orthodox macro economic policies but with some mild redistribution in my opinion they didn't go far enough. But you know the kind of rhetoric from the right which is now being called you know into Pichi is Y.A. Worker's Party sentiment is completely not. It doesn't relate at all to the object of the Worker's Party as it is anyway. So yeah sorry go ahead.
Speaker 6:9:11I was just going to say the corruption aspect is quite interesting because we saw with the I'm not sure how much you were following up the Mexican election we saw Lopez Obrador really use that as his sort of you know left wing party use that as a tool for him to get in the government. So is the corruption aspect is that something new that sort of happened just recently in Brazil or is that sort of a long running a long running issue because it seems that you know different parties around the southern hemisphere are using it using it in different ways for wind power.
Speaker 5:9:44Right. And you know the politics of anti-corruption which something that I've written about friends have written about is something we discussed quite a lot looking at all the examples that you can bring in. It's a very dangerous sort of weapon to yield because it can be turned in various different directions. You know traditionally it was a kind of left wing sort of agenda around anti-corruption. You know it's like elites are corrupt you know they're all in it together and we want to take them out. But what happens is that you get a development of a kind of right wing version of anti-corruption politics which really can be summarized in the terms of transparency so rather than trying to keep business interests out of a new supposedly neutral Republican sphere of government which is driven by virtue and the public interest. What you get is a vision of corruption or anti-corruption which tries to make business work fluidly without government intervening too much.
Speaker 5:10:41So it kind of flips things on its head and that's what you know agencies like Transparency International tend to who focus on and who focus on corruption around the world. That's their kind of framing of what corruption is. So it's kind of an inversion of more traditional understandings or left wing understandings of what corruption is. So you know you really have to look at the details that are concrete and social bases which it relies upon what the rhetoric is what the discourse is to understand what anti-corruption you're wielding right. In Brazil there's always been a sense that Brazil's exceptionally corrupt and we need to get rid of that and actually the Worker's Party was the ethical party when it was in opposition and when it comes into power in 2002 there were lots of people even amongst the kind of liberal middle classes who are now people who will probably be voting for Bolzano in the second round would maybe have voted peaty or would have acted as a party which is like well at least it's going clean up politics and unfortunately it got kind of swallowed up by the machine.
Speaker 5:11:45So already in 2005 you had a massive corruption scandal called me Salone or the big monthly payments scandal where there was no cash for votes scandal basically led by Peetie and so that already led to the creation of a breakoff left wing party called Pessoal Party of Socialism and liberty which we know that kind of spurred on its growth because it was a kind of like oh we've we've had enough we've seen that this party which we believe in has now been kind of that's now been sort of swallowed up by the system. So you know I guess you could say that his biggest failure.
Speaker 4:12:21I think in this is my opinion. Like their biggest failure was not pursuing political reform while it had the chance while it was in power because it would have weakened its enemies. It would have destroyed a lot of the machinery of corruption in Brazilian politics and it would have made a lot of enemies as well for it and it might have been but it maybe didn't have the daring to really do that to really see that through and that was that's the biggest problem I think of Petey's rule that it didn't weaken its enemies sufficiently.
Speaker 6:12:49What's the role of of business in corporations in in causing this sort of political situation that we see today. They do they wield an outsized amount of influence in where the Brazilian politics has arrived at.
Speaker 5:13:04Yeah I mean I don't want to you know I think I really reject the kind of conspiratorial sort of narratives or brainwashing sort of narratives.
Speaker 4:13:12And in terms of what people's you know the kind of great masses feelings on this like there's good reasons or reasons to be explained why they end up voting for the right or vote for even vote for neofascist. But there definitely is a lot of input from you know big business in Brazil so you know the big media conglomerate Globo which is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world they really channeled a lot of the sentiment around. So all the when all the corruption investigation started happening exposing peaty they directed a lot of that coverage or around towards Peetie right. So a lot of the whenever there was a center right you know well-known politician who got ensnared in the corruption vacillations that wouldn't be reported on or not near to the same extent as would be report on the PD and all that kind of you know that kind of framing stuff.
Speaker 5:14:04Although framing work was done by them when the when the economy took a nosedive around 20 yo around 2015 the business community went on an investment strike and tried to get GM out of power.
Speaker 4:14:20So that made things worse. She also started to implement she basically I mean this is that this is the tragedy of it. Her second government. So as of 2015 onwards facing this really difficult economic situation because it's the end of the commodities boom and everything that had driven the Brazilian economy forward until then was you know it was no longer really there to the same extent. The anti-corruption investigations had put a freeze on a lot of public works and building programs because a lot of the the the kind of main companies which were ensnared in the corruption investigations as well as better bribes the mostly state owned oil company. You also had lots of construction companies involved in it and the anti-corruption investigation put a freeze on all of that. So you know that leads to a really big economic slowdown greater unemployment and then the a lot of businesses just kind of put a freeze on investment as well.
Speaker 4:15:12So that investment strike really puts the economy into a nosedive and they all then supported the anti the the impeachment moves or whatever move that they could to get to get Jumah out to get the Worker's Party out and actually impeach him was me that was settled upon quite late in the game. There wasn't some kind of there's a certain narrative on certain sections of the left which holds that this was all a plot. So from 2013 onwards this was all a big part probably led by the United States to get rid of the workers party because they were this radical party and they wanted them out so that they could privatize oil companies and take control like that isn't that narrative. Or it isn't a big plot like yes there is conspiracy but it's conspiracy at a much smaller level and it's much more off the cuff.
Speaker 4:16:02So measures are they yet they want to get them out. And then you know these protests emerge and the like oh shit we should make use of this of these big protests. We should try to channel them in in ways which are favorable to our interests. Oh let's try to get the slate on which Juma was elected. Let's get that Slate outlawed because of legal funding. That didn't work. So then they settled on impeachment as a move to get her out. You know it's an emergent sort of process. In fact the whole soft coup or parliamentary coup I would describe it more as a process than an event. It's kind of they're making it up as they go along. And you know if the Brazilian elite had the had the foresight to actually construct this whole big part over a number of years Brazil would actually be in better state. The fact is they're they're not fit to rule. They don't have the capacity to have such long term forward planning.
Speaker 6:16:53It's easy to believe there's a grand conspiracy when it's just a matter of a bunch of little little things happening.
Speaker 3:16:59Exactly. No I do want to touch on that a little bit more with Dilma Rousseff and impeachment and so when I was watching this happen many you know when the issues are going on and the issues around the silver I sort of was getting my news from certain sources and the frame at which it was talked about certainly seemed to imply there was something nefarious going on you know that they were breaking the rules or doing such things and I think that was more of a function of the media diet that I used to used to be interested in listening to and you know having read more about it recently and everything else there seems to be different stories at play about what was going on and maybe if we can talk a little bit about you know how to solve ended up in jail and those sort of players before we move on to the current situation. I'd love to know a little bit more about you know those two and what happened and how this all transpired.
Speaker 5:17:54Yeah I mean I guess to start with Lulu is you know the greatest left wing leader Brazil has had. It's also probably the greatest president it's had. There's maybe one other you could you could consider for that sort of greatness. And I think that I would hold the position simultaneously that he's a political prisoner and also that he's not innocent. So I think the I mean just to deal with the case against him specifically I mean it was very clear from early on that said Joe Moro who's the guy the magistrate leading the investigations leading the anti-corruption investigations known as a carwash investigations Lobato in Portuguese which really began around 2014. They made the case against him or the case brought against him.
Speaker 4:18:49It was decided that he was going to be taken down. There was a famous PowerPoint that came out around 2016.
Speaker 5:18:54This was a big presentation that one of the investigators did which was like this ridiculous PowerPoint which looked like it was made by like kind of I don't know a high school student with like a bunch of arrows with Lula's name in the middle. And like all pointing at him like trying to frame him as the mastermind of this huge corruption scheme and you know it's just fanciful. There's no there is no basis for that. On the other hand to think that he is and that he hasn't been involved in kind of the channeling of funds from the overbilling of construction companies or at least that he didn't know what was going on I think it's also absurd. So I don't think he personally gain from it. I don't think he's personally corrupt he didn't pocket money from this. I don't think. But to assert that he has it wasn't corrupted in some sense I think is also not correct.
Speaker 4:19:45And you know Jumah likewise you know she was chairwoman of the robotized while this whole thing was going on. So you know the oil company which was involved in all of this overbilling and over invoicing to construction companies and kickbacks and all this kind of stuff. To think that she was involved in that I think that just doesn't hold up and you know there's some kind of people within the Worker's Party who insist on their innocence and I know look innocent. No but victims of persecution.
Speaker 7:20:10Also yes a bit of both type situation.
Speaker 5:20:14Exactly. And so the case that eventually landed Lula in jail has to do with the fact that he supposedly received a reforms and a two a three story a triplex beachfront apartment triplex you know it's not the fanciest thing in the world it's one of the fanciest places in the world either in a kind of great scheme of corruption cases in Brazil or even abroad. This is like relatively small fry right. Like to give you another example just for a bit of color. One of the 2014 candidate who ran up against the workers party and ended up losing a second round runoff of the center right PCB. Inlands pertaining to him. A helicopter carrying 450 kilograms of cocaine landed there.
Speaker 3:21:03So definitely color commentary.
Speaker 4:21:07So you know like the Lula thing is a pretty small fry if he is indeed guilty of it but you know they won. They couldn't find any material proof. It's all circumstantial and all based in plea bargains and there's nothing materially tying him to that property. His name not on his wife's name not on it. It was claimed that this was given to him by a construction company in return for undetermined acts. So it was a favor by him but they can determine what favors it was for and they can't tie him directly to the apartment. So even one of the leading conservative commentators in Brazil and who is very very hostile to the workers party even he admitted in a recent column saying you know this is a bit persecution. I think he's guilty. But like you can't bring this case against him because it's there's not enough material evidence there.
Speaker 4:21:54Nevertheless he finds himself in jail. He did wasn't even allowed to go through his whole appeals process while remaining out of jail. I mean the main. So you know this is why I say he's a political prisoner because it's very clear that the motive there to keep him out of the election to keep him in jail to keep up stop him from campaigning. They stopped him giving interviews which even kind of massive drug gang leaders are able to give interviews from jail. Lula was prohibited from doing so because of course of his influence. You know he's immensely popular he remains immensely popular.
Speaker 5:22:25So and you know would would have won this election maybe the first round already certainly would be an odds on to win in the second round if he were running. So you know taking such a popular leader out of the race on such flimsy grounds how else not to conclude that he's a political prisoner not just an ordinary criminal.
Speaker 6:22:43So maybe just for context sake is is what he's being accused of that much different than what goes on in Brazilian politics outside of it I guess I'm just wondering is is it seems like the corruption is a common issue.
Speaker 7:22:58So again it sounds like this is a target as you said sort of a targeted move by people to put him behind jails.
Speaker 6:23:06Was that a fair characterization. It sounds like he may have done something wrong. But in the grand scheme of things when you look at other politicians is this sort of how Brazilian politics operates. I guess I'm trying to give listeners context about about the Sudan situation.
Speaker 5:23:21Yeah no. I mean it is in politics is very corrupt and a lot of the means in which you gain power I mean you know to put it this way like there's loads of something like a third of Congress is under investigation and they all tried to run again so as to maintain parliamentary immunity so they can't be prosecuted. Tammar president President illegitimate president Temer who took over from Jumah whosever once he was impeached. When he took over officially in August 2016 he in the short period that he was in office all his ministers practically were under investigation. He lost a ton of ministers right at the beginning. He himself faced two impeachment trials for much more serious charges than then. What Lula has been accused of and he survived them because he paid off all of Congress basically to vote for him and to save his own ass.
Speaker 4:24:15So at the level of the level of graft it's quite serious. It's a means of kind of demoralizing the system you know of. It's a brake against change. Because you have these local cronies as are called like local colonels but they're not you know not in a military sense but they're kind of local local big men in different states you know who perpetuate themselves in power and the unfortunately the Brazilian constitution which was drawn up after you know at the point of Ridhima ization 30 years ago and didn't do enough to remove them from power.
Speaker 5:24:50It kind of maintained these institutional structures. So you know Brazilian politics will without serious political reform remain corrupt.
Speaker 7:25:00It's a feature of the system rather than a bug.
Speaker 5:25:03Well yeah exactly I think that's right. And it's certainly not a product of individual malfeasance or that you know that bad people corrupt what is otherwise a good system you know and that's the problem with a lot of the moralistic narrative around corruption that's emerged over the past couple of years that it just thinks that these are inherently bad people and if you vote them out you get rid of them. Then things will be better. And I you know to kind of bring us to Toboso nado a lot of people voted I think with that in mind you know that these are people that I think so one point of one point of fact it is important to highlight what is such a surprise about of election now or rather the first round is that not only was he did he get 46 percent of the vote nearly one directly in the first round but he brought a huge amount of people with him into Congress both from his absolutely tiny nothing party as well as people from a couple of other parties who supported him.
Speaker 5:26:02This is something which is unique in Brazilian political history at least you know since the democratization in 1989 that a presidential election brings so many people in with him and so a lot of bad old dogs of politics got kicked out homemade. One guy just as an example who's a senator and Homero Juka who's like been involved in government. Like there's not been a government without him basically. Brazil he just he's one of these old dogs who's a backroom dealer and incredibly corrupt. And you know it is as you know has actual blood on his hands in terms of probably kind of calling for you know kind of calling for massacres in the deep interior to clear out land. You know so.
Speaker 4:26:52So this is a guy who was caught on tape and who recorded saying we need to get Huma out to stop the bleeding i.e. to stop the anti-corruption investigations. So rather than Jumah being deposed because she was corrupt she was deposed because she was supporting the anti-corruption investigations. This is a guy who has been caught on you know caught on record you know saying this. So he's been voted out which is great. The problem is is that for every one of these guys who's been voted out of this election a kind of Bosso audiotape type has been voted in who will end up being just as corrupt but also even more violent more authoritarian.
Speaker 6:27:27Yeah. Can you paint listeners a picture of what those NRO is like because we were talking about this before but I think you know the media paint him as a Donald Trump type character. But in some ways it sounds like he's actually much worse than that.
Speaker 4:27:41Yeah he I mean just to give a brief kind of biographical snap he was you went to the top military academy. He was actually discharged because he gave an interview saying showing plans to carry out a terrorist attack within the equivalent of kind of a West Point military academy in Brazil. Right. A terrorist attack to protest low pay for the military. So even within the context of the military establishment he's seen as a radical. There was I think something that's come out recently when the dictator generals from you know during the dictatorship was very critical of him I think at some point in the early 90s saying this guy just totally not trustworthy he's a radical he's kind of not one of us. So even a military dictator thought he was too radical. And you know he's been in Congress for like 28 years and only has something like two bills to his name.
Speaker 4:28:31So he's not read which is the mad thing that he's posing as an outsider being able to being incorruptible. And you know there are no major corruption cases against him although you know he has made a lot of money off real estate and while he's been in power you know he's he has like a fantasy housekeeper he hired and stuff like that. It's not like there's there's not no corruption against her but in this again in the scheme of things there's no massive cases against him. You know he's personally homophobic racist misogynistic. You can read all the statements. Basically any report in international media about him will mention what he said.
Speaker 5:29:07And you know it is really horrific it's much worse than anything that Donald Trump has said. And you know I am someone who would be very reluctant to use the term fascist you know flippantly I don't use that as an insult. And you know but after considering who he is what he's calling for what his aims are. I think he's a neo fascist. So I think what makes him that. It's a term that I wouldn't use for example for Trump or even Marine Le Pen in France is that he's the nucleus of his thinking of his movement in embryo is a desire to crush the organized working class and the left which is something that isn't a feature in the other cases.
Speaker 4:29:57So yes he's extremely authoritarian. He wants to know him in his law and order policies basically amount to kill the poor basically have total police impunity. And this isn't the case in a situation in which there are already hundreds of thousands of murders in Brazil. About 10 you know 60000 murders in Brazil a year. Only something like 7 percent of murders are resolved. The police kills thousands directly and you know that probably understates it because you know the numbers aren't fully known. And so the police already has a huge degree of impunity in an already escalating the violence situation.
Speaker 5:30:32So to have someone like that in power even if they don't materially change any laws even before they do anything like that it already empowers these forces to feel like they can act with impunity. You also have a green militia movement you know in in favelas in Brazil you have militia of X or off duty policemen or even military who collect rents on it in exchange for protection that the leaders of these militias live in you know live in kind of mansions or penthouse apartments and don't you might not even be involved in the kind of local work in favelas. But you know there's actual militias operating who are probably more dangerous than the drug gangs you know because the drug gangs are just focused on the traffic and sale of drugs. Naturally the militias are probably end up being operating almost as a sort of Paris state organization. And so they're much more dangerous and if you want to talk about the bases for a potential future fascism you know that's it. These are the kind these would be the kind of paramilitaries if you want to be if you want to kind of plot this out. And I don't like to scaremonger I really don't. But you know if we want to work out how what kind of Brazilian neo fascism in 2013 looks like you know these are the basis of it.
Speaker 6:31:48Why. Why is he so popular or is it just the anti-corruption angle or is there other things in play that have just created this situation that has allowed him to rise as you said he's been around for a while but this is sort of. Was there any sort of catalyst that caused this or is it just all the all the different sort of factors. We've been talking about to play.
Speaker 5:32:09I mean he's got he has an image already for the past five years or something probably longer. But as the kind of the end well I mean really in light of the major anti-corruption discourse that really emerge around 2014 2015. So you know we're talking over a period the past three four years. He's emerged as a figure like the incorruptible the authoritarian strongman who won't be corrupted and that has really seen his support grow. I think the best way to think about it is to look at it as kind of layers of an onion and look at who supports him because I don't I don't think all his supporters are fascists. I don't think a majority of his supporters are a fascist. I don't even think a significant portion of his supporters are fascists. But we have to then examine OK so who are they.
Speaker 5:32:54What are they at the nucleus. Yes there is a third Tarion pro dictatorship pro kind of kill the poor supporters amongst the middle class and upper middle class. But that's a very small proportion. You then have the kind of culture wars conservatives mainly based around the evangelical churches who are scared you know. For example there was this kind of fake news that circulated on what's up. What's up is incredibly popular in Brazil. Everybody is on whatsapp and all these kind of fake news chains circulate with increasing velocity. And this is a big factor in this election. So there's one thing that the worker's party wanted to give. I can't say this without laughing. To give what you call them like best breast feeding milk bottles. Right. But with a penis on the end they wanted to give that to children. Or that the state was going to take control over children and sexually and you know there's all these narratives around sexualization of children that you know that that that they're going to turn the kids gay all this kind of stuff. So there's this very very right wing conservative culture wars sort of discourse happening really led by the evangelical churches.
Speaker 6:34:11And so a lot of those have a gender aspect at play too it sounds like.
Speaker 5:34:14Oh yeah totally totally. And so that whole that whole is another banlieu it's another layer of the onion. You then get very hostile and she does read people who are just really hostile to the workers party. You know to the extent that it's such a blind hatred that it's completely disconnected from the object of the workers party as a party with policies with programs with the social base wherever it has nothing to do with that it may mean something else it works on the symbolic plane and that loathing thing is really amongst the middle class and the upper middle class and those are other supporters of both SONANDO. I mean so if you want to look at those so those are the three main layers of the Onion. But then there's a whole other bunch of people who voted for him who don't fit into any of those but who just seen both Sonando someone who will you know make Brazil great again if you one who will be seen that it will see him not even him as a person but his name basically as bringing in something new something.
Speaker 5:35:17Well you know it can't get any worse. He might clean things up at least. It's a change from the old same corrupt things you know and it's not really based on any of his concrete policies it's not really based on an understanding of who he is. And you know there's even and this even includes people who are part of the working class and you know the working class in terms of more organized sections of the world more formal working class who might be gay who might be black who might be women but who would vote for him even despite those things.
Speaker 4:35:51This isn't the majority of his support. But I'm just pointing out the fact that it is cross-class and cross gender across race. It is across society that you will find support for him in varying degrees. And so it might be people who you would say to be you know how recent years look what he said about about black people look what he said about gay people that he would rather his son died than his son be gay.
Speaker 5:36:15You know what does your dad. Would you what would your what would you say to one of your sons dating a black person. Oh no they are too well brought up to do that. You know things like that that he said and then kind of go Well look but yeah I don't care. I'd rather have I'd rather have him and clean have him clean things up then have more division and mess that the Worker's Party is created.
Speaker 7:36:36That's interesting. And how how likely do you think. I guess two questions. One we just had the results and he you said got 46 percent. So first question is like how. How likely is he to to win the next round. And I guess the second question is how likely is he to actually accomplish the agenda his agenda that he's laid forth or even accomplish the rhetorical things that he's emphasized. Both from a policy standpoint as well as sort of just you know the rhetoric that he's using right now.
Speaker 5:37:14Unfortunately I think that it's very likely that he wins the second round. The kind of the whole the whole Democratic camp which will be led by Peetie has a huge task on its hands. Because you know that that first round was really significant that the scale of that vote on the other hand if you were to break it down in numbers 50 million does a broad brush it's not exactly the correct numbers but to give you a kind of easy numbers to remember 50 million people voted for both. Not all 100 million did not. Of those 100 million one third voted for Dodge. One third voted for other parties. One third abstained or voted blank or no. Especially those abstentions which was about 20 percent of the electorate. Those will be people who will maybe be motivated to vote in the second round because it's a very clear decision.
Speaker 5:38:06They don't have to vote for senators and deputies and all the rest. It's just you know the presidential action they can go in and vote for that. So you know there is a possibility to still turn this around but I think it will need to and I think from what I've seen in the past 24 hours Fernando a dodge and the direction because I think focusing on his homophobia racism misogyny doesn't work because people either know that and know that or don't care or are so opposed to that I already wouldn't vote for him. So but you know not vote for him doesn't mean I will vote for the candidate necessarily because of so much anti Pichi NTPC sentiment certainly amongst the less organized sections of society right. So beyond the organized working class.
Speaker 5:38:58So I think from what I've seen is already striking the right tone. He's saying you know Bolson out as a traditional politician he's not new. He's been there for 28 years and has done nothing and pulls out a neo liberal. We're going to build a welfare society. He's going to take away your rights. His running mate who's up. Who's a who's a military general and has a complete Loose Cannon has the capacity to say some idiotic things. So you know I hope that he he. The more airtime he gets the better because he said just before the election he said something along. He said Oh yeah I've got beautiful grandkids that's racial whitening for you. You know in a country where 50 54 percent of the population is not is not brown or black you know by official by official measures. And there's already 50 50 percent of the population is non-white.
Speaker 5:39:49I meant to say. And so and he's also said we're going to take the 13th salary the 13th century something which is unique to Brazil but which has existed for for decades which is that at the end of the year you get a kind of Christmas Bonus bonus you get your you get your monthly salary paid again. Take that away it would be very very unpopular. So focusing on things like that has a lot more capacity to gain support than focusing on the kind of culture war stuff which already you know the kind of let's say identity in cases of gender and race.
Speaker 5:40:27So and also to show up as a bit of a coward and a liar because he didn't show up at any of the presidential debates other than the first one of course he was stabbed and unable to turn up for a lot of that. But but even toward at the last debate where he totally could have turned up he didn't and instead gave an interview to a different radio different TV station which oddly the electoral courts allowed to go through. They allowed that to happen which is you know totally absurd but. So you know there's still a lot of race to run. There's three weeks to go but it will be a huge uphill struggle. And you know the evangelical church as you know the growth of evangelism is a massive deal in Brazil. I think they expect that by the next census in 2020 Catholics will no longer be the majority in Brazil.
Speaker 5:41:16Evangelism has grown you know hundreds of percent over the past 10 years. You know and that's kind of just as an aside I think shows a failure of the left in terms of its base grassroots organizing that in areas which should have had a trade union branch had been affiliated to the worker's party and through the peer to the worker's party in government. The demobilization of its base let evangelical churches kind of stream into into working class areas. And so that's really transformed them Brazilian culture actually and it is a major factor in both and out of support. You know Ziad on WhatsApp all the evangelical pastors urging support for Bolson Idol saying things about like that you know penis shaped baby bottles are going to be given to your kids if you vote for me. You know you have to vote for for Bolson Otto. He's a moral guy and whatever despite threatened to kill his ex. At one point over over child support payments.
Speaker 6:42:19So it is as a side note I made some of these conversations I've had about different parties in different countries. A lot of them have you know mood shifted and we end up talking a little bit about the digital piece and the rise of WhatsApp and Facebook and rest these groups and online social networks in increasing polarization and the effect on political parties and political actors. How has it sound like WhatsApp is a key system there for political movements and other things. Is there any I guess my question is like how much of an effect has that. And you know Whatsapp and other social networks and on the political system and how you know where we're at today.
Speaker 4:43:01Yeah I think it's telling that when before the election everyone was talking about the is to be the center right candidate. Have you a really good chance in this election because he has the most TV time because of his coalition of parties they get allocated according to how many seats they have in Congress. And so he was going to have like 60 minutes of TV time versus two minutes for the Workers Party and less for everyone else.
Speaker 5:43:22And yet it counted for nothing. He pulled 5 percent which is the lowest ever you know lowest ever resulted in a presidential election for the center right main center right party. So that is already an indication that you know that the traditional means of communication TV and radio and newspapers matter a lot less than social media. And you know as to the fake news thing I think it's I don't think you know that fake news is like a motive factor it doesn't cause things. I think we're not victims of fake news we're complicit in it. And you know Brazilian society for various kinds of historical cultural reasons has been led to a point where there is a massive trust deficit and you know if you look at kind of Pew research on this or any kind of social surveys on levels of trust in different societies Brazil has a very low level of trust.
Speaker 5:44:13So everything is very much based on interpersonal trust communication and so on. So if you know someone who who recommend someone you're definitely going to trust them because more abstract or impersonal systems are not trusted. So there's a lot of bureaucracy that comes in to fill that void. You know you need public signatures authorize you know you can't just unofficial means you can't just sign something you need to go to a Special Bureau which authorizes that signature. You need lots of documentation. So all this bureaucracy around you know mistrust. And I think it's in that situation which fake news can flourish because you don't trust big institutions big anonymous impersonal institutions over there you trust. You know people stuff that's forwarded on by your family. Stuff that's fought on by your evangelical pastor. And so it's more these more more direct interpersonal forms of communication which which which come to be more trusted.
Speaker 7:45:07That's interesting. It's easier to be a common thread in a lot of places that are having political difficulties so interesting year that Brazil is also experiencing that and needing less attention ventilated than elsewhere.
Speaker 6:45:19Yeah. Yeah you've as you were generous your time. So last question. Passaro is is the likely winner. What's the likelihood that he'll be able to accomplish his agenda and I civilly wondering like in the context of the Brazilian system of governance and electoral politics. What
Speaker 7:45:42are the conditions there which he would be able to accomplish what he's talking about here. Well certain things hold him back from doing the worst type of stuff that he's talking about.
Speaker 5:45:53Well I guess you know the kind of best case scenario of Bolson nado being president is that he faces you know of a very fragmented Congress there's 30 parties in Congress you know. And although his own party the PSL which used to be a nothing party and has suddenly got 50 50 seats in the Congress you know that that that he's just unable to pass bills he's unable to pass the constitutional amendments the kind of antidemocratic constitutional amendment that he'd undoubtedly try to see through. I mean you know more scarily that is you know he tries to get left wing political parties bad and social movements band. I think that's a kind of reasonable fear to have. I don't know how likely it would be to happen but that Yegi encounters an uncooperative Congress that he suddenly realizes it has to be paid off that things don't advance economically and that that starts building a lot of resistance to him from you know organized or organized working class from the left that he tries to you know carry see through even greater austerity privatizations and so on very unpopular pension reform and that he just meets a lot of resistance.
Speaker 5:47:08The problem is is that and this is where the best case scenario can lead to the worst case scenario very quickly which is that there's already a section of the military top brass some of whom are direct advisers to him who have already indicated that if things become ungovernable that if there's a situation of anarchy however they wish to define that that they would see through a military coup. I think it's undoubted that he's already going to bring in a lot of top military brass as ministers. And so there could be a kind of a soft coup a kind of through the back door. Q But there's also the possibility that a kind of greater situation of ungovernability and if there's any further deterioration in terms of public security that that could prompt a military coup. I think the military itself is probably quite divided as to whether it actually wants to rule.
Speaker 5:47:55There's large sections of it who don't we just see them who see their own role as maintainers of order. And it would really be as a last resort. But there are other sections to think well you know enough is enough. We need to come in and clean things up. And that's it's quite scary. So even if he loses there's still I think a very serious risk of a coup. I mean even journalists as kind of conservative and tied to American foreign policy interests as the Americas Quarterly recently put out has put out articles talking very seriously about these scenarios. You know that that you could see a military coup in one form or another whether or not a frightening is the best case scenario is still really terrible.
Speaker 6:48:36No kidding. Oh my god. Great. Well Alex thank you for your time. I always find like we focus a lot on the western world and not enough on what's going on in the rest of the world. So you know you guys are all doing really interesting work and I will include in the show notes links to your articles and other readings because they think you know there's not enough attention paid to this stuff. So again thanks for thanks for coming on the show.
Speaker 5:49:01Thanks very much. My pleasure.
Speaker 8:49:06That does it for my interview with Alex. Alex thanks again for coming on. If you're listening really appreciated the interview and if you again if you support our work please consider subscribing to this podcast episode in the hour podcast shows that we do want to be producing another episode next week which I think you will enjoy about immigration. So look forward to during that then we'll talk to you soon and thanks again for listening.