Attempted coup in Brazil
Conflict over the structures of the world-system
On Sunday, January 8, 2023, there was what the Latin America press has been calling an attempted coup d’état in Brazil. Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro invaded and occupied three institutions of the federal government—the National Congress, the Supreme Court, and the administrative center of the executive branch—committing acts of violence and vandalism. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva authorized federal intervention in the district to regain control of the institutions. Police were able to remove followers of Bolsonaro, without the use of force, from a nearby camp from which the assaults were launched. Some 1,200 persons were arrested. Some followers of Bolsonaro had previously rejected the assumption of power by Lula and had called for military intervention.
The seizing of buildings, even buildings of governmental power, is not in and of itself a coup d’etat. If a mob seizes the Supreme Court building, for example, this does not mean that the mob has the capacity to replace high members of the Court and assume authority over the Court. It simply disrupts the activities of the Court, which could, if necessary, meet in another building.
In the unconventional wars of today’s world political climate, such mob action is often the first step in a coup d’etat. If mob action can be sustained for days and weeks, it can be a pretext for intervention in the civil-political order by the forces of security (the armed forces and the police), with the support of foreign imperialists.
In the case of Sunday’s action in Brazil, the mob action has already failed as a coup. On the day of the action, many prominent politicians in the Bolsonaro camp condemned the action. No one wants to be associated with something that is perceived as a failure. Significantly, the U.S. administration expressed support for the government of Brazil, and Joe Biden invited Lula to visit the White House.
The “attempted coup” is a reflection of the profound ideological divisions that exist in America today. Since the final years of the twentieth century, there has emerged in Latin America a wave of popular indignation with respect to the negative socioeconomic consequences of the imposition of neoliberal policies by core governments and international finance agencies, which has given rise to the emergence of parties and governments proclaiming for socialism and/or for an agenda of progressive social change. Lula is a major symbol of the Latin American forces for change. At the same time, supported by the U.S. launching of unconventional wars in Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, there has emerged in reaction a Latin America Right that supports the preservation of an order directed by the Latin American estate bourgeoisie and by regional industrial and commercial interests that are subordinated to U.S. capital. Jair Bolsonaro is a symbol of the post-2014 reaction of the Latin American Right.
It is an ideological and political division that pertains to all of Latin America. The forces for constructive social change probably have a thin majority of support. In terms of objective conditions, the program of progressive change ought to have the support of some 65% of the people; however, the forces for change have not responded as effectively as they might to the distortions and manipulations of the reactionary Right.
On the other hand, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba have responded impressively to the new forms of imperialist aggression since 2014. These governments are seen as legitimate by a solid majority of their peoples, in spite of the economic and political aggression against them by U.S. imperialism.
The ideological division in Latin America has intensified since the breakout of military conflict in Ukraine. The U.S. imperialist aggression against Russia has accelerated the process of constructing an alternative world order based on win-win cooperation and mutually beneficial change, led by China and Russia. Now that Lula has returned to the presidency, Brazil will likely again play a leading role in the construction of an alternative, more cooperative order in the region and in the world. This is one of the reasons that the USA and the Latin American Right are opposed to Lula.
In an article in Granma on January 9, Cuban journalist Raúl Antonio Capote maintains that the U.S. empire has to unmake at all costs a leader like Lula, in order to distance Brazil from BRICS, to impede Latin American integration, to privatize banks and services, to deepen control of the immense natural wealth of the country, and to prevent the application again of public policies that benefitted millions of Brazilians during the governments of the Workers’ Party. Capote describes Bolsonaro as the Messiah of the rich and the powerful, who like his mentor Trump, is xenophobic, misogynous, homophobic, and intolerant, and who uses the social networks to disseminate fake news. During the administration of Bolsonaro, Brazil was accepted by the USA as a special extra-NATO defense ally.
Granma reports that the Pope, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the European Union, CELAC, and ALBA-TCP have expressed support for Lula, as have the presidents of Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, France, and Portugal, among others.
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