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Brazil: austerity, elections and resistance

By: 
Gustavo Monteiro

December 1, 2014

The Worker’s Party (PT) was re-elected in Brazil despite increasing disillusionment. Brazil is pursuing capitalist development at all costs, but it is sparking resistance.
 
The past couple of years have seen mass protests against austerity in Brazil. A local movement in Sao Paulo that was mobilizing people to fight against the public transportation fare increase escalated quickly to a nationwide movement, which also included a variety of other concerns by the population. The government and private sector have worked to attract big events to Brazil like the World Cup, spending billions on stadiums while millions are living in poverty—resulting in a massive wave of protest against government priorities and the police brutality that enforces them. President
 
President Rousseff didn’t open space for a negotiation with the social movements nor defend the protesters over the police brutality that happened during protests, demonstrating how far from a leftist government she is. PT was elected in 2002  in the hopes of an alternative to neoliberalism but they have embraced the market, and as a result their vote has fallen.
 
Mainstream parties
The electoral process in Brazil works in a coalition system in which parties have to make alliances in order to gain power and more representation at the government institutions. There are 32 registered parties in Brazil, according to the Superior Electoral Court, and others that are waiting for an approval. Between these 32 parties, only a few have a majority of seats in Congress, Senate, City Halls and have the power to make decisions. These parties are PT (Worker’s Party), PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party), PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) and DEM (Democrats).
 
PT was launched from a trade union, based in Sao Paulo and led by former president Lula (Luis Inácio Lula da Silva). Considered as a center-left party, PT has been leading the nation since 2003, and the current president is Dilma Rousseff (Brazil’s first woman elected to presidency). PMDB is the largest nation’s party and follows a center-right orientation. Even though this party is numerously significant, it hasn’t run for any presidential election in two decades, surviving only by their alliances with other parties and, eventually, achieving important management positions.
 
PSDB is the center-right rival of PT, but there are hardly any differences any more. PT isn’t following a real progressive agenda and it keeps using social programs created during their government as a trophy—forgetting about other issues as well as its own corruption.
 
Election and the struggle
The mainstream media worked hard against PT to help Aécio Neves from PSDB to win more ground, but PT supporters mobilized to stop him. The real left parties, like PSOL, supported Rousseff with a condition of maintaining strong opposition to her government—based on the argument that it is better having Rousseff as president, with a light liberal agenda, than Neves selling our nation’s resources without any scruples.
 
PT lost more than 4 million votes in the first round, and five per cent of the vote, but still won the election. Rousseff has another chance to redirect her government to a leftist agenda and start working with a real progressive plan. Whether or not she decides to follow this way, PT’s reputation will either change to a better perception or end up with a complete repugnance. But the incoming finance minister, Joaquim Levy—a forming banking executive nicknamed “Scissorhands”—has already promised the cut spending. Rousseff has promised the neoliberal fantasy that “the economy will be balanced to guarantee that we can continue advancing socially,” when it’s clear the economy is only ever balanced on the backs of the poor, undermining social progress.
 
The real hope is in social movements, which in Brazil and across South American countries in general, have been mobilizing and occupying public spaces. More than the political parties, these movements better represent people’s beliefs and promote educational and cultural events where connections are made and ideas are shared, showing how we are able to be the change we want to see.
 
Join the discussion “Austerity, resistance and elections: the view from Brazil,” Sunday December 7 at 5:30 at the Toronto Steel Hall (25 Cecil St).

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