Brazil turns to the right
The credibility of the Workers’ Party has been undermined, just when the neoliberal conservatives are on the offensive and social regression looms.
Brazil’s conservatives, after losing four consecutive presidential elections to the Workers’ Party (PT) since 2002, have managed to reorganise, overthrow President Dilma Rousseff and replace her with her former vice-president Michel Temer. This manoeuvre, of more than dubious legality. would have been less easily accomplished if the PT had not made so many mistakes. It gave up courting popular support; formed repeated alliances with different sectors of the right (some of which later worked to overthrow it); and chose to respond to the economic crisis with austerity, at the risk of worsening social discontent. These decisions have made it hard to produce an adequate response to the right’s offensive.
Temer has set to work without delay. His prescription combines unbridled economic liberalism with militant political conservatism. His first decisions herald social regression on a scale unprecedented in Brazil’s recent history.
The makeup of his government suggests that diversity and equality are not priorities. It includes no women and no people of colour, only elderly white men, many of them suspected of corruption, with links to regional oligarchies. The human rights and agrarian reform ministries have gone, and Temer nearly got rid of the culture ministry too, only relenting after indignant protests from the art world, which had not been so horrified at the elimination of the other portfolios.
Temer’s programme may have won the support of banks and big business, but it has never been put to a vote. At a meeting with Brazilian business leaders, Temer promised not to stand for re-election, emphasising that this would leave him free to ‘prioritise budgetary adjustments’ : he can afford to be firm because he does not fear paying a political price for the measures he imposes — which are likely to be harsh. His economic programme centres on a constitutional amendment to cap public spending (PEC 55, previously PEC 241); a ‘reform’ of social (...)