Brazil. “Bolsonaro has put Brazil back on the hunger map” – Against

Interview with Guilherme Boulos, leader of PSOL, led by Gustavo Veiga (São Paulo)

He is fluent in Spanish, and does so confidently, with no hint of “portuñol” [ce mélange de portugais et d’espagnol]. His eloquence makes it possible to move forward quickly in the interview, which takes place in an office he has rented for his campaign. Once the interview is over, he will leave it to continue campaigning in his little Celta (Celtinha), a very economical car in which he travels around town. Guilherme Boulos [1] is Marina Silva’s ally [ex-ministre de l’environnement de Lula de 2003 à 2008] in a left front which united its two forces: the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) and Rede, the ecologist party. Boulos and Marina Silva support Lula on the way to Planalto. This university professor [fils d’une famille de médecins], who holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology, also aspires to double the number of PSOL lawmakers in Congress; currently the PSOL has eight.

What conclusions do you draw from Bolsonaro’s four years in office?

It will go down in history as the worst government in the history of the Republic of Brazil. There is no doubt about it, because it was the worst in several respects. From the point of view of democratic politics, because it destroyed institutions, relations with parliament and the judiciary. Every day he makes threats. He questions the electoral system that allowed him to be elected. He comes out in favor of the dictatorship and the coup d’etat [de 1964]. Socially, he is also the worst. We have had extremely cruel governments in our history, however the Bolsonaro government has achieved something unique in the world, putting the country back on the hunger map [établie par le PAM: Programme alimentaire mondial]. No country that left the UN hunger map has ever returned. Brazil is the world’s third largest food producer, yet it has 33 million people suffering from hunger.

The former military officer [capitaine] who is seeking re-election relies on economic data to claim that he has done something right.

The elites expected there to be international investments, trust in the markets and all the rest. Nevertheless, Brazil experienced insignificant growth. And finally, we faced a humanitarian tragedy, an open wound: we are talking about nearly 700,000 dead. And dead not only because of the virus… dead because of negligence, because of a president who said he was not going to buy vaccines because there were no tests, because the people could turn into jacaré [c’est-à-dire en alligator s’il prenait le vaccin contre le COVID-19, déclaration de décembre 2020] ; certainly something that fear seems laughable, but that cost lives. On the eve of the elections [le 22 août 2022] he apologized [de ces propos]. So, to sum up, because of all these aspects, in addition to the environmental disaster, among others the destruction of the Amazon, we could talk all day about the tragic aspects of the Bolsonaro government.

Lula used the adjective genocidaire several times to refer to him or his politicians. Do you agree ?

Bolsonaro is part of a far-right wave that, thankfully, at least in Latin America, is already on the wane. But he is not just another member of the extreme right. It is particularly sinister, macabre, and that is why I completely agree with the qualification of “genocidal”. Over the past three years, there has been much discussion in Brazil about the possibility of using the term genocide in relation to it. Genocide means mass and intentional killings. And that’s exactly what happened in Brazil. In 2021, for the first time, the country experienced a negative population growth rate due to deaths from the pandemic. If the President and his Minister of Health have made the structure of the Brazilian State an ally of the virus, there has been a genocide in Brazil. [La lente élimination des populations amérindiennes, entre autres liée à la politique de dévastation de la forêt amazonienne – les délimitations des espaces protégés pour ces populations ont été levées en grande partie –, participe de ce que l’on peut qualifier de politique «génocidaire» – Réd.]

What do you think of Bolsonaro’s threats not to recognize the election result if he loses on Sunday?

He will carry out this threat. There’s no reason he shouldn’t. In Brazil, it is simply unthinkable that when Lula wins the election – whether in the first or second round – that Bolsonaro would appear on television and say, “I want to congratulate Lula, the election was clean…” . Bolsonaro stands outside the grammar of democracy. Therefore, he will deny the election result once he is defeated.

I don’t believe, and few people in Brazil do, that the military forces will embark on a pro-Bolsonaro adventure, even if it includes like-minded sectors like Bolsonaro [le candidat à la vice-présidence sur le ticket de Bolsonaro est le général de réserve Walter Braga Netto qui a occupé des postes importants militaires et dans le «maintien de la sécurité» ainsi que politiques et diplomatiques – Réd.]. The judiciary will guarantee the outcome of the elections. The legislator will recognize them. The press and “opinion makers” will also recognize them. This is the conviction of the majority of the Brazilian people.

So where is the risk?

I don’t think the risk is a coup in the traditional sense. I’m thinking more of a scenario like the Capitol [le 6 janvier]of political violence stimulated by Bolsonarist armed groups, because the president has set up a kind of private political militia, with shooting clubs. [La connexion est documentée entre ces milices et des secteurs de la Police militaire en activé ou «à la retraite» – Réd.] It greatly expanded the right to own firearms and too many people bought them, some of which are combat weapons. The risk is therefore that coordinated actions by these groups create a situation of chaos and violence. To deal with this, we made a very broad democratic front to condemn it. Second: we have issued an appeal to contain and repress any such attempt. And, thirdly, a great mobilization in the streets, if possible next week, so that the will of the people is respected.

Does the risk you mention increase if Bolsonaro reaches the second round?

Why is the second round the worst case scenario? Because there is one month left [du 2 octobre] before October 30. And in recent weeks we have already had episodes of assassinations in Ceará, in Mato Grosso, before that in Paraná. People have been killed for criticizing Bolsonaro and defending Lula. Imagine a polarized second round, what could happen? It would be much easier to isolate him in the first round than in the second. Because in the first round, 513 deputies in the chamber and 27 senators are also elected. So, if it were said that “there was fraud”, that would mean that there was also fraud in the vote in Congress. And the deputies closest to Bolsonaro who have been elected could say: “no, for me there was no fraud”.

What role is the United States, which for decades supported coups in the region, expected to play in the elections?

There are two things. First, Biden’s position. A few days ago, the United States Embassy in Brazil legitimized the Brazilian electoral system. I think it’s not because the United States is a country that loves democracy. They do this because if their president were to support Bolsonaro’s attitude, it could backfire, due to Bolsonaro’s connection to Trump.

As a member of a left front that supports Lula, what will be your goal as PSOL if he wins the elections?

Our role will be to exert pressure from the left so that the program for which Lula was elected becomes effective and also so that the ceiling on budgetary expenditure [introduit sous Michel Temer après la destitution de Dilma Rousseff] be revoked.

What are the policies of the PT that you defended during its years in government and those that you did not defend?

Some were put forward during the mandates of Lula and Dilma Rousseff. For example: the progressive increase in the minimum wage has been significant, the policy of expanding public investment in programs like “My house, my life” [Minha Casa, Minha Vida, lancé en 2009] and in social programs like Bolsa Família, or the expansion of public universities, all of that. The focus is on the fight against hunger. All of this we support.

Among the negatives are issues that have not been addressed and now need to be. A progressive tax reform, which was not on the program of the PT government and which is essential for Brazil. It will be necessary to touch the privileges and to tax more the millionaires, to touch the dividends of the banks. For me, this is an essential question.

What do you think Lula’s legacy will be?

I spoke to him a few weeks ago and he said, ‘I didn’t need to be president again. I am 76 years old and my biography has already been cleared up because all my lawsuits have been canceled. If I decided to be a candidate again, it is because I want and I must do more than what I have done in other governments. I believe so and I firmly hope that it will be a conclusion that responds to popular interests. I think Lula will go down in history as the greatest popular leader in Brazilian history. (Article published in the Argentine daily Page 12 September 30, 2022; translation writing Against)


[1] Guilherme Boulos is the PSOL candidate for the post of deputy in the Federal Chamber. A member of the National Coordination of the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) and of the leadership of the PSOL, he supports Fernando Haddad (presidential candidate of the PT in 2018) for the post of governor of the state of São Paulo. The latter presents himself on a ticket which associates him with Lúcia França (PSB), the party joined by Geraldo Alckmin, candidate for the vice-presidency of Lula, former PSDB and in known liaison with Opus Dei, very conservative current of the Roman Catholic Church. As for Fernando Haddad, he supports Boulos’ candidacy for the Chamber. (Ed. Against)

Brazil. “Bolsonaro has put Brazil back on the hunger map” – Against