In a scenario of a technical tie between the two opponents -Jair Bolsonaro for re-election and Lula de Silva for his third term as president-, Brazil decides at the polls what may be the most decisive chapter in its history.
The great South American power either chooses to advance with the worst of the culture left behind by military dictatorships (violence, racism, indifference and the naturalization of extreme misery) or repeats the Lulista experience of a more egalitarian society, with health and education rights for the excluded and that respects itself as a sovereign nation (although with a different rhythm).
The trade unionist Lula or the military Bolsonaro. It is as Manichaean as it sounds, because never before has the crossroads between “an economy that kills” (as Pope Francis said) and a development with distribution that bets on life.
The numbers of the pollsters indicate that, in four years, Bolsonaro knew how to add crowds. How did he get here? “From a strictly personal point of view, Bolsonaro is an almost grotesque figure, with a very low intellectual and mental level,” said José Luis Fiori, one of the most lucid minds in Brazil. Fiori is a sociologist, doctor in Political Sciences, author of numerous books and professor emeritus of International Political Economy at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
“Bolsonaro would never have obtained more than 15 or 20% of the votes if it had not been for the convergence between the coup against Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s prison and a wave of social dissatisfaction that is sweeping through society.” And he humorously recalled something true: “At other times in Brazil, that was the percentage of votes that ‘galvanized’ collective dissatisfaction, as in the case of the female rhinoceros “Cacareco”, elected in São Paulo in 1959 with more than one hundred thousand votes, and the chimpanzee “Tião” who obtained almost half a million votes in Rio de Janeiro in 1963”.
The worrying thing is that, even if Lula wins the second electoral round on October 30, that extreme right will still be there. “Exactly –continues Fiori- the important thing is to understand why, beyond Bolsonaro, today they vote for that sector. We have to look at what is happening in the world, in the West and more precisely in the Eurocentric world where, for a long time, a wave of social dissatisfaction led by right-wing or extreme-right candidates or forces has been advancing.”
According to the Brazilian academic, “In this decade of the 21st century, the world is going through a series of revolts and social and national ruptures, fueled -once again- by the increase in inequality, unemployment, misery that multiplied exponentially in the past. 90s of the 20th century, but, above all, after the 2008 crisis. We cannot foresee the exact future of this “new era of rebellions”, but there are two things that are surprising, especially in the Eurocentric space and (although with some differences) in USA. First, the fragility of the left or progressive forces and their low participation in leading these revolts, with the exception of Greece (2013) and Chile, Ecuador and Colombia (2019). In Greece, it is worth clarifying, the insurrection was quickly tamed by the European Union and finally defeated by the Greek right”.
“Second, the strength and aggressiveness of the new ideas of the extreme right, associated with fundamentalism and religious nationalism, whether Christian, Orthodox, Jewish or Islamic, depending on the country and social group. For example, Hungary and Poland, but also in Israel and in various Islamic countries in the Middle East. It happens in England and Holland, but also in the US and Russia, in Italy and in the Czech Republic and now in Sweden, a country that during the 20th century was a kind of Vatican of European social democracy.”
In the case of Brazil. Bolsonaro has the almost unconditional support of evangelicals, militias, police and military forces, and the power that has grown the most in recent years: agribusiness. “There is no doubt that the Brazilian economy has undergone a great transformation in the last decade,” Fiori said. “There was a continuous decrease in the weight of the industry in the composition of the gross product of Brazil. Deindustrialization was accompanied by the accelerated growth of agribusiness. The central-western region of Brazil was taken over by soybeans and extensive cattle herds. In a few years they concentrated a significant portion of the national wealth. It changed the economy, the sociological composition, and the distribution of both wealth and power in Brazil. Much of the ideological and financial strength of the Brazilian extreme right comes from that region. The economy returned to being a primary exporter, especially of grains and meats, fruits and oil, and mining.”
This change, which had a strong impact on Brazilian politics, is one of the challenges that Lula will have to face if he wins the runoff. “There was a radical reorganization of the so-called ‘economic elite’ that now includes increasingly broader sectors and that do not identify with or were born with the values and culture of the ‘east coast’ of Brazil,” Fiori explained. “But be careful, don’t be fooled, both that elite and the old São Paulo and Brazilian industrial class never compromised their interests with a true national and popular project. His economic and financial interests were mainly linked to the international circuits of finance and international wealth. Support for development policies was always ambiguous and discontinuous.”
Beyond the factions linked to arms and agribusiness, the rest of the political, social and religious sectors of Brazil will readjust to the new conditions. In recent days, when the polls were unfavorable to Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo proposed postponing the elections or claiming fraud, not only the US embassy was reluctant to “acting” but the business world, political supporters and even the military corporation would have refused. Nobody wants to go beyond the cemetery gate.
Lula, on the other hand, has been explicitly supported by many of his rivals: two former right-wing presidents – José Sarney and Fernando Henrique Cardoso – and his opponent in the first round of elections Simone Tebet, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement. On a global level, in addition to the support of the presidents of Argentina and Chile, Lula was publicly supported by the Spanish head of state, Pedro Sánchez. In the case of Bolsonaro, except for former US president Donald Trump, who asked for a vote in favor of the right-winger, no one dared to support him.
In a world in hegemonic transition, it is becoming increasingly clear that multipolarity (and not a single power acting as gendarme and guide) and egalitarian and distributive policies will be the only possible variables for humanity to survive. Lula is a symbol of this multipolarity and this egalitarianism. His return will also be the engine that Latin America needs to positively orient itself on the road to that possible new order.