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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Allegations against Brazilian politician put democracy on trial


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Brazil is still a young democracy, regained just over 30 years ago following the end of a military dictatorship, and yet its foundations are further shaken by the recent allegations against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who presided from 2003 to 2011.

The allegations state he is guilty of accepting bribes for political favors surrounding the state-owned oil company Petrobras and he received an apartment as a gift, despite the fact that there is no evidence of Silva ever visiting nor receiving the title to the apartment.

Given the right wing’s long history of opposition to Silva and the strong possibility that he could win the next presidential election, it is clear that there are political motivations behind the allegations and the charges might be fabricated. 

The impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff was the ideal political gateway for the right wing to attack Silva.  Rousseff’s impeachment was widely referred to as a “constitutional coup; even though the charge against her, an accounting maneuver on the federal budget, is not considered a crime.

With much more serious allegations against our own president, the reasons surrounding Rousseff’s impeachment appear in the United States as simultaneously comedic and tragic. After all, Rousseff, unlike Trump, is not being accused of being a puppet of foreign interests.

It was in this atmosphere that Silva was charged with corruption. The right wing, lead by interim President Michel Temer, claimed to be purging the corrupt from power despite the fact that Temer has also been charged with corruption, and those who are being brought down are members of the left-wing Workers’ Party.

The judges were supposed to be objective when investigating possible corruption, but their actions have proven otherwise. The trial judge, Sergio Moro, has lead the campaign to oust Silva from Brazilian political life, even going so far as to release a wiretapped conversation between Silva and his lawyer to the media.

Even Moro’s chief of staff posted a petition on Facebook calling for Silva to be imprisoned.

Since the impeachment of Rousseff, there have been protests across the country over the stagnant economy and Temer’s unpopular neoliberal reforms. It is becoming clear that since Temer has no democratic mandate and has violently cracked down on protests, his party will not survive the upcoming elections. If Silva is miraculously allowed to run, then the right wing will be on their heels and their reforms will amount to nothing.

Silva had been a longtime union organizer before he entered politics, and his presidential initiatives reflected that. Under his presidency, the social programs he implemented lifted both the lower classes and the economy out of stagnation. From 2003-2011, poverty was reduced from 35.8 percent to 15.9 percent and extreme-poverty was reduced from 15.2 percent to 5.3 percent; in sum, 31.5 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty.

Brazil had been infamous for its inequality, but under Silva’s social programs, the economy was never better and the right wing found itself politically isolated. The right wing fears the Brazilian public’s memory as much as it does Silva.

While the upcoming elections in Venezuela are dominating U.S. media headlines regarding Latin America, the upcoming elections in Brazil might have more at stake. Not only is there a strong chance that the most popular candidate will not be allowed to run, but it seems that a far right-wing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, who has commended the history of the dictatorship, might be elected.

As the elections approach, students should be prepared to protest and hold the Brazilian government accountable if Silva is not allowed to run; otherwise, the alternative for Brazil could be a continued spiral into political chaos. For now, as the ghost of dictatorship looms over Brazil, it appears that not only is Silva on trial, but that Brazilian democracy is as well.

Opinion Staff columnist Brant Roberts is a history senior and can be reached at [email protected].

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