Silence is hardly the sound one associates with Brazil. Absent sound is not what swirls from the colorful pageantry of the parading Samba Schools. Their drum and percussion sections, up to hundreds strong, evoke the thunderous pounce of a thousand jaguars upon hollow forest turf, perforated by the twisting roots of trees pumping the sources of life from below. Just when their syncopation reaches hypnotizing heights through relentless repetition, an M.C.’s yell tears open the sky, veering from the bridge and reaching for the refrain.
In this country, the risk of silence bursts into poetic rime to offset the most absurd political campaign catchphrases. Silence even transmutes into boisterous civic duty, as when prompting effervescent laughs powerful enough to send hate speech recoiling into cowardliness. Yet, silence does symbolize a specific slice of the population, the one where sit the higher echelons of the military. And their silence in this year’s election campaign is deafening.
In his recent piece “the Most Important Election in the Americas is in Brazil” (Globetotter.com, September 1, 2002), Vijay Prashad provided English-speaking readers with an optimistic view of what could be expected from victory by Workers’ Party hopeful and ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the democratic alliance he has assembled to confront the incumbent Bolsonaro in this Sunday’s elections. Prashad joins a host of interviewed leader to proclaim “the only hope for Brazil [is] to oust the highly divisive and dangerous leadership of President Bolsonaro”. Right as he undoubtedly is, there is little in the article about the generals at the helm of the Bolsonaro government. He is also silent about the devastating process of deindustrialization, spearheaded both by U.S. warranted anti-corruption legislation and by the country’s Central Bank through its all but criminal policy of hiking the prime interest rate.
To be sure, there is little doubt how the overwhelming majority of Brazilians stands to gain by ending Bolsonaro’s liberal assault. Apart from allowing the most hateful segments of society to sway power, he has been Washington, D.C.’s point man to end the country’s golden decade of high-growth and class mobility. Four years into the devastation he has wrought, the way ahead for Brazil now appears as an urgent need to catch up with the past.
The devastation has aimed surgically at paralyzing the country. It is important to note that the pseudo anti-corruption witch-hunt had U.S. backing, but not as much through the latter’s militarized ideology machine as in the past. The wave of destroyed and relocated national companies was the joint achievement this time of the Department of Justice and Wall Street. North American imperialism has become a privatized and outsourced affair, where credit ratings determine whether bad corporate reputation can be reverted or not.
Until its brutal fiscal halt in 2015, free public university education had projected the country to become what the U.S. cunningly referred to as the “natural leader” in South America. Nowhere does Prashad make his point clearer when stressing the need to reengage with education, which is the main driver behind innovation in even the most liberal of economic doctrines. Other than innovation, what Brazil got was a framework for mass privatizations, with patents and credit flowing toward Canada and the U.S. By contrast, innovation that reaches society as a whole as a form of social creativity prompts gender and especially racial parity. As real innovation, poverty would be reduced and a genocide targeting impoverished classes and first nations would see their daily suffering end as an effect of material production.
As Prashad shows, slowly diversifying the country’s hard currency portfolio away from the dollar could prompt further economic independence. He should have added how the Central Bank should have its independence stripped, attending as it does only to the interests of private banks and financial institutions. With the billions freed from the Bank’s unethical operations, Brazilians could hope for the resumption of federal investment in social programs and universal health care. Its state and federal governments could then broadly provide access to higher education for the majority of its population, which identifies as black and of black origin. Estimated at over 130 million, the country houses well over half of the African diaspora population in the Americas, in addition to more than 300 Indigenous ethnicities.
Debunking Bolsonaro and his generals could bring social justice closer than it was when he left power in 2011. As Brazil is the country to have most trafficked in enslaved Africans, its future will be determined by its Afro-Indigenous descendants.
A Deep Tropical Venture-Capital State
Despite Lula da Silva’s strong lead in polls heading up to the elections, many political challenges remain at the gubernatorial level. Few of his direct allies are leading in the key southeastern and southern states. As victory nears, perhaps the greatest challenge lies at the bare level of social violence. Months ago, Bolsonaro liberalized countrywide sale of firearms. The actions of his fanatical followers have even reached beyond the national borders with the attempted assassination of Argentinian vice-President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, allegedly by a gang of Brazilians.
As against the noise of fire friendliness, nothing moves more silently than the country’s deep surveillance state. While Bolsonaro runs the clown show, the four-star generals who propelled him to victory in 2018 have rushed to fill the state apparatus with thousands of commissioned appointments for the military. From all appearances, the surveillance state may be here to stay, regardless of who wins the vote. The Ministries of Health, Education, Women, Culture, the Environment have all been ransacked by Bolsonaro’s broader clan. Students, professors, and activists are under constant watch. During the eventual proceedings of Lula’s swearing in, the capital in Brasília will undergo some form of dismay. One can only hope it remains as massive change in the civil service.
The election campaign has partially brought society’s development up against its structural and imperialist obstacles. Few recall how deeply totalitarian the country had become in the 1970s, let alone how the current dominant sectors, like in Western Europe, descent from colonialism and the slave trade. Argentina and Chile were rightfully admonished for the all-out State terror that had slaughtered progressives and Keynesian social democrats in the 1970s and 80s. By contrast, Brazilians often repeat how its generals were responsible for little more than a hundred deaths. Their excesses would have nullified those committed by “guerrilla” factions aiming to spread “communist totalitarianism” in a conservative, family oriented and would-be God-abiding nation.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, suppressing social justice has increasingly morphed into digital strategies. Spying began to focus on companies as much as States. While financial sectors plundered public wealth in the name of laissez-faire, a surveillance state grew in the tropics through the diversification of relations with the United States. The new approach activated the Department of Justice, which helped legitimate avenger judges acting according to class interest against the pseudo-problem of corruption. This multifaceted surveillance apparatus managed to throw Lula in jail just in time for the 2018 presidential elections. The purview of the generals makes enemies of social reformers, with judges and media parrots more than willing to legalize their attacks. Showing all the props of the northern Deep State, the tropical version now risks transforming the southern partner’s democratic institutions into a political travesty.
For all their caste privilege, the most accurate word to describe the four-star generals’ understanding of history is hysteria. The example they never fail to mention is the Soviet variety, by which one assumes late 1930s USSR. What usually makes hysteria a more serious form of psychopathology than, say, paranoia, is its drive to forget. Crowning the four stars’ omission of responsibility over South American totalitarianism is their elitist contempt for the population and government. Denial of their own authorship of 1970s Terror places them in the mode of an endless rewind. For them, the history of all societies hitherto is the struggle to maintain their caste privilege, for which funding for surveillance hardware sold by Israeli firms is limitless.
Disintegration into the Depths
To better follow the circuit of the Deep State, take the BRICS, the economic alliance between Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa and India. Despite the weakening of the G20, largely due to NATO sanctions against Russia, the BRICS offers perspectives for greater multipolarity in transcontinental economic relations. Yet despite projections for regional growth, further expansion of the alliance is hampered whenever the U.S. Federal Reserve hikes interest rates, as recognized last June in an editorial published by BRICS-partner China in The Global Times.
During the pandemic, China became a key provider to Latin American countries of health care products, ranging from masks to vaccination supplies. It had earlier eased the South American continent’s woes during the 2007-2008 financial meltdown by sparking massive infrastructural works back home. But further infrastructure development has confronted increasingly obstinate hurdles. The ambition Lula explicitly has for reindustrialization is hampered again by low capital investment resulting from the Fed’s move to shore up the flow of liquidity. Argentina’s spiraling inflation rate shows the harshness such fiscal attacks are having, especially on countries receiving Belt and Road projects. What the Fed makes clear is how deindustrialization is nothing but a drive into dependency, the modern-day variant of colonialism.
In fact, ever since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Bolsonaro’s government has silently spiked trade in commodities with the European Union by 45% in Q1 2022, all to China and the BRICS’s detriment. In an even worst-case scenario, should Bolsonaro manage to keep power, Brazil would likely serve the U.S. to further the latter’s predatory submission of the European Union. Notwithstanding her attempt to trigger the militarist urge in a population weaned on raves and restaurants, current European Commission head, Ursula von der Leyen, keeps authorizing the purchase of Russia oil and natural gas. As the latter flows with spiked surplus value from Indian and Saudi intermediaries, BlackRock fills its own portfolio with evermore-valuable Russian commodities while the E.U. scrambles to maintain supplies. Distanced from China, what the tropical deep state promises for Brazil is plausibly worse than the economic turmoil now battering the E.U. with its collapsing currency.
Still, bereft of military support, the Bolsonaro clan can only long for a color revolution. Despite the stench of a coup d’état in Brasília’s dry air, what the generals plan for a Lula victory remains sealed in silence. But one does also wonder whether the electoral projections so favorable to Lula’s victory bears the seal of the state security apparatus. Supervision of the hardware operating the electronic voting booths has fallen into the hands of an outsourced company run by the generals. Military staff will be dispatched to supervise the electoral process, all with the agreement of the highest courts.
If nothing arises from within state institutions to quell such concerns, society will lose power to a consortium linking the judiciary and military with tech and finance. Stealth would add to theft regarding the direction of the country’s political and economic future. Bolsonaro will rant, spit and rattle to the very end about fraud being committed – presumably even with his victory assured, as he did in 2018. And Brazil will be drawn down the path of wanton dependency now typical of Ukraine.
Another matter calling attention to Brazil’s ties to Ukraine is the now explicitly asserted ambition by the U.S. to force Russia into submission by provoking it with territorial disintegration. In that regard, Russia is not alone among Brazil’s BRICS partners. The strategist behind NATO’s venture capital-funded “Deep State”, such as the late Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski and Samuel Huntington, perpetuated by current apostles, Francis Fukuyama and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, have drawn up maps for dismembering Russia, while the one aimed at China is more recent. Over 60 billion dollars have been funneled to the Kyiv Regime to carry out this plan, more than the amount spent on the entire US occupation of Afghanistan. Think tanks like the Rand Corporation and the National Endowment for Democracy are now aiming to destabilize the European Union, plausibly driving it toward an internal split as one social-democratic government after another loses to the far right. Sweden’s prime minister is only the latest. Italy sits on the curb of fascism, while Finland’s leadership has had to suppress partying urges, just in case. And whenever the far-right practices power, public debt skyrockets.
Last July, groups linked to the Kyiv regime, U.S. State Department, MI6, and the CIA met in Prague to discuss Russia’s capitulation and eventual dismemberment in a conference dubbed the “Freedom Forum”. Then, in early September, similar groups brought in agents from the European Commission under the guise of the 30th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum. Remarkably, its guest of honor, apart from Mr. Zelenskyy himself, was none other than the prime minister of Taiwan, Mrs. Tsai Ing-wen.
As the E.U. sinks steadily into a morass as deep as that brought by Bolsonaro to Brazil’s institutions, Mrs. von der Leyen moves to fast track entry of smaller state configurations, thus expanding the Union to 36 states, as opposed to today’s 27, reeking of the same provocation as the sort behind Ukraine’s entry. That the European Commission has been infiltrated with arms trade lobbyists, fiscal and financial tricksters and other authoritarian leaders protecting Union oligarchs is old news. What is less is that von der Leyen is under investigation for alleged conflict of interest in her practices with Pfizer, while accused of allegedly speaking for the arms industry, all beneath the veneer of her maniacal support of the Kyiv Regime.
The moment Brazil’s generals get noisy is when suspecting loss of control over the Amazon. Covering a region roughly the equivalent of half of the continental U.S., it represents limitless wealth. While State Department strategists look with eager eyes at Russia’s wealth in natural resource, it is impossible to think Brazil’s borders might not be confronting their most fragile moment since its country became independent in 1822.
Surely, any NATO ploy to dismember Russia or China would trigger a nuclear war. Unlike its main BRICS partners, Brazil stands as a rather vulnerable, nuclear-free exception.
A Bicentennial of Flawed Independence
Much different than the Spanish Vice-Royalties of the early nineteenth century and their fragmentation during the independence wars, the Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarve, as it was once called, was never a continuous administrative territory. When King John VI arrived in the colony in 1808, fleeing Napoleon’s armies, his displaced court bound four territories together, while instituting two administrative capitals. Whereas the country’s neighbors sought full independence as much from Spain as from each other, the Portuguese court sought to strip Brazil from its status as a joint kingdom and relegate it to mere colonial status. But the newly formed Brazilian aristocracy rejected colonial status by breaking ties with the King. Summoned to return by the European court, the landed aristocracy rallied instead around John the VI’s son, Peter. In a strange call to arms, he would soon be crowned Emperor of independent Brazil. What the Empire status achieved was to not only maintain but also unite all the Portuguese territories in South America. Economic prosperity, ensured by slavery and the trade in African body power, would bolster the Union in the south-central region, taking advantage of the Portuguese navy’s brutal suppression of local revolts elsewhere. Only Uruguay would conquer real independence.
On September 7, Brazil celebrated the bicentennial of this event known by name alone “Independence” – neither from a war, nor popular uprising. As power abhors a vacuum, Bolsonaro hijacked the proceedings and transformed it into a green-yellow campaign jubilee. Constitutional scholars not party to the Opus Dei consider him to have broken electoral law. Others side with the two top courts of the nation to think differently. Yet again, the generals seem to have carte blanche for failing to protect the Constitution.
The events of September 7 show how the instability of territorial integrity is a casus belli. As civil society deciphers the silence of the military chiefs of staff, several brutal possibilities emerge, with the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal everglades plausibly falling under direct military rule, and the northeastern states being cut-off from the center of command. Meanwhile, the arrogant deep south ferments its fake nostalgia of white supremacist separation. And those most interested in a national war appear to be the generals themselves. Nor is their control over the destiny of the rainforest and the lives of Indigenous populations a recent point of interest. The reaction of four-star generals to international outrage at the continual genocide of the land’s first peoples means less than the silence sustaining it. The fate of the Yanomamö lies in their hands.
In agreement with Vijay Prashad, there is little denying the presidential elections are one of the most important, for now at least. In the end, though, it might just stand for the deceit for which Brazilians have a wonderful expression: it’s for the English to see. Given that the G7’s deep state is behind the renewed rise to power of Brazil’s generals as it is behind the war on Russia through Ukraine, one can presume investment in their respective color revolutions is permanent, be it the Maidan for Ukraine or the Green-Yellow for Brazil. As the country tumbles nonplussed from the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opted for consolidation on September 16, 2022, with Iran joining as well and Brazil out – for now.
In the end, voting for Lula is the only option by which to shore up the movement to counter the expansion of the venture-capital surveillance state. With his broad alliance, brand Lula represents democratic commitment to the 1988 Constitution, although with an urgent need to repeal recent amendments regarding social spending and labor reform. Democracies become fascistic when an electoral victory leads to Coup mongering and aims at ethnic cleaning, as in post-Maidan Ukraine. Democracies can also lead to authoritarian governance when allowing for repeated mandates, as in today’s Russia, China, and Venezuela. While calling such forms of government fascistic is a misnomer, there can be no mistake behind the surveillance state’s weakening of democracy.
Unlike the surveillance state espoused by the name Bolsonaro, brand Lula is neither authoritarian nor fascistic. 13 is its number on the ballot.
Norman Madarasz is Brazil-Capes Fellow of Political Philosophy at Université Paris 8 (Vincennes à Saint-Denis).