South America never needed the British to keep the states making up its territory separated. The closest they came to binding was during Operation Condor, the state-terrorist scheme drafted at a time when the neo-Nazi generals who ruled the lands were bent on exterminating all democratic opposition. Unsurprisingly, even those four-stars failed to achieve a better union.
While Brazil’s population might unite a vast swath of ethnicities, its rentier class descends from Portuguese colonial nobility. The asymmetrical destiny of the Portuguese and Castilians on the continent was not occasioned by the landscape. Just as the two monarchies were in a permanent state of conflict on the Iberian Peninsula, so also did territorial wedges divide Spain and Portugal in the Americas. While the Castilian vice-royalties split in their independence wars from the motherland, Brazil’s imperial monarchy welded its territories and capitals together. As Spain engaged in ethnic cleansing of its Jewish and Muslim populations, Argentina and Brazil offered them commercial alternatives.
On the continent, Brazil sought dominion over its hispanophone neighbors well into the 1970s. In the twenties, Argentina and Uruguay had stood atop booming industrial economies. In the following decades, trade with the Europeans shifted into novel forms of financial warfare aimed at leveraging the industrial growth of these emancipated colonies. The name of this deeper economic reality is imperialism.
Cold War propaganda and historical parameters have done their best to hide this most brutal of historical phenomena. As European trade strategies jettisoned the Southern Cone’s leap toward national wealth, workers organized to better channel their own interests. By 1972, Brazil’s dictator-president, Emilio Garrastazu Medici, prepared for an invasion of Uruguay had the Frente Popular candidate to the presidential elections been elected. For the next three decades, Brazilians had to bear the brunt of rejection by their hermanos for choosing to represent America’s stakes. Then as now, Brazil’s rentiers dug their heels deep into privilege, bolstered by Wall Street and the US Southern Command alike. Settler colonialism and a perpetuated slave trade had proven previously they had even more in common than hatred of the disenfranchised.
Yet Argentina has stood apart. Opposition to its own dictators cost the people dearly, a refrain heard as the Mothers of May weep at dusk. Now, with the election of Javier Milei to the presidency, the country’s future has fit into the grand chessboard. Behind farce and fanfare, a plan is underway to strip Argentina from the salvation offered by BRICS+, first amongst Brazil and China. It seems the grass, for all its stunted growth, is still too high for the rentiers.
THE RISING STAR SOUTH OF THE AMAZON
Argentina is a serious country. Its contributions to love, literature, politics and the sciences need no presentation. Its capital made the Rio da Prata shine almost before Europe had known electric illumination. Any reductive symbolizing of its national dance as expressing sadness and tragedy is misplaced. The tango sings the grace and elegance of revolt and sovereignty.
That is also why nobody should balk at uttering the obvious. By most standards of reasonability, Milei’s political platform hovers on the insane. With his country once again facing financial collapse, it seems the president-elect, who holds a Master’s Degree in Austrian Economics, is the latest avatar to believe destruction of the law can truly be creative. His fogged over gaze seems to concentrate the hatred felt by those realizing their main rival has found the key to their own redemption. With its economic boom under the helms of Lula da Silva, Brazil has boisterously spearheaded the terminological shift of the “third world” toward “emergent nation” and onward to BRICS consolidation. If Argentina had only partially recovered from the morass into which its generals had plunged the country even before the ill-fated Malvinas defeat, when it finally did under the Kirchner’s presidencies it came through a Mercosur partnership with Lula.
Despite their notorious distaste for mathematics, economic indicators should convince even Austrian School subjectivists about the meaning of success. From 2004 to 2015, Brazil drew over 20 million of its citizens out of poverty and came close to eradicating misery, as defined by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. During the boom years, Lula’s government accumulated over 300 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves. Lula and Dilma Rousseff’s governments built 18 new federal universities and almost 200 new campuses. They invested in hundreds of thousands of scholarships at all levels. When careers in academia became less viable in G7 countries, Brazil provided hundreds of research grants to visiting foreign scholars. It was a time when its mathematicians won prestigious awards, such as the Fields Medal, and Portuguese became a language to learn.
As Brazilians yearn for quality education, the Workers Party governments spiked funding to private universities as well. This led to even more opportunities in higher education for students from low-income families, a first for a nation sporting one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. To dent the curves further still, Lula promoted various income redistribution programs, such as My House My Life (Minha Casa, Minha Vida), Hunger Zero (Fome Zero), and Family Grant (Bolsa Familia). The latter was deposited into the bank account held by the mothers of families, provided their children be registered in school. Meanwhile, his governments invested heavily in public utilities to keep the cost of living down and bootstrap industry, with ship and oil rig building, regional jet construction, infrastructure and airport logistics in addition to upping the ante in offshore oil drilling and agribusiness.
For those who like Big groundless Numbers, Brazil’s nominal GDP surpassed the U.K.’s bloated figure to sit temporarily in sixth place worldwide.
It seems that once again the imperial rules-based world order was far from impressed. Edward Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had been eavesdropping on the presidency. The US Department of Justice funded an anti-corruption scheme dubbed Operation Car Wash. Congress and the SEC went after the public firms cited in the Big Apple. As the coup against the PT grew in 2015, the Brazilian politicians working for Empire ensured the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, alleged “systemic” challenges triggered by a shift in “commodity prices” exposing the government for “overspending” on social programs. At first, they eviscerated and then privatized state-owned companies typically at below-value cost, but even then only after managing to pay off “penalties” demanded by D.C.
And then they got Congress to vote in a constitutional amendment prohibiting increases in government spending above inflation for twenty years.
A FUNNY FARM ON THE PAMPAS
Lula’s achievements showed how politics and governments can take care of populations. Hardly revolutionary by militants’ standards, they nevertheless brought well being to tens of millions. They also demonstrated how when settler colonialism attacks it does so on a continental level. Although his enemies attempted to frame him on corruption charges, his inquisitors were eventually disgraced. Although only he has managed to survive, the sense of victory should not be lessened. Argentina’s most popular candidate, ex-president and ex-vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was not as fortunate. Part of the story corporate media does not tell about Milei’s slim victory in an election, where 25 percent of the population pulled a no-show, was Kirchner’s exclusion by judicial decision from leading the left wing of her Peronist party. If lawfare was not enough, Ms. Kirchner faced a quickly silenced assassination attempt by a Milei fanatic last September in the midst of the campaign.
Lula’s team’s refusal to submit to Empire brought retribution. Brazil’s indigenous, afro-descendent and working classes voted him back into office last year, with one militant even marrying him. By contrast, Kirchner was double-crossed by her own colleagues. The Peronists have long been the target of neoliberal hawks, somewhat like France’s Socialist Party. The choice given to Argentine voters was eventually between the right-wing Wall Street financial operator, Sergio Massa, and the libertarian extremist, Javier Milei. Offered a tight choice between Chicago market liberalism and Austrian subjectivism, voters abandoned the party as the Peronist leadership seemingly obsessed with ensuring the party’s defeat.
Still, the script has holes. Milei has said he seeks to destroy not only Argentina’s most popular party, but wipe Brazil’s success from the minds of its citizens. Since 2014, corporate media has shaped him as the go-to specialist, only to portray him as a political outsider as the elections approached. Despite the millions invested in his political marketing, it could not edge mediocre polling figures until his masters chose to go all out by focusing on his eccentricities.
So the question is: Who is calling the shots in Argentina, and why has extremism come around to convincing the population to vote for this lunatic?
Given the state of G7-led libertarian cynicism, it might seem naïve to wonder why Argentina’s Wall Street boys would see Brazil as distasteful. Little compares to the means they have funded to keep reproduce the type of IMF-imposed austerity from which only fascism arise. Wall Street funded and the IMF and World Bank orchestrated a contamination of the Peronist party, the outcome of which was a return to out-of-control inflation. Only an extreme-right coalition, “Liberty Advances” (La Libertad Avanza) could blame it on “socialism”.
In the view of many distraught Brazilians, disbelief haunts Milei’s election. After the lessons wrought by the crimes allegedly committed by former president Bolsonaro, why would Argentina choose to go down the same path, they wonder with disappointment. And if Bolsonaro were not unhinged enough, Milei’s rentier class financiers have upped the ante: make their candidate into an outright madman. The question remains: to why degree is it all make – believe?
To describe a leader who (i) claims his dead dog transmits to him his extreme libertarian insights into economic planning; (ii) with graduate-level teaching experience wishes to put unwanted babies on the market to compensate for his objective to repeal pro-choice legislation; (iii) aims for outright dollarization of his country’s partly sovereign currency; (iv) seeks to break off trade relations with China; and (v) close the nation’s central bank, the word sane falls much too short.
When Tucker Carlson asked the candidate two months ago what explains his supposedly spontaneous and “immense popularity”, he could have spouted the obvious answer: due to media pumping for which he himself is famous. As opposed to the military oligarchic fabrication called Bolsonaro, Milei has emerged from the rentier class’s spinelessness. In France, the self-proclaimed media defenders of “freedom” would ask the same kind of question to the billionaire-funded Macron as they relished over the evaporation of center-left and center-right parties alike. Their Brazilian counterparts would ask similar questions regarding Bolsonaro, with the same falsification of him “having no political background”. While In the U.S., others would state it as a fact that Trump was outsider. William Randolph Hearst’s “yellowing” strategies in media fabrications could not have achieved more. He had mastered how to bedevil the working class’s desire for revolution through the political hostage-taking act known as Nazi-fascism.
Carlson himself is a Trumpian dupe. Looking on as if receiving pointers from Jordan Peterson, Carlson swallowed the opium of the people argument whole: Milei claims his failed soccer career primed him for presidential success. Still relishing over the answer, Carlson’s glee then turned euphoric when Milei reverted to the classic rock syndrome argument: he grew famous politically by singing Stones’ covers. Ever embarrassed at his intellectual credentials, the candidate then quickly skipped over his career as an economist and university professor. As the foremost anti-intellectual woke hunter of our times, Carlson much obliged. Then he came to the meat: political success was guaranteed due to the disaster of a supposed century-long domination of socialism in Argentina.
Granted, with the US having lost to Russia’s Special Military Operation, Carlson had to get back in line for lashing out at the Kiev Regime. What better way to begin than by not reminding Milei that since World War II, the overwhelming form of Argentina’s governments are the closest examples to long term Nazi dictatorships found on the planet. Democrats and civil rights activists were not only annihilated by them, they had to be tortured in concentration camps.
IN INDEBTING WE TRUST
In Milei’s grip, socialism is only a term by which to discredit and imprison enemies. Left to its devices, libertarian market freedom aims at best to drive an entire people into debt. Milei’s team of economic advisors are all hedge fund boys busy on Wall Street when not undermining their own country’s industrial potential. By contrast, Chinese-style communist freedom implies bringing the people out of debt. Its aim is precisely to provide them with a livelihood, equals amongst equals. Chinese-style communism is no longer just about eliminating private property: it’s about abolishing debt. What produces debt are privatizations – exactly the strategy Milei’s market extremism aims to carry out in the name of misrepresented alternatives.
In fact, Milei’s world is so make-believe, he has to act crazy to make it all hold together. That it may very well be a put-on is possible when media censorship and disinformation has already created a parallel world, the existence of which one cannot even blame fools for believing. This is a world in which Ukraine, a country beset by decades-long economic crisis and shock doctrines, was in a position to defeat Russia, by means of nothing more miraculous than its own army. This, we ought to recall, at time when supposedly, officially and by any treaty, Ukraine was not part of NATO. This is a type of world in which Israel would be at war against an organization that cannot be distinguished from an entire disenfranchised people.
Reality might be hard to face, but doing so can actually help one avoid running to the nearest shrink. Russia has not been weakened either militarily or by sanctions. China’s economy is not slowing down. There is no ethnic persecution of either Uyghurs in Xinjiang or Tibetans, much less of Hong Kong residents. There is no Islamist threat in Northwestern Africa. President Poutine has no desire to parade down the Champs-Élysées, any more than Xi Jinping needs spy balloons to frighten humble white folk in the Midwest. And the CIA and NATO dispatches flooding G7 media is not an expression of freedom of speech by any standards.
Doubtless, radical critique of corporate media should be taught in kindergarten. Standing current affairs upright again would allow one to understand how Russia had attempted to avert the S.M.O., while committing to abide by the Minsk I and II Accords. After witnessing the corruption of international treaties, looking down the barrel of economic nuclear war, with US sanctions expelling the country from SWIFT, accusing its political class of fascism when NATO armed modern-day Nazis and Canada’s parliament celebrated those of old, Russia has fought one of the most prudent and patient wars in history. It has sparred civilian lives, but inevitably annihilated three NATO-infused Kiev commandeered armies. And it has won, despite the accusations of embezzlement, assassination and crimes against humanity led by the E.U.’s Nazi princess, who made it a personal issue to ensure President Poutine would reach the gallows.
America’s head on intent at pulverizing the late German-Russian partnership brought to economic life a vast territory that had previously only sported a geographical designation. Eurasia, as government by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has a new world to present. China has become the international peacemaker. It has put the US on the spot with its 800 military bases worldwide, while proving how the Second Amendment has never stopped being a right to slaughter natives and minorities at home as abroad. Israel, for all its pain, is but the extension of Anglo-American exceptionalism pasted over biblical spreadsheets in a palimpsest meant to veil the Nakba and effective history.
What lies beneath are patterns from which voices scream. Shredding through skin with razor-sharp walls, these bloodlines have subdivided natives into pockets of desperation and death. Three of them are drawn on the geopolitical globe. The first runs through what is left of Ukraine. The second slices Gaza and the Occupied West Bank from human Right. The third springs from the Philippines with Taiwan acting as a watchtower, beyond which drifts the delusion of containment. With Milei’s election, it seems a fourth bloodline has been drawn in the Pampas.
The significance of Milei for the region can be read through three strategies. None of them are encouraging. Every cautious citizen ought to consider what is at stake. Like Zelenskyy, Netanyahu and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, Milei is far from make believe. Brazilians may not realize how desperate and hopeless Argentines actually feel. The sibling rivalry is closer to becoming enmity than many can imagine. To ignore where it can lead is akin to snuffing out the US alert to Western European states about the need to prepare for war against Russia. As unbelievable as this might seem, the plausibility of Taiwan attacking The People’s Republic and Israel hitting Iran, makes Argentina a threat to Brazil’s territorial integrity. How could there be conflict now that Brazilian generals are beltway sellouts? Precisely in the way that a most vulnerable country is one whose military identifies its own people as the greatest menace.
Milei’s recent peacemaking letter to Lula notwithstanding (see: https://www.brazzil.com/after-the-insults-against-lula-argentinas-milei-backtracks-and-almost-apologizes/),
three interpretational strategies on Argentina, call them schizoanalytic if you prefer, can be risked at this time. Three possible scenarios:
- The Senate, where a Peronist majority prevails, withholds Milei’s upcoming shock therapy doctrine. In a bid to diminish confrontation, it keeps BRICS+ adhesion off the table. However, it is waved as a trump card to Milei should he not adequately secure support from the IMF and Wall Street regarding privatizations. After all, who wants to buy state utilities at their real rate?
- The Executive outmaneuvers Congress with rapid and fast economic growth figures in 2024 Q1 and Q2, stemming from the financial services secured through interest rate hikes by private banks. The population bleeds with nowhere to turn. With a rush on banks as an imminent consequence of explosive inflation, dollarization can be fast-tracked into place. Government says nothing about BRICS+, Brazil or China as society collapses.
- Milei and his Executive seek a head-on confrontation with Brazil regarding BRICS+, in a bid to stir up simmering nationalist sentiment. IMF works behind the scenes to support the Executive as it breaks contracts with China. Milei builds bridges with the military and openly supports Bolsonaro as we move toward the 2024 midterm elections. His objective is to destabilize Lula’s government and throw Brazil into crisis. Brazil’s generals side with House Speaker Arthur Lira and support his bid for president in 2026 – or immediately. False negotiations take place between the respective Joint Chiefs of Staff. US Southern Command calls the shots, barring any tax reforms, debt relief and social spending. Empire has spoken against reindustrialization – and BRICS+. Argentine’s military pressures Brazil’s border.
It would seem that 30,000 murders during the military dictatorship were not enough for Milei’s ilk to understand how real social spending translates into increased productivity and sovereignty. What makes public spending skyrocket instead is public debt servicing to private banks, outlaws for the judiciary, the military and agribusiness oligarchies. IMF-driven austerity is only interested in export business and trade surpluses. The IMF did not build Argentina’s debt spiral on the back of the Kirchners, but on almost a century of power held by American vassals: Presidents Alfonsin, Menem, de la Rua, Puerta, Duhalt (20 years in power), and how about Macri? Milei’s but the most recent anti-nationalist vassal to ensure Argentina has no chance to recover.
BRICS+ aims instead to do something productive for the country’s working class, initially by providing them with stable work. Brazil’s unemployment rate has just dropped below 8 percent, the lowest in almost ten years. Economics has to mean for more scientifically than a set of reductive measures to rent capital management. The BRICS+ could graciously provide the country with a lifeline. The problem for Argentina’s presidentials was that neither candidate dared to utter the acronym.
It is convenient to evoke the Kirchners while muting the king of privatizations who ruled the country before the current government. Besides, the Kirchners lifted the Argentine economy out of the dumps into which its US-pegging predecessors had thrown it. Economics has to leave behind McCarthyist jingoism. Through BRICS inclusion, Argentina had an unprecedented opportunity to look east and not north. As for Milei’s economic advisors, Emilio Ocampo is a Wall Street vassal, who worked for Salomon Brothers. Given the size of Argentina’s foreign public debt, the financial leverage exercised by Wall Street-connected banks and the IMF, could make or break Argentina’s economy at will. Ocampo pleads for dollarization. An old hat, rotten-to-the-core story.
The future is with a dedollarized trade currency created with Brazil, and fostered by the BRICS+. But there is no need to rush. With a 5 percent high in US treasury bond returns, the Fed has moved to make it irrational for countries to even contemplate dedollarization. Shoring it up are two significant developments. According to indicators from USA Facts from January 2023, Japan has surpassed China again as the main owner of US state debt. Second, down the line from the first four main owners of Treasury Bonds the next three prove to all shine as tax shelters: Luxembourg, Switzerland and Cayman Islands.
This is the trove into which Milei seeks financial destitution of his country’s state institutions, services and utilities. Reverberating out of this abyss is a lament one can hear being sung through tears into the distance.
Norman Madarasz, Ph.D., is Canadian professor of political philosophy and economic theory who teaches in Brazil.