Thursday, October 12, 2006

Brazil's Elections: What's at Stake

I've been painfully remiss in writing, primarily because, immediately after the elections, my computer's A/C adapter died (one of those instances of things you miss in the U.S. - what I could have had in 2 days for 30 dollars there has taken 10 days for 110 dollars here. Oh well. But I digress). Many people are unfamiliar with Brazilian elections at all, and those who even know there ARE elections here are not fully aware of the platforms.

That's why this op-ed piece by São Paulo native Emir Sader is vital. He hits virtually every point directly on the head. This isn't just some leftist candidate running against one more favorable to the U.S. This is a battle between two diametrically opposed visions of the future for Brazil and its more than 180 million inhabitants, with one vision full of promise and the other full of greed. You can click on the link, but I think it's worth quoting Sader in his entirety here:

"What is at stake in the second round is not only whether Petrobras will be privatized -- as Alckmin's advisor, Mendonça de Barros confirmed to the Exame magazine -- and whether, with it, the Bank of Brazil, the Caixa Econômica Federal [a bank administered by the Finance Ministry], and Eletrobrás also will be.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether social movements will be criminalized and repressed by the federal government again.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether Brazil will continue privileging its foreign policy based on alliances with Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Cuba, as well as other countries of the south in the world, instead of a policy of subordination to the United States.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether Brazil will return to the policy of privatization of education.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether Brazil's cultural policy will center on private financing.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether we will have more or fewer precarious jobs, or more or fewer jobs in the "white market."

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether there will be more or less public investment in areas like energy, communications, roads, basic sanitation, education, health, and culture.

What is at stake in the second round is not only whether we will continue diminishing inequalities in Brazil by means of redistributive social policies -- micro-credit, higher real purchasing power of the minimum wage, lower prices of goods in the basic basket, the Family Allowance [Bolsa Familia], and rural electrification, among others. Or whether we will return to the PSDB-PFL policies of the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

What is at stake in the second round is all of the above, which, by themselves, are very important and show a great difference between the two candidates. What is at stake in the second round is, above all, the international insertion of Brazil, which will have direct consequences on the destiny of the country.

With Lula, the policy will continue to promote regional integration and south-south alliances, against the FTAA in favor of Mercosur. With Alckmin, the policies of free trade will be promoted: the FTAA, the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, the isolation of the ALBA [Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas], and the weakening of Mercosur, the South American Community, and the alliances with South Africa, India, and the Group of 20.

What is at stake in the second round is the resolution of whether Brazil is going to subordinate its future to policies of free trade or bet on processes of regional integration. This makes a fundamental difference for the future of Brazil and Latin America. Adopt free trade, open the country's economy definitively to great international monopolies -- American, in particular -- and renounce any form of internal regulation of the environment, currency, policies of quotas, etc., and we'll condemn Brazil to the predominance of market policies for ever, which would mean perpetuating the inequalities that make our country the most unjust place in the world.

What is at stake in the second round, then, is whether we will have an unjust or more unjust country, whether we will have a more sovereign or more subordinated country, whether we will have a more democratic or less democratic country, whether we will have a country or, once and for all, convert ourselves into a speculative market and consolidate ourselves as a conservative country directed by oligarchic elites (like a mixture of Daslu and Opus Dei). Whether we will be a country, a society, a nation -- democratic and sovereign -- or will be reduced to a stock market, to a shopping mall surrounded by misery on all sides.

All this is at stake in the second round. In this situation, nobody can be neutral, nobody can be in the middle, nobody can be indifferent."

His summary of the differences between Lula and Alckmin isn't hyperbole - it's frighteningly accurate. All that's missing here is the inclusion of Alckmin's complete and total failure in the prison system of São Paulo and his responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of inmates, police, and innocent bystanders this past spring (while he was no longer governor by that point, having just resigned to begin campaigning, the problems that led to all the bloodshed in São Paulo did not suddenly spring up in the days after he resigned, but had their roots in his policies in terms of allowing police brutality and allowing the already-awful prison conditions to worsen).

Americans may not care about the Brazilian elections. I suspect most don't even know. But when we move beyond our bubble of American politics, and better understand how politics and issues work elsewhere, we not only gain a sense of the horrible policies we've inflicted on the world (just look at how Sader openly and correctly describes the PSDB's servitude to U.S. policies that have drastically retarded social justice and devlopment in Brazil) but we get a better sense of how other countries work, an understanding that hopefully will lead to better international cooperation not just between the U.S. and Brazil (or other countries), but multiple geopolitical models that different countries can use without having to look to the U.S.