The World Today for August 11, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

BRAZIL

A Page, Borrowed

Protesters staged events throughout Brazil recently after far-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro, citing baseless claims of fraud, suggested he might need to postpone elections next year due to potential vote-rigging in the country’s electoral system.

His comments stoked fears that he might be planning to stage military action to retain control of the country, explained the Washington Post. At the same time, the move seems to be a desperate, un-democratic attempt at political survival. Already, the president’s supporters have taken to the streets, while the Supreme Electoral Court investigates whether it is illegal to suggest electoral fraud, attack the voting system or undermine democracy.

As Reuters reported, Bolsonaro faces reelection in 2022, when he is expected to square off against his political rival, leftist ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula is now beating Bolsonaro in the polls. Brazilian officials are investigating Bolsonaro and his allegations of irregularities, the Guardian added.

Corruption allegations as well as Bolsonaro’s poor record during the coronavirus pandemic – Covid-19 has claimed more than 560,000 Brazilian lives – have battered his popularity. YouTube recently pulled videos associated with the president that delivered misinformation about the virus, for example, the New York Times noted.

But Brazil’s economic and social conditions have also worsened since Bolsonaro won office two years ago.

Extreme inequality, discrimination based on race and class, uneven development between urban and rural areas and “a baleful, incompetent, if not corrupt, ruling class” are stirring widespread discontent in Brazil, observed Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra in a Bloomberg opinion piece.

The most affluent Brazilians, for example, expanded their riches by almost three percent in the past year and now own half the country’s wealth. The poorest Brazilians, meanwhile, lost 20 percent of their income. Similar conditions sparked recent serious violence in South Africa, Mishra warned.

Recently released from prison after serving almost two years on corruption charges – he maintains that he was an innocent target of a conspiracy – Lula was a firebrand who transformed Brazilian politics as a leftwing activist when he was in charge from 2003 to 2010, explained Americas Quarterly. But he changed his stances over time.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he advocated for defaulting on crushing foreign debt. In the 2000s, he maintained relatively stable fiscal policies alongside a massive social spending program. Meanwhile, he remained beloved among many voters due to his working-class authenticity, Jacobin magazine wrote.

On the campaign trail, Lula has not articulated exactly what policies he might pursue in office, including whether he might seek revenge against politicians and officials who threw him in jail, the Financial Times reported.

Hopefully, it will be Brazilian voters, not the military, who will determine whether he or Bolsonaro has an opportunity to do anything at all.

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