By Satyaki Chakraborty
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has extended his support to the Workers Party leader of Brazil former president Lula against the right wing president Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential elections in the country. Addressing the Latin America Conference on Friday, he said that Latin American left does so much to offer hope and inspiration internationally that in return we must offer our solidarity.
Corbyn said the Latin America 2021 Conference takes place at a time when once again the progressive and labour movements of that continent are at the forefront of the struggle for a better world. And that was clear to anyone at the recent COP26 summit and associated events in Glasgow.
Here, both left governments from the region (such as Bolivia) and social movements (including the massive environmental and indigenous movements of Brazil) were at the forefront of arguing for a different approach, one that puts people and planet before private profit.
According to the British leader, the ongoing resistance to the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil is one struggle which will need international support in the year ahead, especially as this struggle may return to Lula to the country’s presidency. When he was president, Lula had very effective anti-poverty programmes, including anti-hunger and income-transfer initiatives, which made a massive difference to millions of people, especially in rural areas. He ended his presidency with 90 per cent approval ratings, having in total lifted 20 million out of poverty.
As his biographer Denise Parana said in 2010 when he left the presidency, “Lula’s silent revolution has increased the national wealth and distributed the excess to the poorest classes. Lula has shown that a worker can be the boss, that an outsider can be president. He has symbolically redefined Brazil’s class boundaries.”His programme today is for a radical redistribution of power and wealth from the few to the many, investing in the future, public services and action to protect our environment.
After years of disastrous rule, it is no surprise that Bolsonaro is mired in difficulties and facing defeat in next year’s presidential elections at the hands of Lula. A survey by research institute Datafolha shows that Bolsonaro’s disapproval rating is now at a record high, with 53 per cent rating him either poor or very bad. This rating comes on the back of massive demonstrations against Bolsonaro. The charge sheet against Bolsonaro — who it is worth remembering may never have become president had Lula not been unjustly jailed and barred from standing ahead of the last presidential election — is vast, but a few key points are important to make.
Amongst these are the state of the economy following years of savage cuts and privatisation (with over 14 million unemployed) and his mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ignoring the World Health Organisation, he initially dismissed Covid-19 as “just a fantasy” and regularly attacks “media hysteria” over the issue. Yet there is no doubt Bolsonaro’s Covid-denial approach to the pandemic has been a major factor in Brazil registering a current total of 22.1 million confirmed cases and 615,000 deaths, making the country one of the worst hubs of the infection. Bolsonaro has made matters worse by attacking regional leaders trying to contain the infection and by doubling down on anti-vaccine attacks.
Corbyn mentioned in October, the Brazilian Senate’s Parliamentary Investigation Commission approved its final report into Bolsonaro’s mishandling of the pandemic, which accused Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity. The report recommends he should face a series of criminal indictments for actions and omissions related to what is the world’s second highest Covid-19 death toll.
According to the British leader, Bolsonaro is also facing enormous criticism for his role in the ongoing deforestation in the Amazon. The latest government data shows that deforestation in Brazil‘s Amazon rainforest soared 22 per cent in the past year. A petition to the International Criminal Court is arguing Bolsonaro must be held criminally responsible for this soaring deforestation, which ramps up the climate emergency and poses a clear and present danger to Brazil and to the world.
The good news though — and the reason international awareness is so important — is that resistance to the far-right is growing. As well as protests, strikes and other forms of dissent, political support for the left is also growing. This is reflected in how Lula’s standing, both domestically in the polls and internationally, is visibly increasing. His recent trip to meet heads of state in Europe has been a resounding success, whereas Bolsonaro was given a frosty reception at the G20 talks. Lula’s opinion poll ratings for presidential election voting intentions give him a clear lead of up to 14 points above Bolsonaro.
Corbyn pointed out progressives globally will welcome these political developments, but it is important to note this is also an extremely dangerous time for the sixth most populous country in the world. Due to his likely defeat in next year’s presidential election, there are growing fears — as recently explained by Progressive International — that Bolsonaro may try to hold onto power through mounting a coup. His government is military-dominated and the threat of a coup is very real. (IPA Service)