By Satyaki Chakraborty
The storming of the Congress building and the Presidential Palace in Brazil by the far right supporters of the defeated president Jair Bolsonaro on January 8 is a wakeup call to the progressives of Latin America to unite for fighting the right offensive which has been launched in the countries that have elected the left wing presidents in the last two years.
On Sunday night, thousands of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the Presidential Palace, and the Supreme Court in Brasília. Descending on the country’s capital, the far-right mob called for the resignation of the newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and for the intervention of the military to halt the peaceful and democratic transfer of power.
The attempted coup drew immediate parallels to the January 6 insurrection in the United States two years ago, when Trump supporters invaded Capitol Hill. Both had been fueled by widespread misinformation that the elections were rigged and by a dangerous far-right leader who inspired their supporters into authoritarian action. The difference is that while the defeated Donald Trump was in the White House on January 6, 2021, on January 8, 2023, Bolsonaro was holidaying in his comfort villa in Florida. Though he was forced to say that he did not inspire the storming of the government buildings by his supporters, his statement had a rider, the protesters had right to demonstrate.
The entire development starting with the mobilization before the military headquarter and asking the army top brass to remove Lula who took over as the new president only on January 1 had so much signs of anti-democratic behavior that all the heads of western democracies, even the far right Italian prime minister condemned the storming and asked the protesters to abide by the electoral verdict. US president Joe Biden came out strongly against the far right insurrection attempts saying that the electoral verdict had to be respected. He extended his support to the president Lula.
Importantly, most of the heads of the left wing governments of Latin America came out in solidarity with the president Lula and extended their full support to the Brazilian leader in fighting the far right forces which are aiming to destroy the democratic fabric in the Latin American region. They took the January 8 coup attempt as a serious development in Latin American polity since last year the elected president Pedro Castillo was removed from Peru and earlier Argentinian vice president Fernandes Kitchener was arrested for corruption charges. Though Lula’s position is different, and both Castillo and Kitchener made some mistakes, still the moot point is that the far right is attacking the Left in a systematic manner and they are becoming more and more aggressive after their defeats.
As Left wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn candidly says the January 8 coup attempt does not just strike fear into the hearts of those who remember the scenes in Washington. It strikes fear into the hearts of those who live with the memory of fascism, authoritarianism, and militarism in their own land. Not least because Bolsonaro himself has openly expressed support for Brazil’s twenty-one-year dictatorship, telling an interviewer that “you’ll never change anything in this country through voting. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Bolsonaro denies any role in the insurrection. However, by frequently raising doubts about the integrity of the election and by refusing to attend Lula’s inauguration (breaking with custom for the outgoing president to hand the sash to the incoming president), there is no doubt that Bolsonaro’s most extreme supporters have been emboldened by his contempt for democratic processes.
In Latin America, though in the latest phase, the left leaning presidents were elected in a number of countries, the national assemblies have still been dominated by the rightwing and other anti-left forces. So it has been a Herculean task for many presidents to get their programmes approved by the parliamentarians. That is causing delay leading to the frustrations among the common people who are looking for a big change
The insurrection attempt is also a reminder of the additional barriers that left-wing governments must overcome to achieve real change. Lula campaigned on a platform of social justice, indigenous rights, and an end to deforestation. The vested interests can not wait for the Brazilian president to consolidate. They are rallying behind the deposed president Bolsonaro who still represents the main opposition leader of the combined right. The need is therefore to mobilise every section of the anti-right population of Brazil – trade unions, students, civil society and all parties having confidence in transformation in favour of people’s programme to support the Lula government. The task of the combined Left has become tougher..
As the political observers in Brazil mention the coup attempt, is not just about Lula, nor even the millions who voted for him. It’s about the right of the Brazilian people to live in a free, fair and peaceful society, and a right not to live in fear that the violent and bloody dictatorship will return. Those who stormed Congress did not just launch an assault on Lula and his supporters. They launched an assault on democracy and on the Brazilian masses.
That is why Lula’s present battle to protect his government is not just his own, it is the battle of the entire Latin American left wing governments and the masses supporting them. It is the battle in which the left wing people and the other forces who believe in democracy, have to rally on a common goal. The Mexican president Obrador earlier emphasized that Latin American nations have to be have a common perspective on their polity and development and fight jointly those forces who want to block the progress in the continent. After coup attempt in Brazil, this is the need of the hour. (IPA Service)