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Brazil: How We Got to Where We Are

By Joao F.

Art from Hebert/@artedeft, reinterpretation of the painting "The Homeland."

March 31 marked the 57th anniversary of the 1964 Brazilian coup d’etat.


Similar to that decade, Brazil is experiencing turmoil in the sphere of its military this year. On March 29, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the defense minister and replaced him with a yes-man, causing a sharp strain in relations between the military and the central government. However, out of respect for Bolsonaro, the military brass resigned instead of launching a coup. This has given the president complete power to forge the military brass however he wishes to, and he has already appointed yes-men to every vacant position.


I would like to speak about history, try to show some dynamics of the Brazilian formation as well, to show some relations of the current crisis of the political system, with Bolsonaro and the military, from a perspective of longue durée.


Before I start, I would like to point out that everything here is just comments, general panoramas, there is a very rich academic production about all the themes dealt with here, and there is still a lot to discover. I hope you all like it.


Brazil is a continental country, located in South America, with a population of about 211 million people. It has a huge diversity and a rich history. Was the last American country to formally abolish black slavery (1888), and until today the racial, indigenous, class, and gender issues are fundamental to understanding our dynamics.


Brazil has the largest black population outside Africa in the world, having about 305 different indigenous ethnicities ( which is much more than Bolivia and Peru), some of them are still isolated.


Currently, there are about 256 groups in the Brazilian territory, speaking more than 150 different languages, the first inhabitants arrived from several migratory waves, coming from different points, and until today there are different interpretations of this process. But, scholars believe that at least 10,500 years ago practically the entire territory that would become Brazil was already inhabited. Demographically, the majority of the Brazilian population is "mestiza/parda” ( which is the miscegenation between indigenous, black, and white) and black.


The white population is almost half of the total population (47,5%), the largest in Latin America, the total Brazilian white population is greater than the white population of Mexico and Argentina combined. Pardos, Mestizos, and the Black population correspond to another half (50-51%), indigenous people (0,42%) and Asians (1,1%). Before the colonization, between 4 and 10 million people were already living in Brazil's territory.


Today, the indigenous population corresponds to 816,917 people. The colonial period was strongly marked by epidemics, black/indigenous slavery, and systemic sexual violence. It is estimated that more than 5 million Africans were forcibly brought to Portuguese America in the context of the lucrative trans-Atlantic slave trade. This flow was uninterrupted and massive.


Therefore, the ethnic and linguistic diversity among the native peoples, some foreign religious groups were forcibly brought into Brazil, certain tensions and some African religious disputes continued on the American continent. Some ethnic groups led heroic resistance against slavery and continue to play a role in African politics today, such as in Nigeria. Most of the enslaved came not only from Angola, Congo, and Mozambique but also from Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea region, which also left a strong presence in Brazilian culture. This human trafficking took place within an intricate geopolitical structure, centered on the South Atlantic, and had Europe and Asia as its fundamental poles.


Dominant groups in African politics political entities, in their internal dynamics, allied themselves with European monarchies, establishing a deep political and economic relationship, generating change of hierarchies, the ascension of new political groups, and even the birth of new dynasties, in this context, the human trafficking in the Atlantic Ocean, provided the human flow needed to maintain this economic and international structure. Recently, Brazil received an important migratory flow, mainly from Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina and some African countries. Historically, Brazil has a very significant immigrant population of Lebanese, Syrians, Italians, Germans, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese, and even today its presence is very expressive. Brazil has the largest Japanese and Okinawan diaspora community in the whole world.


Although each Latin American country has a particular idea of race, and these experiences, identities, and evolution, these concepts are not similar, making sense only within their national contexts. Due to the large mixed population, it is easy to get confused if based only on the phenotype. Even so, the idea of a white race was fundamental in Brazilian formation. Not only during the colonization but also throughout the Republic. The eugenic policies of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century are an example of it, and it is necessary to understand how this belief always remains.


Brazil is one of the most Christian countries in the world, and is probably the largest Catholic nation, with almost 80% of the population either Catholic or Protestant. However, several Afro-Brazilian religions are being practiced throughout the territory, besides several native creeds. Brazilian history, since the beginning of colonization (in 1500), is the history of an uprising and resistance of the indigenous, the enslaved blacks.


The Portuguese arrived on the coast in 1500, but the formal colonial period lasted from 1530 to 1815, leaving behind a bloody legacy. It's impossible to measure the colonization impact. During the colonial period, France and the Netherlands have conducted some colonial experiences where now the Brazilian territory, besides that, there was also a period of a dynastic union between the crowns of Spain and Portugal (1580-1640).


Brazilian Imperial Flag, the green color in reference to the Bragança house, of which D. Pedro I was part of, while the yellow symbolizes the Habsburg house, of which D. Leopoldina, the Empress, was part of.

Brazilian Imperial Flag, the green color of the Bragança house, of which D. Pedro I was part, while the yellow symbolizes the Habsburg house, of which D. Leopoldina, the Empress, was part.


Many European wars saw Brazil as their battlefield, in the colonial period, the Portuguese carried out a historical dispute in the estuary of the Plate River with Spain. Moreover, huge uprisings happened too, and they never stopped, from great indigenous confederations to the largest Quilombo/Palenque in South America, Palmares (1605-1694), some of these experiences lasted decades and generated real dual power situations.


Palmares War depiction by Manuel Victor.
"Guaicuru Cavalry Charge" by Jean B. Debret.

The Portuguese colonization of South America is within the context of economic and cultural expansion of the European powers, and the emergence of processes that will result in the formation of the modern State, and the primitive accumulation of wealth, that will later enable capitalism. At the end of colonization, some provinces were isolated from each other, and in other cases, they had more ties to Africa or with the colonial Metropolis, than each other.


In 1815, the Brazilian state was elevated to the rank of a kingdom in union with the Portuguese Crown. In a nutshell, the independence process began with tensions unleashed when the Portuguese court fled to Rio (the only American city to act as a capital for a European empire) due to the Napoleonic Wars, arriving at the ports of Salvador in 1808, thereafter establishing Rio de Janeiro as the capital of the Portuguese Empire. With this move, King João VI managed to keep his empire and continue the war against France on American territory. In doing so, the colonial pact had been broken, and the ports were opened to foreigners.


With the end of the war, João VI returned to troubled Portugal, which was going through serious instabilities due to the Liberal Revolution of 1820. His son, subsequently crowned as Pedro I, stayed in Brazil. Then, pressured by the elites who feared (for many reasons) the return to colonial status, he declared independence and won a war against his father.


These military confrontations happened where today’s Uruguay, and the Brazilian states of Bahia, Maranhão, states that at the time formed the province of Grão-Pará. This way, Brazil achieves its independence (1822).


Thereafter, the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889) was formed, as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, with a European monarch. Still, it was very aristocratic, but with some industrializing tendencies, all based on the slavery model.


In the XIX century, Brazil got involved in geopolitical disputes and wars with the newly neighboring Republics, mainly where Argentina and Uruguay are located now, some of these wars had a clear imperialist and counter-revolutionary character (1816-1820, 1825-1828, 1839-1851, 1851-1852, 1864-1865).


This dispute and conflicts on the La Plata river would subsequently escalate to the great war of 1864- 1870 (Paraguayan War, or La Guerra Guasú/Guerra de La Triple Alianza), the largest in the South America continent: fundamental to understanding the consolidation of the Brazilian Army (soon we will talk a lot about them).


From then on, not only in Brazil but throughout the region, the militaries would consolidate their presence in the exercise of power and their National Armed Forces.


Furthermore, during the monarchy, Brazil experienced great instability. Some of the biggest popular uprisings in Brazilian history took place during this time, such as the Cabanos uprising (1835-1840) in the current states of Pará, Amazonas, Amapá, Roraima, and Rondônia, Malês Revolt, (1835) and Sabinada, in Bahia Province (1837 – 1838), Balaiada, in Maranhão Province (1838 – 1841), and also attempts at liberal revolutions(1824, 1842), all with a strong indigenous and black presence.


At that time, a process of important and complex civil wars (marked by strong regional dynamics.) and disputes between provincial oligarchies began, which lasted practically until the end of the First Republic(1889-1930), these wars are fundamental for understanding the emergence of a sui generis capitalist development.


The Empire followed a dynamic between two parties, Liberal and Conservative, with the Crown mediation, besides regional disputes and a growing political action by the masses, liberal republicanism and social movements (Abolitionism, Socialism, and Federalism).


Due to the strong pressure from the abolitionist and republican movements, and international pressure as well, mainly by the UK, the slavery, which was the main institution of the empire, (regulated by law), began to be threatened.


However, after a long process of struggles and advances, conquered by the popular struggle, the slavery in Brazil was formally abolished in 1888 through Princess Isabel's signature in the "Lei Áurea".


The freedmen were not rewarded with land, or integrated into society. New exclusion mechanisms were created, the big farmers and slave owners, who always resisted abolition, were even indemnified. With the formal end of the main economic structure, the monarchy collapsed, and, in 1889, it was overthrown by a military coup that proclaimed the Republic.


The Republic ended the Catholic monarchy, separating the State from the Church, but managed to be even more unstable and violent than the monarchy, although, the new Republic will always try to wear a liberal veil to legitimize his crimes.


The First Republic (1889-1930) was marked by decentralization, an increase in foreign immigration, the beginning of urbanization, the development of new political parties, and social movements, and also the maintenance of the marginalization and exclusion of certain social groups, several civil wars and revolts, even within the army (1891-1894, 1893-1895, 1896-1897, 1914, 1912-1916, 1923, 1924, 1925-1927, 1930).


The repressive and colonial character of the Brazilian State becomes even more outstanding. The Republic concretizes the economic decline of certain regions, creating a strong political structure that prioritizes the economic interests of the Southeast provinces allied with the regional oligarchies.


The main dynamics of contemporary Brazilian political history are the contradictions of maintaining the colonial and dependency structures, the inability to resolve regional and class issues, and the conflicts caused by capitalist modernization.


As a great Latin American scholar, Augustin Cuevas, says, Latin American democracies are structurally restricted, unable to definitively integrate the people. and consequently, unable to break up with the dynamics of the center's periphery, and unable to develop a national project, Latin American democracies coexist peacefully with racism and exclusion mechanisms.


In the Brazilian case, the old structures of colonial economy still exist, in other forms. Therefore, in Brazilian society, any person who is not "white"; is considered black. Racism permeates all social relations in the country, even though racism has a strong gender character, strongly related to class dynamics and socialization.


In this way, the Western liberal thesis works very badly in addressing colorism, even if it spreads in universities and liberal circles. They can't describe the favelas, for example. Many other dynamics also remain. In the same way, it is possible to say that Brazilian history is the history of revolts, it can also be said that it is the history of the great restorations, of the "great illustrated men," the white farmers and the military, the great massacres as well, something remarkable in the official narratives.


A great Brazilian anthropologist, Darcy Ribeiro, said: "Brazil is the USA in which the South won the war". So, for structural economic reasons, Brazilian oligarchies are historically racist and eugenics, and they had to maintain a brutal colonial State, always associated with the international market, to survive.


The First Republic was marked by an extremely restricted and fraudulent democracy. Great oligarchic disputes were often resolved militarily, and a singular presence of the military in politics (mainly in the early years) it was significant, occupying the presidency, being elected, and having a very significant role in daily life, where the political power, and the land, are owned and exercised by the military, families, oligarchies, security agents, or charismatic military figures, generating complex structures of power, in a very decentralized, regionalized way.


Moreover, the First Republic also experienced the beginning of urbanization and the consolidation of social movements, several strikes, anarchists, and communist revolts happened, including national armed uprisings (1917-1918, 1923-1924) that would continue until the Vargas Era.


Anarchist strike in São Paulo, 1917.

In 1930, due to electoral fraud and regional disputes, a coalition of provinces dissatisfied or excluded from the current oligarchic pact led to a military coup, known as the 1930 Revolution.


The Vargas Era began, accelerating the changes and contradictions that the Republic generated. Restoration or modernization? Controlled opening or dictatorship? Fascism or Revolution?


Here the role of the military is evident: the officers who fought in civil wars, participated or repressed revolts were the same ones who participated and later joined the revolution in 1930. The revolution was an anti-liberal block, with a modernizing identity, but still very oligarchic and conservative, to be more exact, a conservative reformism or an oligarchic reformism.


However, it created the basis for national development and the idea of the nation. The focus

of the revolution was to break the structure created by the São Paulo oligarchy. This dispute took place in the first years of the provisional government, culminating in the war of 1932, where the São Paulo oligarchy turned against the federal government, demanding a constituent, but also wishing to recover their power.


São Paulo is militarily defeated but wins in a political dimension. From this process, a new pact was formed between the oligarchies, which were increasingly moving towards a regime closure, which is evident in the constitution of 1934, and later in the Estado Novo dictatorship (1937-1946). This period was marked by a state of emergency, the congress was closed several times, a lot of repression of the popular classes, a great anti-communism, and economic development.


"Let us make the revolution before people do it." It is believed that this was the declaration of Governor of Minas Gerais (one of the most important oligarchies of the First Republic, which broke up an oligarchic pact with São Paulo.


Police quarters in Natal, riddled with bullets during the 1935 Communist Uprising. (Credit: Public Domain)

Vargas administration is the result of the positivist oligarchy of Rio Grande do Sul State, which was consolidated in the great civil wars of the end of the monarchy. He assumed power shortly after the revolution and reached visibility during the wars and crises at the end of the first republic, and it started a modernizing process, that sought to align and co-opt the social movements, workers organizations, and oligarchies to create an autonomous model.


In this period a series of reforms were carried out, the creation of a set of labor laws (CLT, currently destroyed by the 2016 coup), the development of public education, the female suffrage. Besides the creation of state-owned companies, and nationalizing of others, an integration program began with neighboring countries (Argentina and Chile), neither aligned with the Axis nor with Washington, much less with Moscow.


The Estado Novo fought the left-wing revolutionary groups and fascist groups too (AIB, Ação Integralista Brasileira). Brazil also fought in both world wars, always against Germany, even as Nazi ideology had lots of prestige in the armed forces and political oligarchies.


However, it was in this period that the military's political performance was consolidated, as in the creation of a national security doctrine. The same officers who helped Vargas to seize power are the same ones who toppled him in 1945, and were the same ones who led the destruction of his legacy, and consolidated the alignment with the US (a process that has existed since the XIX century).


After the fall of Vargas, the repressive apparatus of the Estado Novo seized power and began an opening, maintaining much of the old restrictions. It is worth remembering that for much of the republican period, leftist parties were illegal. Between 1945-64, Brazil faced a period of unprecedented democracy until then (surpassed only by the Sixth Republic).


This democratic period and the subsequent dictatorship coincided with a major urbanization, internal migration, creation of a new capital (Brasilia, 1960). Vargas would still return, by vote, and he would continue his developmental project, but due to great instability and coup attempts, he committed suicide.


The final years of the Fourth Republic (1946-1964) are going to be marked by coup attempts(1956,1959), left-wing mobilizations (1961-1962), a lot of popular and middle-class mobilization, and a soft coup that implemented the parliamentary system. But mainly, a great economic crisis caused the rise of the masses and also fascism.


It is important to talk a little more about the last dictatorship, of Operation Condor. The 1964 coup was an attempt to start a secessionist civil war (initially Minas Gerais), with US military aerial and naval support in the Espírito Santo coast toward Brasilia and Rio, led by the fascist (literally Integralist) and pro-American wing of the armed forces.


The 1950s-1960s were troubled times, that coincided with a great cultural revolution: the fruit of the great Brazilian artistic and scientific development. At that time there was great support for a nationalist project or even a workers' revolution.


There were united workers' organizations along with revolutionary organizations not related to the Goulart administration, ready even for armed struggle, besides a large nationalist and left-wing within the armed forces, simultaneously of a great intellectual production and a cultural revolution that spoke openly of reforming the structures of the country. The Ligas Camponesas, a peasant organization, which was fighting for land redistribution, came to possess almost 100 thousand members in the 60s.


In the 60s, Brazil lived once again in a pre-revolutionary situation. There was a large union of students, black and feminist movement organizations, politically, this process was materialized in João Goulart was heir to the Varguist tradition of the oligarchy of Rio Grande do Sul. Goulart had come to power, by accident, in the 60s.


He was a labor politician, whose projects were a series of modernizing reforms, such as agrarian reform. He was still a wealthy farmer, but he wanted to include the masses in politics. As president, Goulart had power over the armed forces, and troops under his command, ready to fight the putsch. Goulart and the left decided not to go into combat, more states joined the insurgent troops and the coup was successful.


The military and national corporations gradually created a new political system and started a white terror campaign (tortures, executions, and sexual violence), targets civilians, leftists, and nationalists. The official numbers talk about A 500 dead, but the worst-case scenarios estimate something between 10-50k or more, mainly targeting indigenous and poor people (this inaccuracy is due to the lack of access to official documentation, the decentralization of repression, and the regime's lack of control over political violence and right-wing death squads.)


Along with a great purge on the more nationalist and leftist sector of the armed forces, there was also a reorganization of the media system and universities, with a policy of direct intervention in these spaces, censorship, massive exile of intellectuals, a huge brain drain, and opening of Brazilian media and universities to American companies and international capital. All with the encouragement and active participation of the Brazilian bourgeoisie.


The Congress was closed several times, and they governed unconstitutionally. Even though political parties were made illegal. The Congress created two parties that functioned as a conceded opposition and also to pretend some democratic facade. The dictatorship (1964-1985) governed unconstitutionally, through Atos Institucionais, which gradually reduced political rights, changed the rules of the political system, and increased repression. In 1968, the regime's hard-line assumed power and promulgated AI 5, from then on the regime closed completely.


Throughout the dictatorship, the military will have to deal with a very combative and revolutionary working class. During this period, strikes and historic struggles took place (60s-80s), intensifying repression, but also forcing greater political openness (creation of new parties and other reforms). These workers' struggles will continue even with the end of the military regime.


In geopolitical terms, the military was involved in geopolitical disputes and an arms race with Argentina and Brazil have played a fundamental regional role, in maintaining the Bolivian and Paraguayan dictatorships. It also helped to combat communist insurgency illegally in Africa, the military gave logistical support for the counter ML insurgency in Uruguay (existed plans to invade the UY if the Frente Amplio won the elections or the anarchists and Tupamaros won the war.) Leading Central American troops and actively participating in the Dominican Civil War (1965) and later occupation.


It was one of the first coups sponsored by the CIA, already established by the model of Iran, Guatemala etc, and linked to the Suharto rise in Indonesia. Moreover, it was one of the few Latin American dictatorships that rehearsed industrialization, it was allied with foreign capital. One of the first measures was to reverse Vargas' policies, internationalize the economy and profits, demobilize the workers and revolutionary movements (by force and extermination).


There were several guerrilla attempts (COLINA, ALN, MR-8, VPR, VAR-Palmares) in the countryside and urban areas. The most famous occurred in the North of the country where the state boundaries between Pará, Tocantins, and Maranhão, known as Araguaia Guerilla (1967-1974).


None were successful, there was no foreign support (unlike years 20-30 where the Brazilian left had greater support from the USSR). Among the groups that launched the armed struggle, there are several tendencies, some believed it was necessary to create bases for a prolonged war, and others believed that the dictatorship would fall soon.


The dictatorship was a series of civilian and military governments, with five presidents, all generals, and two military juntas. It was marked by pharaonic projects, chauvinistic sentiment, wage crunch, great population growth, internal migrations, and, and the emergence of networks involved in narco.


Along with this, there was a false economic miracle that served to legitimize the dictatorship for the middle classes. This development has always been associated with foreign capital. However, there was no distribution. Many of the conquests and rights in force today, such as public education, a public health system, LGBT, and women’s rights, were only achieved in the constitution of ‘88 at the end of the dictatorship.


Even though Latin America experienced a pre-revolutionary situation in the 1990s ( as like Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, and Argentina), but there was no party willing to lead the process.


The dictatorship ended as in Spain or Chile: on top, slowly, despite the pressure from the streets. The military was given amnesty (until almost 2016 when a shy National Truth Commission was started).


The Armed Forces remained with many privileges, and the parties of the dictatorship wrote a new constitution, which was not voted, and the Sixth Republic (1988) began. Brazil was one of the only dictatorships that ended up coming because they decided to come out of power, a slow, gradual, and safe opening, according to General Geisel, it was not because of their crimes, but due international isolation and economic failure.


They continue with a lot of power, with autonomous institutions and courts, and a strong family bureaucracy too. Never had a reform in the Police or in the Armed Forces, which has coordinated State terrorism.

Tuíre, a Mēbêngôkre woman, points a knife at the director of an electrical company Altamira, Pará, February 1989.

Until today, death squads remain a real fucking issue, and despite the massive scientific production and attempts to build a memory, there is still a great revisionist and pro-dictatorship rhetoric within Institutions and other spheres. After the "economic miracle" the society collapsed. The dictatorship left behind a wealthy state with a huge inequality.


At the beginning of democratization, the Sixth Republic was marked by inflation, and it only changed with the creation of a new currency. Moreover, it created a pact among the elites, creating a bi-party alternation (PT x PSDB) system, based on the financialization, and export of commodities, and an unprecedented expansion of state indebtedness (in an already internationalized economy) greater dependence on mining and agribusiness, a historic expansion of the latifundium, and the concentration of wealth as well. The 1990s were marked by big strikes, popular mobilizations, electoral fraud, and the beginning of a neoliberal project, which is being implemented very slowly.


So, there was a social democratic government between the years 2003-2016, these governments were generated from the struggles and strikes of the 90s.


PT (Worker's Party), initially led by a former union leader coming from Pernambuco state, in the northeast, Lula (2003-2007/2008-2011), followed by a former guerrilla fighter (she was a victim of state terrorism), Dilma Rousseff (2010-2014/2014-2016), the first woman to be elected president in Brazilian history.


But, these governments were far from revolutionary, not because there was an agenda to be followed, or a superior economic system, but because of the growing distance from the bases, the break with indigenous organizations (as in Ecuador and Bolivia), the lack of a mass line, and the tendency to negotiate with the bourgeoisie has affected the PT's political survival.


However, when elected, they negotiated and the neo-liberal policies continued. There was an increase in salaries, income distribution, and compensation policies, as well as an increase in consumption, and the discovery of, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the Pré Salt. The university's policies broke very subtly and slowly with the social segregation from the dictatorship.


There was a significant development of state-owned enterprises, and industries, in the chemistry, oil, and infrastructure sectors. Brazilian companies started to compete for markets in Africa, the Caribbean Sea, and South and Central America. Brazil not only joined the BRICS but has been present in the organization since its formation. The banks and farmers never have so much profit in history (before the 2016 coup, obviously).


Creating a kind of pact among the national bourgeoisie (the banks, farmers, mining companies, the international capital, and the union bureaucracy), the PT governments have succeeded, subtly, in including the poor in the budget.


The Brazilian frontline, 2013 national riots. (Ruy Barros)

Protesters take the building of the National Congress, Brasília, 2013. (Ruy Barros)

Much of this economic growth was due to the Chinese economy, the main Brazilian economic partner, together with the commodity boom. Financial capital and its imperialist states have always envied Brazilian resources, and their gigantic reserves of oil and water. They also did not like the development of Brazilian companies (curiously created by Vargas).


The bourgeoisie felt that their structures were changing, their intractable racism couldn't stand the social ascension of the poor and the rise of a new emerging class, even though public and distributive policies were very cheap and represented almost nothing in the Brazilian budget, and do not even compare with the size of the profits and international reserves.

However, with the arrival of the winds of the 2008 crisis (culminating in 2014), the Brazilian the government became increasingly neoliberal, and all compensatory policies began to have greater resistance to be implemented.


The lack of a mass line became clear with the rise of social movements, which did not have PT support, and a long cycle of strikes, as in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. A series of repressive laws regarding the war on drugs were implemented during PT governments (like other Latin American countries). With the rise of the masses, even an anti-terrorist law was written.


The increase in the incarceration of poor youth in the context of the drug war was significant, along with militarization, when the army began to fight narco directly in exceptional cases, where they carry out military operations in urban areas and the countryside, with the aim of "guaranteeing law and order" or "pacifying" very specific regions, usually favelas (as in Mexico and Colombia).


So, in 2013, after huge national riots caused by the increase in the passage of public transport together with the biggest university strikes in Brazilian history, followed by the mobilization of various sectors of the working class in the following years (something similar will happen in Mexico from 2016), the former president wrote anti-terrorist laws, besides forming a pact with the states that would guarantee the continuation of austerity measures (later used against her).


The last Dilma government alone was proof of the reactionary nature of the Brazilian bourgeoisie. After being elected, she applied the project of her adversary, a very neoliberal (a state governor, involved with narco), but it didn't help.


Then in 2016, Congress and the Supreme Court disbanded her with a criminal maneuver, with the support of the CIA (Lava a Jato). Then, we had 2 years of interim and ultra-neoliberal the government led by Dilma's vice president, Michel Temer.


Already in 2016, it is possible to see an absurd cohesion among the national bourgeoisie in a coup the project, which would include even the democratic and liberal left parties.


After Bolsonaro's election, this bourgeois cohesion would become even more explicit, as he would have support from the most backward sectors of the economy, and also from national banks, foreign capital, and strange connivance from the opposition and union bureaucracies. Creating a new dynamic, where the powers are held by the Courts (Supremo Tribunal Federal) and the military (represented by the Executive Power).


Temer administration intensified the war against rival cartels and intervened militarily in some states (the socialist activist Mariele Franco, was murdered during one of these operations, while investigating police violence), the masses continued on the streets, but without support from the PT.


The right-wing groups, which have always been mobilized, controlled the movement, while the left side was repressed. In the 2018 election process, the Courts held ex-president Lula, who would certainly win the elections, as Bolsonaro and a general of special forces (Mourão) are elected, with various evidence of electoral fraud.


The base of the current government is the latifundiarios, the mining, the state's military police, some churches, the paramilitaries (these groups already existed before the dictatorship, but developed after the 1964 military coup ), and the financial sector. However, it is already public knowledge that it was the Armed Forces that maintained the interim government and that today it maintained Bolsonaro, indeed.


An organ of security and intelligence was recreated by Dilma in 2016. The Gabinete de Segurança Institucional da Presidência da República (GSI/PR). It was along the lines of the last dictatorship SNI (Serviço Nacional de Informações), and was led by General Heleno (one of the regime's strong men), who initially led the UN occupation in Haiti, MINUSTAH (2004-2017). Mourão and Heleno served as commanders in the Southern region and the Amazon, respectively. Another illustrious military man of the regime is Santos Cruz, who was responsible for the defeat of the M-23 in the DRC in a controversial UN op (2013-2015/MONUSCO).


Today more military personnel are in the institutions than in any other dictatorship in Brazilian history. We don’t know for sure, but it is estimated to be between 6k-10k military personnel (this growing militarization was already visible in the neoliberal governments of the 90s, That was followed by PT). However, they were now "elected", a rare thing in Brazilian republican history.


Bolsonaro and the military came from the most fascist and terrorist faction of the last dictatorship (1964-1985), which competed with the wings less submissive to Washington. Bolsonaro's campaign slogan "Brasil acima de tudo, Deus acima de todos" (Brazil above everything, God above everyone) is inspired by the slogan of Centelha Nativista, a group composed of the military who opposed the opening of the dictatorship.


Bolsonaro was a congressman known for his scandals with paramilitary, misogynist, and racists declarations, besides being “expelled” from the army when he was captain, cause he was involved in conspiracies.


In the PT govt, the military was very active, mainly in UN operations (DRC, Lebanon, CAR, and an occupation in Haiti, with many human rights violations.) Today, a Brazilian general is a kind of VP in US SOUTHCOM, together with Colombia.


It was these same military personnel who sponsored/made the military coup in Bolivia(2019) with MI6 support. The Brazilian 2016 coup was preceded by the coup in Paraguay (and the beginning of the insurgency of the Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo in 2008) and the 2009 coup in Honduras.


They are a symptom of a long-term Latin American political project, which has already signed itself in the Peruvian dictatorship (Fujimori 1990-2000) and with Álvaro Uribe Vélez in Colombia. However, the anti-communism and the farce of these people is so great that it resembles an 18-tropical Brumaire, or McCarthyism paranoia, a business plot that worked, or even tenebrous cold war figures like Roberto D'Aubuisson.


The military believe that they are inheritors of the Brazilian Empire and that they have the right to moderate the nation like the Pentagon and the Old Monarchy do. They create myths, recreating a colonial past when there was no racism (aligned with the liberals), and the Army was the institution that integrated the races.


'This is bullshit. It just shows that the current coup has a militaristic and cultural character, not just a corporate one. These guys didn’t come out of nowhere. This is another great contradiction: democracy has maintained these guys and other fascists in the security organs, and walking through the corridors of Brasilia.


Even before the PT governments, they were very active and had a budget increase. The Sixth Republic always lived with structural racism and an absurd level of incarceration. The Brazilian prison population is one of the largest in the world, only losing to the Chinese and American prison systems. The drug wars and incarceration increased during the PT's governments.


The military thinks they are geniuses, while civilians and politicians are corrupt and incompetent, and they see themselves as an organization separate from the rest of the country. However, there is also a true and hybrid war, lawfare (Lava Jato international operation), and full spectrum dominance, with support of private media, a blatantly imperialist offensive happening, in Brazilian territory. The military just co-opted the process.


The far-right speech is crazy. Cultural Marxism, and War on Terror, besides a religious agenda and anti-feminist and anti-LGBT projects. The coup increases the process of militarization, starts a giant ideological propaganda campaign, and also massive privatizations, continuing the destruction of the productive sector.


Bolsonaro’s Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, the darling of liberals and the corporate media, worked with the Chilean dictatorship (a normal thing for Brazilian politicians). He would also continue a massive attack on the university, health system, and labor rights. This meanwhile accompanied by an increasing of the status quo left by PT (violence, austerity, inequality of rent and land).


This group of military personnel plays a regional role, in a geopolitical alignment with the United States (even though Brazil is dependent on China), destroy any attempt at new associated developmentalism, ensure that international capital takes possession of the rich Brazilian natural resources, and, of course, guarantee certain vested interests, such as international drug trafficking routes, as cocaine and gold, besides being the darlings of Europeans companies, and US and Israeli security companies.


They are implementing a neoliberal State, created by the military, not mainly by civilian governments, as it had been happening since the 90's. They are building a police state, based on an even greater exploitation of the working class, in a rentier dependent capitalism.


The high military officers are acting like a political party, with intentions of cultural war. Therefore, they represent not only their interests but an organized long-term movement where all the armed forces are cohesive. If Bolsonaro falls, they will remain in power, and it will be necessary to negotiate directly with them.


All party, military, and court corruption, in the end, worked as tools for imperialist interests. The political system was already very weak. Operations such as Lava Jato not only destroyed large national companies, and nuclear programs but also ended up with the reputation of a system that no longer had much legitimacy.


They took advantage of that feeling and radicalized their speech. It is possible that this project was already underway since the first decade of the 21st century. However, the political conditions were manifested with the worsening of the crisis.


This instability destroyed the legitimacy of the entire system and all parties. From right to social democracy, they have lost electoral projection. It is difficult to revert to what is going on electorally, this time manifesting itself in a total robbing of the state, and a massive expropriation of the entire Brazilian people.


In response to an unprecedented crisis, the entire bourgeoisie and political class chose proto-fascism, and total subjection to imperialist interests, following once again the associated development cycle, followed by an autocracy or dictatorship, as described by Ruy Mauro Marini and Vânia Bâmbirra, decades before.


Their goal is to further capture the national budget, get rich (or continue), not be arrested for their crimes (Bolsonaro, his wife and his sons have clear links to paramilitary and corruption scandals), change the constitution, destabilize state opposition governors, and consolidate themselves as representing foreign interests


Today, there are already some political prisoners. They are already writing anti-terrorist laws based on the Bush-era Patriot Act, and playing constant military exercises on the French and Venezuelan border (Brazil has the largest armed forces in Latin America, great special and jungle forces, but in some aspects, it is inferior to Chile and Venezuela). The emphasis is maintaining close relations with the Chilean, Colombian, and Paraguayan States, and with the US / UK intel. Last year, Bolsonaro ceded a military base in the state of Maranhão to the US.


Bolsonaro surrounded by senior military chiefs, November 24, 2018 (Credit: AFP/ Archives)

During the first years of Bolsonaro, the border was tense. There was talk of activating the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance against Maduro. The pandemic exposed an old scrapping of the health system, which is yet another unfortunate continuity. Pandemics are frequent in Brazilian history, literally fulfilling a military role in the conquest of territory and populations in the colonial period. During the 19th and 20th century, they were also striking. Recently, Brazil experienced a Dengue epidemic and other diseases that have spread to neighboring countries.


Between 2020 and 2021, a Brazilian general served as Minister of Health, Eduardo Pazzuelo. Curiously, his brother was arrested for being involved with death squads in the state of Amazonas, and also with sexual violence.


On May 16, 2020, when Pazuello was appointed as Minister of Health, Brazil accumulated 233 thousand cases and 15,633 deaths associated with COVID-19. On 03/15, when the replacement of the general was announced, the number of cases was over 11.5 million, and the number of deaths approached 280 thousand. His administration was marked by a very serious crisis in the supply of oxygen in the north of the country, which would make the Egyptian dictatorship jealous.


Nevertheless, Brazil had some ways, capacity, and time to make restrictions, produce vaccines, build infrastructure to manufacture medical equipment, and even help the neighbors, but they did nothing. Just blamed China and started a genocide with the help of the bourgeoisie and politicians.


Today Brazil breaks unemployment records. The GDP fell 4.1% in 2020 compared to 2019, the real was the 6th currency that depreciated the most in 2020 against the dollar. Strikes break out everywhere, even in the most precarious sectors, but they find it a very difficult situation, Brazilian society is conflicted, and politicized.


The last few years have been marked by very serious environmental crimes, great feminist mobilizations, and workers' and student strikes (Brazil has very well-formed left-wing parties, with a lot of tradition, although in parliament they have no space). And giant struggles of indigenous peoples, against mining and other predatory companies. These disputes are so tense that they resemble the conflicts of colonial times.


Brazil is one of the largest exporters of non-lethal weapons in the world. Brazilian tear gas was widely used in the counter-revolutions of Bahrain (2011) and Turkey (2016) for example, in addition to providing collaboration and military equipment to neighboring countries (Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador).


Unfortunately, Lula and Dilma never summoned the people to march. Even when they suffered the coup. PT's bureaucracy, together with the party's most financed factions, does not usually carry out street mobilizations and training of new leaders, even though it has great popularity. Even they knew that destabilization operations were taking place.


The numbers of urban and rural violence in Brazil can be compared to countries at war. In 2020, the military police of the State of Rio de Janeiro alone killed more than the entire American police. In 2020, 22 children were shot in Rio City, between 8 and 12 died and 4 were injured by firearms.


In 2019, 24 children were shot, seven died and five were the victims of stray bullets. Between 2001 and 2015 there were 786,870 homicides in the country, the vast majority (70%) caused by firearms, this is greater than the casualties of the war in Syria.


Like all Latin American countries, Brazil also has extremely high rates of political violence, murders of journalists, femicides. In 2019, Brazil surpassed the number of 79 thousand missing persons, in 2020, 217 people disappeared. In 2014, Brazil had left the Hunger Map, in 2018 it returned, and in 2014 Brazil became the 7th largest economy in the world. Today it is already in 12th position.


It's not yet possible to say that a state terror regime is taking place, but Brazil already lives in the dynamics of a militarized state, with opposition granted, and corporate media, just like in the times of dictatorship.


No matter how important the democratic opening was, it should not be forgotten that the Sixth Republic also has its crimes and mass graves, it is not known how many generations were lost, and it is naive not to consider that this same democracy has brought the country here.


Political map of Brazil. (IBGE)

Great care must be taken about the stigmas created not only with Brazil but with all Latin American countries. Brazil has beautiful jungles, beaches, mountains, and the largest biodiversity in the world. Great artists, and rich literature, Brazilian cultural production is one of the most important of all the Lusophone sphere, besides a rich history of struggles and resistance, which can still teach us great lessons, even in the military and strategic scope.


It's a historic opportunity, where once again it will be necessary to decide who is the nation. Only the action of the masses in politics, a Bolivarian project could fix that situation. Brazil is one of the few countries capable of supporting Latin American and Caribbean economic integration, and also mediating relations between Asia and Africa.


Only a process that comes out of the innards of the Brazilian people can reverse these problems. Otherwise, the country will have to go through painful sacrifices. The unpredictable dynamics of the crisis continue.





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