Brazil is turning into Venezuela – but not in the way conservatives think
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Brazil is turning into Venezuela – but not in the way conservatives think

Reposted with permission from A Brazilian Operating in This Area

The opposition actually looks stronger than the winners of this year’s presidential election. They still give a hard time to President Dilma Rousseff, who won reelection by the tightest margin ever in our young democracy: 1.5 percent, or about 3 million votes. It has been weeks since the results were announced and defeated candidate Aécio Neves continues to enjoy his time in the limelight, now at the Senate.

The improvement is so clear that the 2018 race has clearly begun for him and São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, his likely rival for the top of the next anti-Lula ticket. But there is a risk in the strategy of keeping the ruling coalition and the Worker’s Party (PT) on the ropes until then: their moderate PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) has become a target for conservative activists.

Read more: Brazil’s presidential election soap opera

When PSDB’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected in 1994, he co-opted right-wing parties to make reforms that Brazil needed (although some of his allies say that he was actually co-opted by those groups). The liberalizing agenda he always pushed for was the North for his administration. As a sociologist, he was also for social programs, though modest ones. He eventually got what he wanted.

But this time there is a bigger group of conservatives that go much beyond Congress and demand much more from the opposition. They might be liberal when it comes to fiscal policies, but their politics are outrageous. They believe there is a communist dictatorship taking over in Brazil, that those who were tortured by the military regime deserved what they got and that Cuban doctors have come to indoctrinate children.

See also: Brazil truth commission delivers report on dictatorship’s crimes

Yes, all these things sound pathetic. And these are just a few of their groundless ideas. But these are the people driving the political debate in Brazil today. Stupidity has run unopposed since the protests of 2013, even more than it did when leftists insisted there was a coup plot against President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a few years ago.

The corruption scandal at Petrobras, which dates back to 2000, is deservedly all over the news. It adds to the pressure on the political group led by PT that is also marked by the mensalão scheme — a scandal involving kickbacks for political support, exposed in 2005. A clever judge is likely to implicate more than 60 politicians this time, including ministers, and dozens of top-ranked businessmen. In short, it is bad news for the current administration, even though all political parties are likely to have members involved in this.

But radical groups are on the streets to say that a  just-reelected president should be impeached — there is no evidence she is involved at all. Yet PSDB politicians are going along with it because they fear losing those votes.

Many of those radicals say that Brazil is drawing closer to Venezuela’s flawed democracy. I have often begged them to answer how that could ever be possible, since Rousseff has so many right-wing parties in her cabinet and alliance. I always ask those critics to compare Brazil’s independent judiciary and media to Venezuela’s controversial approach in those two areas. No credible answer. All I heard were improper comparisons, some kind of tropical McCarthyism as if the president’s rebel past influenced her administration. They sounded just like the Venezuelan opposition, except that we have no Hugo Chávez in Palácio do Planalto.

Read the rest of this post at A Brazilian Operating in This Area