Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary spoke with James Early, former director of cultural heritage policy at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution, and board member of the Institute for Policy Studies, about Bolsonaro's victory and what it means for Brazil, Latin America and the world, as well as Bolsonaro's connection with Steve Bannon, once US President Donald Trump's chief strategist.
Early said Bolsonaro's election "will have a devastating impact on social justice, on the material development of the lives of the most marginalized people who had benefited from the public policies of the Worker's Party." But the election in Brazil wasn't just a national election with national implications, he said: "Brazil is also a threat, now, across Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean — that includes Cuba in particular. This is really going to [manifest] as authoritarian-oriented, military-oriented use of official violence in the [Rodrigo] Duterte Filipino mode of killing alleged criminals, the explicit racist and explicit misogynist views, but particularly the racist views, being expressed by Bolsonaro."
Early further noted the high likelihood that Bolsonaro will add military officials, some of whom "have a history tied to the worst dictatorial history in the region, when there were many military governments coordinating with the US CIA," to his cabinet.
"It's important for listeners in the United States to be informed, such that they can act responsibly across ideological lines, understanding the role of Steve Bannon, as a major, not just national strategist in the United States, but as a global strategist, who has been openly collaborating with the Bolsonaro now-administration," Early said. "It is a stunning blow… I'm informed Bolsonaro has already put out calls to really try and isolate Bolivia and Venezuela in particular. The Temer government, which will now go out of power, has already expelled the Cuban medical personnel who were providing needed assistance, particular in the interior areas of Brazil."
"So this is a global, really authoritarian, fascist movement that will be highly racialized, highly misogynist, and it should be of concern to us all across the United States. I think we're beginning to see some signs of that awareness among some national politicians in the United States, to understand that there is a global front, and Brazil is just the latest achievement on the right-wing side." Early urged "more coordination between progressive civil society, literally across the globe, but particularly within the Americas and the Caribbean, and also a progressive alliance among elected officials to confront this very conscious, strategic, unfolding fascism that we're seeing, that again will be manifested in a real authoritarian approach."
"First and foremost, the impact is going to be felt in Brazil by the majority of the population, which by official census is over 51 percent of Afro descent. The correlation between skin color, not just racial classifications but between skin color and marginalization and poverty and incarceration and domestic violence and targets of police violence — on average seven Afro-descendents are killed in Brazil daily by the police, according to the Washington Post just about a year and a half ago," Early told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.
"So it's going to have a major impact on the majority [of the] population in Brazil, people of color, transgender, gay, lesbian people, in which there has been an explicit rabid homophobia pronounced by Bolsonaro."
"In the region, because of the economic weight of Brazil — it's the third-largest producer of aircraft in the world, it also produces military weapons, first in beef and soy — it will have a very important negative economic impact on the regional population, as the corporatists want to see privatization of public space and natural resources. It's going to be a threat to the Amazon, which Bolsonaro has boasted about opening up to agro-business. Of course, the Amazon is the lungs of the world, not just inside Brazil, and that ecosystem is under threat," Early noted.
"And we will see closer coordination between Bolsonaro's government and the right-wing government of Colombia, with its eight military bases and the threats to invade and to achieve regime change in Venezuela. So Venezuela will come under intensified threat, and therefore the internal attempt at peaceful negotiation and including those opposition members who are interested in national development, not just in raw, naked power, will be under threat. We will see an intensified front against Cuba, as we are already seeing intensified in the US State Department. So we will see this coordination with Brazil and with the military element of this new Brazilian government."
Early noted that in addition to having been in the Brazilian Congress for over 20 years, Bolsonaro also served as a paratrooper in the Brazilian Army for 17 years and attended the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras, Brazil's main military academy. As a result, he was close to the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 until 1985.
"I think he is to the right of Donald Trump," Early told Sputnik. "I think he is a more conscious, strategic individual, vis-a-vis the vulgar, vile, corporate power, raw, naked power of corporations and reducing public outlays for public development. You'll see Wall Street and others, while wincing a bit about his comportment, see this as a positive development for business. So he is situated as a more conscious ideological element rather than the sort of vulgar, pragmatic swings that we see with Donald Trump. He is compared more in much of the mainstream press to Duterte of the Philippines than he is to Donald Trump. I think we must take this very seriously: Brazil will not attempt to be a second-line player in this right-wing drift that we're seeing across the globe. I think they will take because of their economic weight, not only in the Americas but directed toward other parts of the world, including the continent of Africa — I anticipate that we will see them very much complicit in closing the public space, privatizing, and attacks on the most vulnerable citizens."
Early said he hoped the situation would lead to a self-reckoning by leftist parties in Brazil and across Latin America about their approach to left politics and how they related to organizational power in the streets instead of a primarily top-down welfare state approach to popular politics and the limits that sets on being able to struggle against right-wing forces when they arise.
"We do know for a fact that Steve Bannon was recently in Brazil and openly in coordination. You know, Steve Bannon has been very transparent and he has shown… that they want to tear down the state apparatus and build a new control factor for a far right-wing ideology and that they are willing to pay any price for that, whether it's rhetoric that leads to the killing of black church folk while they're worshiping or killing Jews in the United States as has recently happened in the last few days, and then to disavow any connection to that."
"So this is a very serious moment for us to think about as we move to defend ourselves we must also be thinking strategically about how to reassume state power… in collaboration with ordinary citizens and to really use that power. Not this abstract comportment as Obama did when he controlled both houses of the US government, talking about ‘I'm here for bipartisanism,' and really did not move many policies for the public interest and public trust."