Within 24 hours of Brazil’s election result being announced, protesters gathered outside the Brazilian consulate in Sydney to express their opposition to president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and his fascist agenda.
Far-right candidate Bolsonaro was elected president in a second round run-off against Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad on October 28.
However, many have pointed out the undemocratic nature of the elections, which were held under an illegitimate government imposed through a constitutional coup and in which the most popular candidate, PT leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was jailed in order to stop him from running.
Representatives from the Maritime Union of Australia and the National Tertiary Education Union, along with solidarity activists and members of the Brazilian community in Sydney addressed the October 30 snap action.
Later that day, a forum was organised by the Socialist Alliance Sydney branch to discuss the situation in Brazil, with a lively discussion ensuing among an audience including Brazilians living in Australia and other supporters of the Latin American left.
“While supporters of the popular movements in Brazil are in a state of shock and sadness after the victory of Bolsonaro, it is also clear that resistance is already emerging in the streets,” Latin America solidarity activist Federico Fuentes told the audience. (You can watch the stream of the speech and discussion here.)
Fuentes is a co-author of Latin America's Turbulent Transitions and a member of the Latin America Social Forum and the Socialist Alliance.
“Although Bolsonaro has been described in the Western media as a kind of “Trump of the Tropics”, one key difference is that Bolsonaro has a clearly defined neo-fascist ideology.
“He has praised the former military dictatorship in Brazil … He has been described as a ‘Pinochet without a coup', in reference to Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet," Fuentes said.
“Bolsonaro's rise is largely due to the collapse in support for the traditional parties of the centre and right who support the 2016 constitutional coup against PT president Dilma Rousseff.
“Bolsonaro was primarily able to build his support on the back of his anti-PT campaigning, which had governed Brazil for the majority of the past 16 years, until Rousseff was removed.
Fuentes explained that “the PT emerged out of the trade union struggles against the dictatorship, and grew to involve important campesino movements and groups influenced by Liberation Theology.
“After winning the 2002 election, the PT government, under Lula, introduced a number of reforms in the interests of the poor majority, which were tolerated by the rich because their interests were not directly affected.
“But when the economic boom collapsed and the global economic crisis hit Brazil, Dilma was faced with the choice of implementing deeper reforms and attacking the interests of the capitalist class or placing the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the workers.
“Dilma chose to go the path of modest reforms that would have seen a mild redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. In response, there was a massive backlash from big business.
“In the end Dilma was undemocratically removed and Lula was unjustly jailed to stop him from running for president again, opening the way for Bolsonaro as the option that the capitalist class sees as most viable in terms of imposing its solutions for the economic crisis.
“But the battle is far from over. While the left has been weakened in this process, it is more united than ever against Bolsonaro.
“The people's movement has so far managed to defeat right-wing attempts to reform the pension system under Michel Temer [who was imposed in power after Dilma’s removal], that would have cut pensions and raise the retirement age.
“This opposition has remerged with Bolsonaro’s announcement that he will pursue these same pension reforms.
“There has also been huge public opposition to Bolsonaro's racist, misogynistic and homophobic statements.
“Bolsonaro will undoubtedly try to attack the left, including the PT and Landless Rural Workers Movement. We can unfortunately expect more violent attacks, including assassinations, against progressive forces.
“But resistance in the country is growing, with mass demonstrations breaking out already.
“Here in Australia, we need to do our utmost to help build international solidarity. We need to speak out, and support the anti-Bolsonaro opposition.
“There will be many tough days ahead, but our duty is to work to develop an international movement in solidarity with the Brazilian people.”