Artist and activist Daniel Lima has just published an anti-Brazilian Coup manifesto in English, now available to download and print as a flyer, or just as a reminder of how bad the year of 2016 was for Brazilians and the ongoing resistance the country is living through. The consequences of Temer’s current unelected presidency (after Dilma’s impeachment) will be felt throughout 2017 as elections are not due until the Fall of 2018. There has been little reporting in English on the scale of the reforms Temer is trying to push through despite his unelected status. Here is a refresher of what led to Temer’s unelected rise to power and here is an article that elucidates the hypocrisy at stake. An excerpt of Lima’s flyer follows below (and in full with drawing and diagrams by Lima at the end of the text):
The White Coup
President Dilma Rousseff committed no crime of tax liability. The vast majority of politicians who judged her are being themselves prosecuted for crimes that harm society and are cited several times for further investigation by the informants in the biggest anti-corruption investigation in Brazil’s history. The president has not been cited once in this process. Yes, there is an ongoing coup in Brazil! Recordings disclosed after the impeachment vote in Congress clearly showed an articulation of politicians linked to the new government and linked to right-wing opposition for a “national pact/deal,” aiming to depose the democratically elected president from power. Recordings show the vice president himself, in a Machiavellian gesture of political betrayal, building the “Temer solution” and in one blow setting forth the coup against President [Rousseffs government] and seeking to freeze ongoing investigations of corruption involving himself and his allies.* The 2014 elections divided the country. In May 2015 the impeachment process began, which culminated in August 2016, and the political forces defeated in the 2014 election gained power. The coup is now consummated. Specialists, technicians, and even the judiciary admitted that there was no crime of tax liability, and that this is a purely political process. So this is an explicitly juridical-and-mediatic coup, a white coup that dispensed with weapons and army but which was nevertheless able to remove a legitimately elected president in the middle of her term. The legitimization and acceptance of most international governments in relation to the coup challenges the notion of democracy and makes us ask what new geopolitical structure has begun to emerge. In Latin America, we’ve had the precedent of Paraguay and Honduras. The question that now arises is how these white coups in which the judiciary power and the mainstream media replace direct military intervention are reconfiguring the world in an even more authoritarian, conservative, and exclusionary direction. In cognitive capitalism, nothing is more natural than the seizure of power accomplished by influencing public perception through fictitious accusations of illegality. What is the future of democracy when it is legitimated by a judiciary often tending to the right wing, to conservative and anti-democratic ideas?
Military Coups in South and Central America
There are times when the Americas have suffered coups against the democratic process. In the second half of the twentieth century, military coups in South and Central America were “sponsored” by the US as a way to combat the spread of communism in the postwar world. Between mid-1950s and 1980s, South and Central America were largely dominated by military regimes. Haiti, Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile saw the military seizing power by force of arms. Thousands of people died, were persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured in the struggle for democracy. This period deeply traumatized Latin American societies. In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff established the Truth Commission to collect testimonies from this period throughout the country for nearly three years.
Yes, the Coup is Legal and Juridical
But this is not a coup that resorts to weapons, but a coup with new features, a legal and media coup. It is a bloodless coup. A parliamentary coup. The legitimization and acceptance of the coup by most international governments challenges democracy and makes us question what new type of geopolitical structure has begun to emerge in the region. We have had in Latin America the precedent of Paraguay, that of Honduras, and we now see the same prospects come to a country with a greater role in the leadership of the region.
Yes, the Coup is Racist
After the coup, the political configuration in the cabinet nominated by the traitorous vice president is constituted by a majority of whites. This composition reflects an elite that has always bet on the segregation of the country, where a white minority is fixated on their privileges that exclude the majority of the black, mixed-race, and indigenous population and relegates these minorities to a condition of sub-citizenship. The colonial elite, of slave-owner and aristocrat heritage, designated as “slave-o-crats” [escravocratas], has become the business elite of today. The FIESP (Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo—Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo, a Brazilian industry entity) sponsored the coup, and is now the new “Casa-Grande”—the slave master’s house—as states Eugenio Lima (artist and activist), in an interview with Eliane Brum, in which he describes the poetic performance Legítima Defesa [Self-Defense] that took place in front of FIESP’s headquarters: “FIESP is the modern Casa-Grande. Firstly, it represents on the one hand the subtraction of constitutional rights, to the extent that this agenda has never been legitimated by an election. This agenda does not represent the population. Thus, it can only operate on the sly. The second aspect is that FIESP clearly and directly encouraged fascist actions. Insulting, racializing speech, putting down. And used public resources to finance private actions, as is the case with their funding of pro-impeachment demonstrations. This is the way of the Casa-Grande. I’m not calling the FIESP Casa-Grande just because they are heirs of slaveowners. But because they operate within the logic of Casa-Grande. The heritage of the Casa-Grande organizes society, it still organizes the state in its operative likeness. What was the Casa-Grande? The Casa-Grande was the Church, the Casa-Grande was the hospital, the Casa-Grande was the State, the Casa-Grande was everything. The Casa-Grande is the center around which everything orbits. That’s the metaphor that the forces gathered around the FIESP enacted in this historical moment. It is a similar historical moment to that of 1964, and FIESP has had the same behavior in the past, because the 1964 coup was civil as well as military.”
Yes, the Coup is Misogynist
Yes, the coup is misogynist, as is evident in the sexist attacks of the opposition against president Dilma Rousseff. The president had her image publicly tarnished and shamed. Gender-based attacks and imagery of Rousseff in humiliating situations have attempted to diminish her political credentials. Dilma’s political career was already an exception to the workings of Brazilian politics; the country has only 10 percent female representation in congress, and this process of defamation became one of true aversion and hatred. As Márcia Tiburi put it: “What happened to Dilma Rousseff made us aware that the violent power of patriarchy doesn’t only turn against women, but against democracy as whole, especially in the increasingly radical version of democracy, with its intimate connection with the feminist propositions and continued struggle for rights. What happened to Dilma Rousseff helps us understand the inner workings of a true misogynistic machine, the patriarchal power machine, at times an oppressor, at times a seducer. A machine composed of many different institutions, from the state to the family, from the shurch to the school. A machine whose function is to preclude women from reaching and remaining in power.”
The coup is misogynist, as was made evident by the political framing established by the currently illegitimate interim president Michel Temer, right after the impeachment. Temer solely nominated men to his cabinet of ministers. The coup is misogynist because it takes a conservative stance that is also mostly white and male.
Yes, the Coup is Homophobic
Dilma Rousseff confronted the conservative family image from the beginning by not establishing a heteronormative public image. When she was sworn in, she took her daughter. This attitude, in addition to her affirmation of rights for the LGBT community, has garnered a homophobic and fascist reaction against her.
Yes, the Coup is Elitist
In Brazil, we’ve created a battle between opposing political projects. One side is invested in maintaining a tradition of segregation that comes from colonial Brazil, that is the conservative project; and the other side fights for democratization and income distribution. This latter project has been winning at the ballot box for the last sixteen years and only now, with the coup, has it been subjugated by the conservatives. These two political projects have coexisted for many years through concessions and deals. The Left has abdicated on many issues and has embraced the conservative forces in order to maintain “governability.” These deals distanced the left-wing leaders from their popular support.
We now know we are amidst an image war designed to influence the nation’s perception. The differences between both projects have become clearer and divisive across the country. And rightly so, because this highlights the differences between both political projects and alerts us to the fragility of our democratic ideal. In discussing these two opposing projects, it is important to recall and continue to reiterate that Brazil was the biggest slave-based production system in history and continues to this day to be one of the most unequal countries in the world. It is now clear: Brazil is politically divided and will remain politically divided. This is the class struggle at stake here.
But this is an unequal struggle between political projects because the conservative right’s stance gained acceptance due to the major role played by the highly concentrated mainstream media’s bias. The media’s bias convinced the public that an extreme politico-economic situation was reached, legitimizing the impeachment and ousting of the president, despite the absence of proof of Dilma’s alleged crime.
Yes, the Coup is Mediatization/Mediatic
From manipulating data to misleading headlines, the extreme bias of Brazilian media has played a fundamental role in the coup. In cooperation with the judiciary system and its selective leaks, the mass media were able to manipulate information in the most efficient way: by only giving visibility to certain crimes and by obscuring the crimes that involved their right-wing allies. The media did more than just strengthen one of the sides, they constructed the coup’s narrative. They gave the names, they turned the farce into a convoluted novella, they made up chapters and characters, created a climate of doom and crisis. During Dilma Rousseff’s time in office, the hegemonic media created a parallel campaign that favored the conservative forces, and made a spectacular investigation of the Petrobras corruption scandal that allegedly implicated the PT, Dilma’s party, its preferred theme in manipulating information and exploiting the situation. The complicity between the media and the judiciary system reached its peak with the leak of conversations between president Rousseff and former president Lula in a special edition of the most popular news program in Brazil. This biased approach became laughable when journalists commemorated the approval of the impeachment at the voting in Congress. In addition to this extreme media bias in Brazil, the Left’s made its own mistakes when in power. The Left did not establish an agenda to democratize the media—a significant and fundamental struggle.
Media Family, Family Media
The name “Media Family” is used because all the major media in Brazil are conservative, sitting in the armchairs of fake Sunday family morals. “Family Media” is used because its families are indeed—along with Pentecostal churches—what holds the hegemonic power of mass communication.
Estadão newspaper: Headed by the Mesquita family. It is the most conservative of the print journalism outlets. A bastion of the geopolitical clout of São Paulo in the rest of the country.
Folha de S. Paulo newspaper: Headed by the Frias family. Perhaps the most influential of all newspapers. Folha de S. Paulo is intimately connected to the PSDB (liberal conservatives); it’s the essential cultural reference of the middle class. It’s the major aggregator of the PT’s (Worker’s Party) opponents.
Abril: Headed by the Civita family. It’s the largest news imprint in Brazil. Under its coordination, Veja, the magazine with the largest circulation in the country, showcases conservative discourses and personalities. It uses its magazines as part of the campaign against left-wing parties and discourses.
SBT: Headed by the Abravanel family. A popular TV broadcaster, it is owned by television presenter and a self-made-man Silvio Santos. Its shows with an audience are a major example of the alienation of the public by the media.
Record: Led by Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD). The interdiction on churches to acquire media broadcasters didn’t prevent pastor Edir Mascedo from building an empire on the triad of faith, media, and church tax. Recurring to homophobic condemnations and religious persecutions of Afro-Brazilian religions, this radically conservative broadcaster defends the Bible in the manipulative media.
BAND: Led by the Saad family. This broadcaster is connected to agribusiness. Its shows and broadcast journalism engage mostly with the Bullets, Bulls, and Bible formula (the acronym designates three political forces that have at times lobbied together: military forces, police, armament lobby; religious fundamentalists; and predatory agribusiness, deeply rooted in a settler mentality). It openly opposes all the Left.
Rede Globo: Headed by the Marinho family. This network has been monopolizing TV broadcasting since the military dictatorship. Roberto Marinho, a Brazilian Citizen Kane-type, who died in 2003, consolidated an immense media complex. Globo constructs crises, takes down presidents, and its journalists often need to take cover during major leftist demonstrations in which protesters can be heard shouting: “The people aren’t stupid, out with the Globo Network!”
“Independent media has self-organized and created a new way to tell their stories. This media, almost always working in a collective and collaborative manner, has been on the ground. Instead of transmitting demonstrations from above, filmed from rooftops or helicopters, independent media has shown the faces of the people on the streets, their character, apprehensions, doubts, their strength and their struggles. And it has revealed the mainstream media’s farce to the outside world. Independent media used the networked environment of the internet as a broadcasting platform, and soon the internet became an outlet for the immediate relay of events taking place offline. This mediatic explosion was felt in the pages of Jornalistas Livres, Mídia Ninja, Imprença, R.U.A. FotoColetivo, Democratize, Vaidapé, Brasil de Fato de Fato, and in other progressive media sources. The counter-narrative creates its own game pieces amidst the coup’s grand board game. A sense of urgency is in the streets.”
—Fernando Sato, Jornalistas Livres
Yes, the Coup is Economic
The Pré-Sal oil fields (discovered in 2006 and one of the largest oil reserves in the world) are perhaps the main economic factor at play in the white coup that deposed the Left in Brazil. The Left, in keeping with its tradition, bet on nationalizing natural resources; and the Right, on the contrary, seeks to open these resources to the international market—that supports part of this conservative political opposition. The future of Pré-Sal, post-coup, starts to become evident with the diminished participation of the state-owned Petrobras, simultaneously showing greater openness to foreign companies in the concession of this natural richness.
Yes, the Olympic Games Were also a Battlefield
The Olympic Games were, along with the World Cup, a symbolic battlefield. During the first weeks, political demonstrations inside sports arenas were prohibited—demonstrations, that is, against the current illegitimate government (the “Out with Temer” slogan, for example). It became a legal battle to allow citizens to bring protest signs into stadiums, but it also became a challenge to symbolic creation inside the media spectacle around sports. The National Guard patrolled sports arenas, omnipresent in their active “terrorism prevention.” In this scenario, the Brazilian athletes, in a symptomatic manner, began to salute when receiving medals. Ironically the athletes’ current military support was originally created by the Left. This twist of fate demonstrates yet another stab perpetuated by the Police State. The same Police State that emphasizes military protocol.
The actions taking place in stadiums and sports arenas broke free, even if temporarily, from these norms. It’s also symptomatic that the mainstream media spectacle had to be invaded by a guerrilla protest for the message to come across in its outlets—so absolute and hegemonic is its mediatic narrative. Guerrilla actions are needed, even if symbolic and small. Actions that break free and announce another possible world, a world that is more democratic, a world that is more connected to culture, to the symbolism of a message and to a humanitarian perspective, antiracist and feminist.
It’s interesting that, for us Brazilians, sports have once again became a battlefield, a political field of symbolic construction of the future of democracy in Brazil—and why not?—the future of democracy around the planet.
Yes, There is Poetry in Resistance!
Throughout the whole time the Left was in power and since the beginning of Lula’s government in 2002, culture became one of the areas where the right- and left-wing political projects were clearly differentiated. In the last election, artists and cultural producers organized and practically single-handedly reversed the imminent defeat of the Left in the presidential elections. Cultural producers and artists had a fundamental role in maintaining the Left in power and it is this form of resistance that is today being challenged by the coup. What can art do in the midst of a white coup that not only has connections with the most fascist sections of the military, but is also convinced of its own “legality”?
Different groups have since appeared in this context as a way to denounce and warn against a dystopic future, a future holding many negative perspectives of culture: organizations like Arte pela Democracia (“a movement made by artists, collectives, associations, entities, workers and people related to art and culture for the defense of democracy”), Aparelhamento (a project created by visual artists for self-sustaining acts of resistance and against the current government) and isolated performances like Confio, which we developed to present during th impeachment vote in Brasília.
It is important to mention also all the artistic resistance during the post-coup period, which began when several organizations and artists occupied federal cultural spaces (Funarte) throughout the country in protest and to propose new ways of managing public goods.
Yes, there is a poetic mode of resistance taking place. And this resistance is active, though disarticulated and almost completely taken by a melancholic feeling of defeat. This resistance is preparing itself for a time when the political opposition can be criminalized and preparing itself against the demonization of artistic gestures by evangelical crusaders.
CONFIO – Democracy Hangs by a Thread
CONFIO is a series about the demonstrations against the impeachment process. CONFIO actions have included: a telephone made of paper cups linked by a string that connected the two sides of the wall of shame (in Brasília, during the voting process for the impeachment of president Rousseff, a wall was erected to divide the opponents); interviews with right wing protesters of Av. Paulista; even “Out with Temer” protest actions during the Olympic Games.
Yes, the Coup is Based on the Genocide of Black Youth
The eradication of black youth is at the core of all the illegality the state perpetuates in Brazil. Here a direct criticism should be made of the previous left-wing governments that did not prioritize the fight against the eradication of black youth at the hands of Brazil’s police force. How can one speak of the legitimacy of the state, the legality of democratic processes, when no one secures the physical integrity and life of the youngest and most vulnerable segment of the population? Brazil’s police force is the deadliest in the world, according to a report by Amnesty International. Here the nation and its institutionalized racism is at its most perverse: the violent death of youth by state agents.
“Brazil is the country with the highest number of murders in the world. In 2012 alone there were 56,000 murders. In 2014, 15.6 percent of these murders were perpetrated by police officers. According to Amnesty International, the police shoot at people who have already surrendered, who are already wounded, without giving any warning signal that would allow a suspect to surrender before being shot.” On top of the deaths caused by the police force, during recent decades black youth has been systematically eradicated. There’s been an epidemic of murders in the outskirts of the largest cities in the country. The number of murder victims between the ages of one and nineteen grew 475 percent in twenty-three years. Black youth were the most affected by this increase.
The Brazilian Left didn’t correctly evaluate the problem, and by not prioritizing the issue it in effect dismissed it altogether. Today this police state has borne fruit. It’s no wonder that the coup against the president sprang from police operations and judicial actions. We are witnessing a police state taking over Brazil, which has its origin in the illegal, fascist, and genocidal acts against black youth.
Police Racism: Who Polices the Police?
Protest signs are glued near police battalions in São Paulo. Frente 3 de Fevereiro [February 3, 2004,s a transdisciplinary art and research group founded in São Paulo in 2004.] What to expect from a country that kills its population during their most active years? Who profits from these deaths? Is it the arms industry, the uniform industry? Graveyards, or funeral services providers? And who polices the police? And what do I have to do with it? And what do you have to do with it?
Judicial Collusion with the Murderous Military Policy
The Brazilian judiciary system is in collusion with the extermination of black youth by the police forces: the lack of prosecution of police crimes legitimates further infractions by the state police. This is a form of state terrorism. Take, for example, the case of the May 2006 attacks in retaliation for the murders of policemen by the PCC (a criminal organization initially formed by inmates within São Paulo’s prison system). In May 2006, the organization ordered the killing of over forty policemen, and the police force followed suit by killing around two hundred civilians in the city in the following months. These became known as the “May Crimes” [Crimes de Maio]. With the obvious collaboration of military police officers, São Paulo’s prosecutors dismissed the case.
On May 25, 2006, seventy-nine prosecutors of the city of São Paulo signed a letter addressed to the general commander of the military police in which they acknowledged the “Military Police’s efficiency in their response [to the police killings], its concern in re-establishing the violated order, and uncompromisingly defending the State” and affirmed that “eventual excesses practiced individually [by the police officers involved in the operation]” would be ascertained. This document was sent nine days after the military police officer Alexandre André Pereira da Silva and another five hooded men stormed a car wash in the north of São Paulo screaming “we are in command” and executed three youngsters. Ten days after in Santos (SP), four hooded men, identified as police officers, shot nine-month-pregnant Ana Paula Gonzaga dos Santos in the head and abdomen and claimed “children of crooks are crooks” … This was written right after what is known as the May Crimes, when São Paulo’s military police was suspected of perpetrating one of the worst massacres in the history of Brazil. The Prosecutor Office’s letter was in effect a demonstration of support from those who should instead be regulating the police officers’ actions.
As the Mothers of May movement recalls, these are the same prosecutors who are trying to jail former president Lula, rendering him unelectable.
Bombs, Gas, and Batons
The military police terrorism against the demonstrations organized by the Left is a magnification of the perverse police strategies used in the outskirts of the city: curfew, gratuitous aggression, humiliation, impunity …
Yes, the Prospects for Culture are Elitist and Antidemocratic
One of the first actions of the coup government was the dissolution of the Ministry of Culture, seen as a “stronghold” of resistance. After weeks of pressure and the occupation of federal cultural spaces by protesters and mass demonstrations by artists, the interim government finally relented and re-established the Ministry of Culture. In the meantime, a zombie ministry was created, solely as a judicial and institutional façade. The ministry’s activities, despite its re-establishment, were de facto interrupted and there are no prospects of cultural policies ever being democratically discussed, debated, and constructed. Instead, we have a Ministry of Culture that refuses to build a political project for culture, and which is barely continuing the functions outlined for it by the previous government. By so doing it is cutting off the majority of the population’s access to culture.
This government’s stance is that culture is inferior and less relevant than its other priorities. Cultural policies that have been maintained are mostly in place due to private funds and tax incentives (Rouanet Law).
This government has suspended open calls for artistic projects (previously the most democratic way to access funding for culture in Brazil) and has sneakily removed this funding from its annual budget and plan. The prospects look grim for pop and contemporary culture, urban and techno-digital art alike. The political project for culture has become an orphan.
At the same time, the pre-existing tax incentive laws continue to reveal their antidemocratic nature, something that was there from before. Leaving decisions regarding cultural incentives to companies has only led to further accumulation of power by these companies, and the prioritization of megalomaniac projects. It has led to a general retreat from popular culture, and an abandonment of small- and medium-scale cultural activities. It has concentrated the decision-making processes in the hands of the marketing departments of these private companies, that are ultimately in it only to support their profits.
Squatters, Secundaristas (High School Students in Protest), Black, and Feminist Movements
Recent uprisings by high school students (Secundaristas) have led to the occupation of hundreds of schools across the country. These events attest not only to the nascent political creativity of these young adults but also to the birth of a transversal political practice capable of representing these many voices and the diverse needs of this particularly vulnerable segment of society. Occupy! This occupation is also the outcome of an ongoing flux of protests—e.g., anti-discrimination “flash mob”[rolezinho] protests to support the feminist, black, and suburban struggles. (These flash mobs consist of very large groups of people, sometimes in the thousands, from the poor suburbs of Brazilian cities, who converge in middle class shopping malls. Once they began, the flash mobs were immediately perceived as a threat by authorities).
Translation by Catarina Oliveira and Mariana Silva; Copyediting: Mike Andrews