SAO PAULO – A leftist opposition party says Brazil is barreling toward an institutional crisis due to President Jair Bolsonaro’s lack of a coherent governing program.
In an interview with EFE, the 35-year-old chairman of the Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) party, Juliano Medeiros, said the first three months of Bolsonaro’s presidency have been worse than he and other party members had imagined.
“We’re heading for a large-scale institutional crisis, and the solutions to that crisis are even being discussed now in the financial markets” and among the dominant classes, said Medeiros, whose party holds 10 seats in the 513-seat lower house of Brazil’s Congress.
The PSOL chairman also said the result of an inquiry into suspicious movements of 1.2 million reais ($305,000) into and out of a bank account belonging to an aide to Bolsonaro’s oldest son, Flavio Bolsonaro, could exacerbate the situation further.
“There’s great discontent in Brazilian society over the government’s inability to come up with concrete solutions to problems affecting the Brazilian people,” said the chairman of the PSOL, which is allied with parties of the new European left such as Spain’s Podemos, Portugal’s Left Bloc and France’s La France Insoumise.
Instead of governing, Bolsonaro’s administration devotes itself to “provoking conflicts and launching attacks on its political adversaries,” Medeiros said.
“This is a very conservative, very reactionary government. We thought we’d have an adversary with a clear program, but what we’ve seen is an administration with different pieces that don’t fit,” he added.
Among those components, he mentioned the neo-liberal (radical free market) “nucleus” of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes; the judicial nucleus of Justice and Public Security Minister Sergio Moro, who gained fame as the lead judge in a sweeping anti-corruption investigation known as Lava Jato (Car Wash); the ideological nucleus of Women, Family and Human Rights Minister Damares Alves; and the military nucleus embodied by Vice President Hamilton Mourao.
“I think the military nucleus is the most dangerous,” Medeiros said, alluding to the rightist Bolsonaro’s fondness for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
The PSOL is the party of Brazil’s first openly gay congressman, Jean Wyllys, who renounced his congressional seat in the face of death threats and is living in self-imposed exile in Europe; and of Erica Malunguinho, the first transgender lawmaker in the Legislative Assembly of Sao Paulo.
Rio de Janeiro city councilor Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian lesbian, rights activist and vocal critic of police killings who was killed in a drive-by shooting a year ago, also was a member of the PSOL.
Medeiros said these names reflect the party’s commitment to “defending the rights of women, blacks and the right to housing.”
But the PSOL chairman called on Brazil’s main opposition force, the center-left Workers Party (PT), to stop solely focusing on securing the release from prison of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was convicted in 2017 of bribe-taking in a case based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted of corruption offenses.
Lula, who governed from 2003-2010, was the front-runner in last October’s presidential race until being barred from competing due to his corruption conviction.
Medeiros said a shift in the PT’s priorities is necessary in the interests of ensuring a cohesive left-wing opposition movement.
“We have our criticisms of the process that led to ex-President Lula being sent to prison (in April of last year), but that doesn’t mean we support all of his government’s policies and doesn’t mean there wasn’t corruption in PT-led governments,” he added.
He said the Brazilian left needs to focus on fighting the Bolsonaro administration’s efforts to overhaul the country’s pension system, a plan the government says will save more than 1 trillion reais over the next decade.
“It is wrong to carry out a reform that punishes contributors while large corporations are exempt from paying taxes,” Medeiros said.
The PSOL chairman said the overhaul does not have the votes to be approved at the moment due to tensions between Bolsonaro and the speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia.