The crisis of the brazilian policy and fishing for cod
by José Barbedo

image Sao Paulo via web

At the time the Brazil approaching its 200 years of independence and almost 120 years of the Republic, the country is living one of the most decisive moments of its history. So crucial that surpasses the partisanship that dominate the political debate, and that cannot be understood in isolation of the serious environmental challenges facing the planet. However, there is a lack of reflection on the issues that led to the current crisis, essentially linked to the persistence of an economic model walking for a disaster of continental proportions, but that stubbornly resists its own decline … kind of like fishing for cod.

With the recent attempted impeachment of President Dilma Roussef, the country never saw so clearly divided between two opposite sides: those who denounce this process as a coup and a threat to democracy, and that emphasize the levels of corruption that popped up with the successive scandals reported by the car wash operation, complaining about the distituição of Dilma and the establishment of a Government of national salvation. The bugs disclosed last Tuesday involving Deputy Minister Romero Juca show a darker reality that forced clearance of Dilma had to stop investigations of car wash operation to “cover it up”. These revelations come to corroborate the reports of the first, while the latter maintain that the replacement of the Government is needed to restore the economy and the confidence of the markets “. The fact that the leitmotiv for the impeachment consists of fiscal maneuvers carried out by previous Governments (so-called cycling) raises however serious doubts as to the legitimacy of this process. The way this was conducted and the actors that staged, seriously affects the credibility of the highest Brazilian democratic institutions, placed on hold until its denouement.

On the streets and on social networks, the debate is ideologically polarized between Socialists and conservatives, despite the deposed government to be a coalition between these. In the heart of the corporate forces who sponsor election campaigns of various political factions, three lobbies are heavily represented directly or indirectly in Parliament: the agribusiness sector, the energy sector and the mining sector, the latter more closely linked to large construction companies. This tripod of influence configures the extractive Brazilian economic model characterized by a production system based on primary export of natural resources, agribusiness frontier dilation to pristine natural areas, and the latest expansion of the oil industry. While the influence of agribusiness has deep historical roots in the Brazilian industry of patrimonialism is a dominant political power since the military dictatorship. The mining sector in turn, expressed more clearly his political influence during the last decades of democratically elected Governments. This sector has influence in favor of interests in line with the agenda of agribusiness ruralista, promoting changes in the Constitution against rights and demands of indigenous peoples and influencing the revision of federal laws such as the forest code approved in 2012, which the Prosecutor accuses unconstitutionality of various articles.

If this economic model reflects a strong dependence on the path taken by Brazilian institutions to its current consolidation, Governments of Lula and Dilma Roussef were unable to significantly transform the status quo. On the contrary, were the commitments established with the more conservative segments that allowed to obtain parliamentary support to programs promoted by Lula, but which also limited the scope of the EN to intervene in critical areas that have been chronically out of political agenda by successive Governments. The indisputable merits of Lula to manage divergent interests of difficult conciliation helped obtain the concessions (and even alliances with) more or less reactionary political forces during a period of extraordinary economic growth. In a Parliament marked by numerous partisan forces, the strategy of Lula allowed compromise between their policies of assistance oriented strongly conditioned by the state capitalism. This strategy contributed to the belief that the “acceleration of growth” is essential to fight poverty and increase opportunities for the most disadvantaged segments of the population. Indeed, Brazil has never experienced an income distribution as between 2000 and 2012, and all the research in economic indicators point to a massive improvement in the living conditions of the brazilian population during the last decade. Since 2006, when the PT allied with the party of the Brazilian democratic movement (PMDB) opening and popularization of credit allowed enlarge the basis of domestic consumption and was assumed to be a determining factor to stimulate the domestic economy.

From 2014, this economic model has shown clear signs of its weaknesses. The concentration of the Brazilian economy on export of raw materials with little value added created a situation of excessive dependence on global markets. The devaluation of the commodities hit severely the Brazilian exports, while oil prices fell sharply, exacerbating further the disastrous situation of Petrobras. The oil giant has already ravaged by corruption, organized crimes under investigation, experienced the biggest loss ever in the fourth quarter of 2015, on the order of 35 billion Reais. These weaknesses have resulted in a substantial loss of Government support base. However, since the beginning of this year, Petrobras has risen in spectacular fashion (over 100%) and hope the industry remains in the recovery in the price of oil. On the other hand, the economic expansion of the extractive industries enhance a complex income-generating and employment, which constantly demand strategic points of support for your continuous playback. This chain is not only dependent on a permanent increase in size to support the reduction of their private profit margins, but also the construction of infrastructures and energy provision, requiring a strong support of the State in public investment, as well as the licensing of new concessions in areas with ever-higher risks. However, under normal conditions, many of the projects that await the signature of the competent ministries, would not have possibilities to obtain the environmental licenses required by law or social acceptance needed for its implementation.

On the other hand, the continuation of this economic model is radically opposed to the political commitments made by the Brazilian Government to the Paris Convention (COP21) last December 2015. According to the official Brazilian data climate Observatory, there was an increase in emissions of greenhouse effects of almost 300% between 1970 and 2013, excluding those resulting from the infamous continued deforestation of the Brazilian territory. There are also indications that political commitments signed in COP21 would not be made possible if you don’t satisfy the interests of the “ruralists” (e.g. by increasing the planting of monocultures of sugar cane) and the energy sector (i.e. by encouraging the construction of large hydroelectric power stations, thermal power and nuclear power plants).

It is important to note that the agenda for the mitigation of climate change can be distorted to the emergence of new common dangers, such as future investment on the horizon next in nuclear energy. Just a week before the impeachment, the Minister of mines and energy announced the construction of four nuclear power plants until 2030, and according to his long-term plan, the number of production units should increase 500% by 2050 with the construction of eight other nuclear power plants. Strangely, this matter does not appear to deserve due attention. In a country with ideal conditions to be a world leader in renewable energy, public investment in technological research has been directed to an anachronistic energy model that the world desperately needs to avoid.

But as the saying goes, the last slice of cod is always the most coveted. Even if the Ministers recently inducted by Michel Temer don’t stay in power as much as the orchestrators of the impeached would like, every day of the interim Government will be dedicated to unlock barriers to predation rampant natural resource, in the name of economic growth and capital accumulation by the oligarchies. A short-lived Government, business opportunities opened up by the current crisis will be exploited to the maximum by multiple structures of influence solidly installed in the bureaucracy. As it follows the “institutional” in respect to the decisions of the Senate and of the Court of Justice, Ministers and MPs work hard on review of all ministerial folders. If nothing change dramatically until the Olympics, the media will be populated from the interim Government, while this focuses on intensive utilization of all current and future profit opportunities, sometimes by relaxation of standards and control mechanisms, sometimes by specific concession contracts for massive exploitation projects, that will be difficult or even impossible to reverse. A clear sign of these priorities of the current interim Government was the approval, immediately after the impeached, 65/2012 amendment proposed by Romero Jucá, which practically negates the need for environmental licensing for works considered “priority”. According to the Brazilian socio-environmental Institute, there are today in Congress 34 amendments of the licensing procedures of infrastructure works, all of them with simple-minded justification to shorten their lead times, regardless of their social and environmental costs.

At this point, no one seems to know where these recent developments will lead the Brazil. But Brazilians know, or should know, that all the silence is an invitation to oppression. And perhaps the worst of the silences is the one that occurs in the deafening atmosphere of a polarized society, entrenched in their parti pris and clichés, where each episode becomes grotesque in ranged weapon against his antagonist. The dilemma remains between the need to change the course of history and the difficulty of questioning the mundivisões that contributed to the current political vacuum and disrepute. Regardless of the side on which each is positioned in this battleground, has never been so urgent build collectively an alternative environmentally responsible policy, informed by a set of less materialistic values, and supported by a network of human relations more solidarity with nature which we all do part.

Text by José Barbedo


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