Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Dilma Rousseff’

Brazil: Temer Holds On

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd August, 2017

Michel TemerLast evening was quite surreal. I was at a local working men’s health club in Fortaleza where, in one room, men were taking part in a karaoke competition, while in another, people were crowded round a TV screen, watching a live broadcast from Brazil’s lower House of Congress in Brasilia. The shouting and catcalls from the MPs were even rowdier than the hullabaloo among the karaoke contestants. An electronic clapometer recorded the scores of the amateur singers, while on the TV screen, votes for and against sending President Michel Temer for trial on charges of corruption were recorded one by one. The latter took a considerable time, as many of the MPs insisted on making a speech outlining why they thought the President was a scoundrel or else much maligned, according to their own political loyalties.

Dilma Lula As the figures mounted, the MPs’ vote became as exciting as a Eurovision song contest, particularly as the “Yes” votes started to accelerate. But as a two-thirds majority was needed for the motion to begin proceedings against Mr Temer to be passed, it was in the end a lost cause — which prompted more shouting and jostling from the elected representatives. It should be remembered that Brazil’s last President, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted from power by Mr Temer and others, and that her predecessor, “Lula” da Silva has been given a prison sentence (against which he is appealing); corruption is at the centre of all these scandals. In fact, corruption is such a part of Brazilian political life, from the margins of billion dollar contracts to planning permissions at a local council level, that is surprising that the electorate bothers to vote at all. But another thing about last night struck me forcefully, which was that the besuited members of Congress, overwhelmingly white, overweight and puffed up like prize cockerels, bore precious little resemblance to the ordinary people I was with, both physically and in the way they behave. There is a huge gulf in this country between the governing and the governed and the shattered reputations of almost all recent senior politicians must surely lead to growing cynicism, then perhaps angry unrest.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“It’s a Coup!” Cries Dilma

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 12th April, 2016

Dilma impeachmentBrazil’s President Dilma Rousseff today denounced what she said was an attempted coup against her — and accused the Vice-President (who is from another party) of being one of the “plotters”. Yesterday, a Congressional committee voted in favour of her impeachment and a motion to that effect could be put to the whole House as early as Sunday. A vote in the Senate would then follow. The charge is not that Dilma herself is corrupt — unlike accusations levelled against some of her political enemies — but rather that she massaged official deficit figures to make the country’s situation appear better than it is. Her hope is to stay in office until 2018 and then to be replaced by her predecessor, Luis Inacio “Lula” Da Silva, who is a political giant in the background at the moment, but in the process of being given a prominent role. Lula has recently recovered from throat cancer, and although now 70 has been out on the campaign trail. I saw him in Fortaleza the other day, where a few thousand supporters, waving red flags, chanted, “There is not going to be a coup!” Well, Dilma now says that is exactly what is happening, with the São Paulo business community and the huge Globo media empire amongst others ranged against her. The stock market has been buoyed by prospects of impeachment. But the millions of predominantly poor Brazilians who like what Lula and Dilma have done for them are going to carry on demonstrating, just as those calling for her departure will, in equal or even larger numbers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brazil’s Crisis: Tragedy or Farce?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 1st April, 2016

Dilma Rousseff 1George HiltonThe resignation of Brazil’s Sports Minister, George Hilton, just four months before the Rio Olympics are due to start, has added another twist to the tortuous political crisis that the country has been suffering in recent months. The government insists his departure will not affect Brazil’s ability to deliver on the Games, but there is growing scepticism abroad about that event given the country’s slow but steady economic decline over the past few years, as well as confrontations between sports authorities, property developers and poor communities who are being evicted to make way for arenas. More seriously, George Hilton may not be the last Minister to quit the current ruling Coalition, as five others who belong to the PMDB party are under pressure to do the same. The Coalition is currently led by the PT’s Dilma Rousseff, who inherited the political capital of her hugely popular predecessor ‘Lula’ da Silva, but she has since been the focus of various corruption allegations, including supposedly massaging the country’s deficit figures to make them seem better than they are. The problem is that in Brazil almost all politicians are assumed by the general public to be corrupt, whethe it is at the municipal, state or federal level. Construction contracts, in particular, are often linked to back-handers to politicians. Similarly, petty bribery is rampant. So why, one might wonder, are so many Brazilians — not just PT members but whole groups of NGOs  and social movements — regularly going out into the streets to demonstrate in favour of Dilma?

Fortaleza demoThe reason basically is to be found in 20th century history, not just of Brazil but of the whole region. Military or other right-wing dictatorships thrived in Latin America until well into the 1980s, often with the covert support of the United States. Indeed, that support was sometimes overt, as with the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s Marxist government in Chile by General Pinochet. Socialists and other leftist groups in Brazil are terrified that the move to impeach their soul-mate Dilma and bring down the current government is just a prelude to a political coup d’état, in which the far right would take over and crack down on dissidents and the marginalised, as happened in the past. The fact that the Military Police (a most alarming section of the security forces during the periods of dictatorship) was flying low overhead in helicopters last night in Fortaleza while a pro-Dilma rally was going on down the road from where I am staying did nothing to calm the nerves of those who fear that the country could suddenly succumb to a right-wing take-over.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Brazil: Check Mate for Dilma?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th March, 2016

Dilma RousseffMichel TemerToday in Brazil the largest party in the country’s ruling Coalition, the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Mvcement Party), pulled out, declaring that the game is up for President Dilma Rousseff. Ms Rousseff is in danger of being impeached over allegations that she manipulated government accounts to hide a yawning deficit. The Brazilian economy has been contracting each year these last few years, following an earlier spurt of growth during which Dilma’s predecessor, ‘Lula’ de Silva, proudly declared that the country had grown out of its traditional syndrome of being ‘the country of the future — and which always will be!’ Opponents of Dilma’s Workers Party (PT) have accused Lula of pulling the strings since Dilma succeeded him, and that impression was hardly lessened when the other day she attempted to make him her Chief of Staff. Opponents derided this as an attempt to put him beyond the reach of Justice, and the matter will now be examined by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, millions of Brazilians have been taking to the streets in demonstrations and counter-demonstrations for and against Dilma’s impeachment. Whichever way it goes, one thing is sure: the PMDB’s withdrawal is a cruel blow for the chances of Dilma’s survival. But whether it amounts to ‘check mate’, as the PMDB is crowing tonight, remains to be seen. One clear reason the PMDB might wish so is because if Dilma is ousted, the PMDB leader Michel Temer, currently Brazil’s Vice-President, would succeed her as Head of State.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brazil Rejects Israel’s Dayan

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th March, 2016

Dani DayanIn the face of Brazil’s firm refusal to accept former settler leader Dani Dayan as Israel’s new Ambassador to Brasilia; Israel has today admitted defeat and named him as its next Consul General in New York instead. The government of Dilma Rousseff has been one of the strongest supporters the international recognition of Palestinian statehood and considered the nomination of Mr Dayan; who was born in Argentina; emigrating to Israel as a teenager; as unacceptable b,ecause of his strong support for illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank. This situation led to a seven-month stand-off between Tel Aviv and Brasilia, but the Brazilians dug in their heels and now the Israelis have conceded defeat. It is very unusual for a country to refuse the credentials of a designated ambassador, but the Brazilians are to be congratgulated for refusing to compromise on a core matter of principle. The United States, alas, has no such qualms, but Mr Dayan’s arrival in New York is likely to spark at least some protests, not least from US Jewish groups who oppose Israel’s 49-year-old occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv’s efforts to delegitimise the nascent Palestinian state.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is Brazil Going to Make It!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th August, 2015

imageThere’s a popular saying here in Brazil that Brazil is the country of the future — and always will be. A few years ago I gave a lecture at the Federal University of Ceara arguing that “Brazilianism” — this collective sardonic attitude to the country’s potential — had to be overcome if it was going to make the grade. Since then, Brazil has hosted the World Cup and is preparing for the Olympic Games, both symbolic indications that the country has joined the top rank of countries. Moreover, in an economic forecast circulating on twitter yesterday, Brazil’s economy is set to overtake Britain’s by 2030. Well, so it should, when you consider how big the country is, geographically and in population, as well as how rich it is in resources (including oil). Yet all is not rosy in Brazil’s garden. Corruption is still rampant at every level, which is acting as a serious brake on advancement and the gap between rich and poor continues to be huge. Indeed, the situation of the poorest has got worse, thanks to rising prices and few new employment opportunities.

imageOf course, Brazilians are famous for enjoying life, even if they have little materially, but their patience is running out. Regular demonstrations against President Dilma Rousseff have been taking place around the country, but so too have counter-demonstrations by the left-wing parties that support her. At least there seems no possibility these days of a military coup. When I first came to Brazil, over 30 years ago, the military dictatorship that had taken over in 1964 was still in power and although its excesses were not usually quite as appalling as those of its counterparts in Argentina and Chile nonetheless its human rights record was very poor. These days people are more worried by the high level of violent crime than by what the military might get up to. Despite the problems, however, I believe that Brazil is getting over Brazilianism and even it is developing at a pace that seems pathetic when compared with China or India this particular BRIC is somewhere to watch and to engage with economically and diplomatically, far more so than my home country, Britain, is doing at the moment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Brazilians Are Protesting

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th August, 2015

imageimageWhen Brazilians take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands it is usually Carnival time — an explosion of popular music and celebration. But recently the crowds have been turning out for an entirely different reason: calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Yesterday, in the main commercial city São Paulo an estimated 350,000 took part, with smaller demonstrations in other centers including the capital, Brasilia. There was even a modest turnout here in the North-Eastern coastal city of Fortaleza ( where I am spending August). The main trigger for the impeachment calls has been frustration at the corruption by which Brazil is riddled, including within the giant hydrocarbons company Petrobras where Dilma (as she is always referred to) used to work. But there is a wider disenchantment with her and her government because the Brazilian economy has stalled, while unemployment and inflation are both rising. There is very little chance that Dilma will be toppled (she is only one year into her second mandate) and it is doubtful whether anyone else could turn the country round quickly. But in the meantime the demonstrations have a certain therapeutic value as people come together to voice their individual and collective frustrations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »