"I Arrived In Brazil In The Middle Of The Zombie Apocalypse..."

Brain Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly, has just returned from a week in Brazil, and what he describes is incredible...

The once unthinkable is now becoming normal...

SÃO PAULO - I arrived here on Sunday in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Or so it seemed. A nationwide truckers’ strike was in its seventh day and 99 percent of São Paulo’s service stations had run out of gasoline. The roads of South America’s biggest city were deserted of cars and people, and the skies were a murky gray. The normally hellish drive from the airport, which often lasts two hours or more, took a disconcerting 23 minutes.

Up on Avenida Paulista, the city’s closest thing to a public square, things seemed more normal – at first. Huge crowds milled about, vendors were grilling beef and sausage, and girls in hot pink roller skates clomped by. A quadruple amputee was belting out the falsetto ending of Pearl Jam’s “Black” to an enthralled crowd. The sun was out now, and families sat at wooden tables with sweaty buckets of beer, laughing. Of course, I mused, Brazilians are going to make a party out of a bad situation. I bought a can of Skol and decided to join the fun.

Then I saw it. A huge banner, spanning the entire avenue, carried by a group of protesters:

“SUPPORT FOR THE TRUCK DRIVERS. MILITARY INTERVENTION! ARMED FORCES, URGENT!”

And that was the start of a week where I saw and heard things I never believed I would in Brazil.

The Brazil of mid-2018 is a frightened, leaderless, shockingly pessimistic country. It is a country where four years of scandal, violence and economic destruction have obliterated faith in not just President Michel Temer, not just the political class, but in democracy itself. It is a country where there will be elections in October, but most voters profess little faith in any of the candidates. Given that vacuum, many Brazilians – perhaps 40 percent of them, according to a new private poll circulating among worried politicians – believe the military should somehow act to restore order. Amid this week’s strike, the clamor became so loud that both Temer and a senior military official had to publicly deny the possibility of an imminent coup.

This was all unquestionably good news for the presidential candidate most identified with the armed forces, retired Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, who was already running first in polls. Many analysts expect him to rise further after this week’s events.

It’s a red alert for anyone else – foreign investors and ordinary Brazilians alike – with the old-fashioned belief that healthy civilian institutions are the key to long-term prosperity, or who still hold out hope that Brazil’s economy and political outlook might finally stabilize this year.

When I lived in Brazil as a reporter from 2010 to 2015, I heard hardly anyone defend military rule – at least out loud.

The last dictatorship, which ran from 1964-85, left behind a legacy of debt, hyperinflation, falling wages and human rights abuses. Yet unlike Chile and Argentina, Brazilian soldiers were never judged for their crimes – and never fell into abject disgrace. So today, with Brazil at the forefront of a global backlash against “elites” and institutions, the military is increasingly perceived as the only credible vehicle for change. Polls show the armed forces are by far the country’s most respected institution (the press is a distant second). A year ago, 38 percent of Brazilians told the Pew Research Center that military rule would be “good for the country.” That number is surely higher now.  

The truckers’ strike started on May 21 after a government-sanctioned hike in diesel prices, but quickly grew into something much bigger. On WhatsApp groups and elsewhere, striking truckers shared videos and other messages calling for an end to Temer’s government. One cited by Estado de S.Paulo read: “Victory is near! Truckers + the people x legality x legitimacy = the fall of the Brazilian Bastille! Let’s not weaken. Come on, National Security Forces!” On Wednesday, the phrase intervenção militar was being mentioned on Twitter at a pace of 515 times per minute, according to one study. Smelling blood, many truckers continued to block roads even after a deal was truck with Temer to bring diesel prices back down. By this point, supermarkets around the country were running out of basic goods, and half of Brazilians had to change their daily routines because of lack of fuel, according to a Datafolha poll. Yet that same poll showed the strikers had the support of a whopping 87 percent of the population. 

Why? I spoke to many protesters on Avenida Paulista, and others over the course of the week. Many drew a direct link between the diesel price hike and corruption at Petrobras, the state-owned oil company at the heart of Brazil’s “Car Wash” corruption scandal. “Of course the politicians raise prices so they can steal more money!” one middle-aged woman told me. Virtually everyone thought that anything bad for Temer – the first Brazilian president ever to be charged with a crime while in office, and who has an approval rating of 5 percent – must be good for the country. Still others insisted democracy had proven an ineffective tool to fight street crime, corruption and general disorder. I found myself arguing about this with a salesman in his sixties who had lived through the last military regime.

“I didn’t like the dictatorship,” he replied, “but right now, come on, não é muita democracia? Don’t we have too much democracy?”     

Polite society, especially in the big cities, continues to insist such voices are a minority. But I also spent part of the week among politicians, and just beneath their sunny bravado was a dark sentiment I could only describe as “end of days.” One group was discussing how the military commanders weren’t interested in taking power, but the rank-and-file was obviously restless. I heard of one recent instance in which a general approached a well-known politician to urge him to run for president and “save the country.”

“I don’t think a majority of Brazilians want a coup,” a prominent political analyst told me, “but if it did happen, the people would probably support it.”    

In truth, a traditional coup with tanks in the streets is almost unthinkable – a “relic of the 20th century,” as one military leader put it this week. In the 21st century, when democracy erodes, it almost always happens via the ballot box. Bolsonaro has vowed if elected to appoint military officials to key cabinet positions, roll back human rights provisions and give security forces “carte blanche” to kill suspected criminals, among other measures. Gen. Joaquim Silva e Luna, whom Temer appointed as Brazil’s first non-civilian defense minister in February, told Bloomberg News last week that he welcomed Bolsonaro’s candidacy. “Brazil is looking for someone with values … and they consider that the armed forces have these attributes,” he said. Why bother with a coup, when there are easier ways to gain power? 

This week also brought a counterreaction of sorts from elsewhere in Brazilian society: There were signs of the left and some interesting pro-business bedfellows coalescing around Ciro Gomes, a former finance minister and governor. Elsewhere, leaders from the beleaguered center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) were looking carefully at polls to decide whether to abandon Geraldo Alckmin as their presidential candidate and go with an “outsider” figure like João Doria instead. But overall, there was little sign of any political consensus that could bring the difficult reforms and bold investments that Brazil needs to recapture the promise it showed last decade. Instead, society seems entirely focused on tearing down existing structures, without much thought to what comes next. Perhaps surprisingly, the most lucid comment to that effect came from President Temer, at a press conference for foreign journalists.

“Every 20 or 30 years in Brazil, there’s an attempt to reinvent things ... to destroy what is there and build a new order,” he said.

He’s right. And for that, Brazilian politicians can largely blame themselves. 

Comments

MasterPo Fedaykinx Fri, 06/01/2018 - 22:11 Permalink

This is not a zombie apocalypse, it's what happens when you allow politicians to take control of your life. Never in the history of the world has this ever ended well.

Government is the most dangerous thing ever conceived by the mind of man, and is responsible for more death and destruction than all other sources combined.

Make no mistake Hedgers, it is the true enemy.

Master Po 

In reply to by Fedaykinx

DownWithYogaPants FireBrander Fri, 06/01/2018 - 23:39 Permalink

My sense of Brazilians is that they do not want another military government.  I suspect something is being engineered by this strike.  Could it be they are trying to engineer Bosonaro into office?  

Brazilian politicians are sneaky.  Why the price rise all at one go?  Sneaky politician would do it in bite sized steps space over intervals of months.  Very suspicious.

In reply to by FireBrander

Escrava Isaura JRobby Sat, 06/02/2018 - 09:29 Permalink

As Freud said, life is an illusion.

Why that I say that?

Because the smart class built society in a finite resource and they never told that to the general population.

Actually, they lied to the public for personal gains and reasons.

A religion lie is bad but it’s manageable.

Going hungry is not.

 

Jeremy Grantham: We’re headed for a disaster of biblical proportions. Most of us are going to starve to death.

 

In reply to by JRobby

Raisin Hail Escrava Isaura Sat, 06/02/2018 - 10:47 Permalink

I searched and read the article quoting Grantham in 2012. Not sure Grantham can tie his own shoes without help. Talk about missing on all cylinders at once! Was quoted at the height of the commodities boom. Missed the entire commodities boom crash shortly after. Longer term he has a point of commodities becoming more costly as they become more scarce moderated by technological advance that can offset at least some of the increasing costs as we have seen. More basically much of the commodity price boom experienced a decade ago was driven by the explosive growth of China (and others) which cannot last forever either. China is just "catching up" after the disatrous policies of Mao. This too will pass.

In reply to by Escrava Isaura

Quantify bobcatz Sat, 06/02/2018 - 11:11 Permalink

Islam has been committing genocide for centuries.

Over 670 million non-Muslims massacred since the birth of Islam

These numbers keep increasing all the time when more forgotten figures from history keeps being added.

To the total numbers we have updated over 80 million Christians killed by Muslims in 500 years in the Balkan states, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia.

We are missing numbers on the Islamic genocide of Jews, a continuous goal in Islam for 1,400 years.

Then we have India. The official estimate number of Muslim slaughters of Hindus is 80 million. However, Muslim historian Firistha (b. 1570) wrote (in either Tarikh-i Firishta or  the Gulshan-i Ibrahim) that Muslims slaughtered over 400 million Hindus up to the peak of Islamic rule of India, bringing the Hindu population down from 600 mil to 200 million at the time.

https://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/muslims-have-killed-ove…

In reply to by bobcatz

Dindu Nuffins Quantify Sat, 06/02/2018 - 18:51 Permalink

Jews opened the gates of Toledo Spain to Muslim invaders in 712 AD, and the Muslim made them governors over the conquered Christians and a 700 year Golden Age in Spain between Muslims and Jews flourished.

Now the powerful Jewish lobby changes immigration laws to let their semitic cousins inside Europe.

Your story doesn't add up. 

In reply to by Quantify

just the tip FireBrander Sat, 06/02/2018 - 01:34 Permalink

i'm waiting for a BRICS update.  maybe from mac slavo.

the B is for brazil.

the I is for india.

the S is for south africa.

the B and the S don't have very good international PR present day.  although i could see china getting along with S. 

and for the life of me i can't make heads or tails of reading about I.  they shit by the road while watching the space rocket launches paid for by the UK.  and then their military has a bar room brawl over the turkey neck portion of their country with C.

it appears the ship that is BRICS has three anchors.  maybe R and C need to give away some of that gold to help their partners, er, ah, anchors.

In reply to by FireBrander

dratalux FireBrander Sat, 06/02/2018 - 15:21 Permalink

China did not 'screw' US farmers, Trump did. China simply did what a rational nation does, it looked for a better deal. Things in Brazil is not the apocalyptic scenario being depicted by many. The strike did not end entirely because some people with ulterior motives infiltrated the movement and started to menace the truck drivers. But things are getting under control and the ones trying to prolong the strike are being arrested.

In reply to by FireBrander

Jtrillian MasterPo Sat, 06/02/2018 - 02:56 Permalink

Maybe we should realize that certain nations stand to benefit from economic instability abroad and make a lot of money selling military arms to those nations it intentionally disrupts socially.  When you realize this, it explains a lot about what is happening in places like the Middle East and Ukraine. 

There is no profit in peace for military exporters.  War is good for those who make the guns and ammo. 

The Brazilian people would be best served to unite against their globalist oppressors (looking at you Goldman Sachs) with non-violent protests (the truckers strike appears to be very effective thus far).  Those who invite the military to support their cause usually end up being ruled by bloody military dictators (like what is happening in Egypt). 

History repeats itself because humanity forgets the lessons of the past.  If the Brazilian people think their military can save them, they will be destined to learn this hard lesson once again as so many before them have. 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/201373112752442652.ht…

https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/general-abdel-fattah-el-sisi-tyrant-who-has-d…

 

In reply to by MasterPo

Dincap MasterPo Sat, 06/02/2018 - 05:39 Permalink

You do not know what you are talking about. Politicians specially in Brazil are just the puppets of the real owners of the country. Slavery is the real condition of the low-intellectual-level  population quite cheater, aggressive, violent and envy and totally brainwashed to bestial levels. The very corrupt and millionaire  judiciary, the judge Moro is fundamentally a criminal, the financial sector, the banksters and the land owners are the real power. They don't care of the rest of the population treated always as real slaves and kept in misery and ignorance.

President Lula has been the exception but for just having tried to change a bit the enslaving social structure has been jailed by the criminals of the judiciary on the basis  of false accusations. The coup has been organized by the judiciary and federal police.

Even the disastrous and incompetent  Petrobras ceo has quitted during stock exchange trading hours as to help someone to make more money. As to show they do not respect anything.

It is a large failed country dominated by a small rapacious ignorant oligarchy acting as lords of war and enslaving all the others.

In reply to by MasterPo

My Days Are Ge… Dincap Sat, 06/02/2018 - 09:54 Permalink

I agree.  Have been doing business in Brazil for 21 years. Machinery manufacturing and real estate management.

If you do not have a connection in government, you are screwed.  Everything is purposefully over-complicated. Bribing small officials is a way of life.  Your paperwork in Brazil must be perfect and handed to the right official in the right department or it will be rejected.  Fines and index adjusters and interest rates are unbelievable.  Of course, all of this can be "regularized" and "adjusted".  Your get your paperwork accepted by a city engineer and are waiting for the stamp and seal on the drawings.  The bureau chief comes out.  He does not look at the papers.  Just says "rejected" and slams the door.  If you do not pay for his ok, then your papers die.  All of this must factored in to the cost of doing business.  The waste of time and inefficiency can try anyone's patience.

So, why do people still do business in Brazil.  Because, once you know how the system works, and have the appropriate people in place, you can make a lot of money.  This is a place where a poor person buys shoes on 24 monthly installments with horrendously high embedded interest rates.  Those payments are registered with his employer and deducted from his pay check.

Yes, Brazil is "a land of the future".  Will always be so.

 

 

In reply to by Dincap

Shhh Dincap Sat, 06/02/2018 - 14:12 Permalink

The Constitution of Brazil and USA allowed the judiciary control. The judges are appointed by heavy lobbying of the oligarchs and backroom deals. The peons vote for legislature but the legislature and president do not interpret laws. The judges in all western [common law] countries have the real power and are appointed not elected. Once an elite oligarchy control the judiciary they control western common law countries.President Lula a socialist reformer was removed by Brazilian Supreme court the puppets of the oligarchs. No real reform contrary to the  masters of the puppet judiciary will be allowed. So Brazil[and USA] is doomed to be looted by those who behind the scenes control the judges. Its the judges that interpret the law so it matters not who writes the law.   

 

In reply to by Dincap

Quantify MasterPo Sat, 06/02/2018 - 11:05 Permalink

Second most dangerous.

“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

“History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.” 
― Thomas JeffersonLetters of Thomas Jefferson

In reply to by MasterPo

MoreFreedom MasterPo Sat, 06/02/2018 - 12:17 Permalink

I agree government is evil, but it's not the enemy if it's limited to protecting our lives, our property, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness.  In other words, it's far better if it's limited to mostly dealing with people who harm others.

Brazil's problem (like much of the rest of the democratic world) is that government has gotten heavily involved in commerce (where the money is; Willie Sutton was short sighted in thinking the big money was in banks) because it allows politicians to pick winner and losers in commerce and facilitates government corruption allowing politicians and their friends to conspire to cheat everyone else.  E.G., the Car Wash Petrobras scandal.   Replacing the free market with government regulations and an administrative state where the rules change often (as opposed to dispute resolution in common law courts) is what gives government control, and takes it away from consumers.   There's no good reason for the government to be in the energy business, other than to benefit politicians.

In this kind of country, politicians work on deals to fatten their wallets and keep themselves in power.  Leaving little time to deal with criminals. 

Democracy isn't the problem: too much government without appropriate limits is.

 

In reply to by MasterPo

SDShack MasterPo Sat, 06/02/2018 - 13:56 Permalink

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Govt not founded on the Rule of Law, and not continuously held accountable by the citizens to the Rule of Law, will always devolve into 2 classes of law... one for the elites, the other for the masses. The result is Human Law replaces God Given Law, as the elites afford themselves special "divine" class so they can rule over the serfs. The different laws for different classes has been the foundation for feudal societies for centuries. They always eventually collapse due to this inherent corruption that ultimately destroys society by both internal and external forces.

In reply to by MasterPo

Shhh SDShack Sat, 06/02/2018 - 14:16 Permalink

Law only means what the judges interpret it. Obeying the law means merely "obeying" the wishes [interpretation] of the Supreme Court judges. The SCOTUS are not elected but appointed.

Its not a democracy. Its not a republic. Its a common law country controlled by judges who are influenced behind the scenes by oligarchs .

In reply to by SDShack

techpriest Algo Rhythm Sat, 06/02/2018 - 00:05 Permalink

Democracy taught people to depend on the State, not on themselves or on institutions that they join voluntarily.

Once that dependency is firmly in place, people will act to maintain that dependency, like an addict looking for an enabler.

The only way out of slavery is to re-strengthen the institutions that represent opposition to the State. This means getting the State out of the Church, out of the universities, and out of communities and families. The other option is democracy leading to dictatorship once the money runs short.

In reply to by Algo Rhythm

GoinFawr techpriest Sat, 06/02/2018 - 11:33 Permalink

"Democracy taught people to depend on the State, not on themselves or on institutions that they join voluntarily. "

 

No, democracy teaches people that they are the state, and that the state is theirs. So it follows that if they choose to 'depend on the state', eg. to justly settle truly voluntarily-entered contractual disputes, they are effectively depending on themselves, and the only ones who are 'depending on the goodwill of others' are those who voluntarily make the choice not to participate.

Big differences there, differences that eviscerate the rest of your 'conclusions', which is precisely why ekochambermaidens always hold that fundamental, truly Orwellian misapprehension regarding democracy so dearly, and bloviate it so loudly.

In reply to by techpriest