We try to make sense of the recent election of far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil, with the help of three experts in Brazilian politics and society. Who voted for Bolsonaro, and why? What role is being played by the army? Can he deliver on his promises? And what does his election tell us about the prospects for democracy in the country and the wider world? With Nadya Araujo Guimarães, Pedro Mendes Loureiro and Graham Denyer Willis.
DAVID: Hello – my name is David Runciman and this is Talking Politics. Today we have three experts with us on Brazil: politics, culture, society, and they are going to try and help us make sense of the election or Bolsonaro—what it means for the country and what it means for the world. I'm going to let them introduce themselves so you know where they're coming from.
NADYA: Nadya Guimarães. I’m from Sao Paolo, the University of Sao Paolo. I teach sociology and I do the sociology of work.
GRAHAM: I’m Graham Denyer Willis. I’m a lecturer here in the Department of Politics at Cambridge and I work on violence, organised crime, and urbanisation in Brazil, thinking a lot about the politics of neoliberalism and abandonment.
PEDRO: I’m Pedro Mendes Loureiro. Also a lecturer here at POLIS, lecturer in Latin American studies. My work focuses on inequalities, structural change, and development in Latin America, but particularly Brazil.
DAVID: Perfect. We’re going to try and sketch out the background of both this man and this election because, apart from anything else, it is a remarkable story. So his career was in the Army before politics, and the role of the Army in Brazilian politics is a crucial issue here. So do you just want to help us understand both his relationship to the Army and then the Army's relationship to the state.
NADYA: It's interesting because if we take Bolsonaro as a reference, he actually is not the perfect kind of military. He is not the perfect kind of representative of the Army. And besides, what is ‘the Army?’ There is heterogeneity, diversity, including ideological diversity inside it. And you can follow those in the different interventions along Brazilian history.
DAVID: Is it true that the Army sees his election as its way back, in some sense, to power?
PEDRO: I think there is a big section of the army that's happy to get back into politics that way, both in terms of the elections—he brought about 20 deputies who were linked to the military, to the police, or the army with him to the lower chamber of Congress. And also as minister he's appointed, or plans to appoint several military officers. However it's not entirely clear that the Army wants the responsibility for solving a series of serious issues in Brazil such as policing, assuming the role it had during the military dictatorship. So it is probably a divided issue within the military whether they want to get back in and in which way.
DAVID: Because Nadya, you say, ‘in the series of interventions,’ and one of the things people outside Brazil know about Bolsonaro is that he is in some sense a fan or an advocate of the previous military dictatorship. Is that serious? I mean it's so hard to know from the outside. I mean he says outrageous things so he's in that pattern of politicians who say outrageous things. Should we take them seriously? Is he serious about wanting to get back to a form of military rule.
NADYA: I think he is serious. He needed to represent a very conservative political position. A real right wing position. I think this is interesting in Brazilian reality now. People that come to the scene claiming that they are extreme right. And this is public.
DAVID: So in the past would it be you couldn’t say that in that way?
NADYA: My point is that they didn't used to say that. You had right, you had the right movements, you had middle class in the streets in the 60s, conservative positions, morally conservative positions. But claiming being extremely right and getting votes from that position. This is now, probably.
GRAHAM: Yeah the military has had different forms of intervention in Brazil in different historical periods. And so from ‘64 to ‘85 there was of course a military dictatorship. And then the government opened up and decentralized and a lot of the discussion and disfavor towards the military was very strong for many, many years.
DAVID: And Boslonaro was in the army in that period? He wasn't in politics in that period.
GRAHAM: He was would have been a very early stage in his career in the middle of the dictatorship. He only ever rose to Captain, I think, so he never actually got to the upper echelons of the military itself, which is another very important dynamic in all this, actually, that there is an asymmetry between people who are at the very top of the military and where he is within the hierarchy of the military.
DAVID: So how's that going to play out? I mean, do they think that he's somehow going to take their orders? [5:27]
GRAHAM: Well his vice is a general in the military, a formal general. And so there is a lot of discussion about which tail is going to wag the dog. If it's the people who have de facto hierarchy within the military or if it's him who has a larger political and public position, which somehow he has taken and borrowed as an idea of what the military represents, which is something very different because of course the Brazilian military has under Lula and other governments has been intervening internationally in very different kinds of ways. Peacekeepers in Haiti, they were they were aligned in different kinds of ways with humanitarian projects. So it's not clear at all that the military needs to be what Bolsonaro was making it out to be, which is a kind of very narrowly defined idea of militarism and of intervention and violence internally.
DAVID: And what's so striking, again seen from the outside, is that we have an understanding of what a coup is, what a military takeover looks like—it involves the army. And yet in the Brazilian case, actually the decisive actors in recent Brazilian history have been the courts and the judiciary. And again the language of coup is now being applied to that, so both Lula and then his successor Dilma Rousseff, they have effectively not been the victims of an armed intervention in the state but a judicial intervention. Do you think the language of coup is appropriate here to describe… just tell us a bit about what happened and then also how you would characterize it.
PEDRO: Well the 2016 impeachment of Dilma was described by the PT and by the left in general as a parliamentary coup. And there's a big discussion of whether that's correct or not. So let’s just get some facts straight. So Dilma was impeached by supposedly a crime of responsibility that amounted to essentially cooking government budgets, putting money from one side to the other to show that there was a smaller public deficit. And the process did follow the correct legal procedures so it wasn’t an outright mishandling of justice, it wasn’t anti-constitutional in any way. However there are two issues in that, one being that this cooking of government budgets was widely practised by state governors, by previous presidents and so on. So it's a very selective...
DAVID: It’s the ‘Why her’ question.
PEDRO: Yeah, it’s the ‘why her’ question and also the fact that the impeachment had to be voted at both houses of Congress and there was clearly, clearly a political motivation to do. It that was unashamedly political—people saying that they were voting to make the economy better, saying that they were voting to preserve moral values, and so on and so forth. So it does follow legal procedures but it was very clearly politically motivated and hence it's called a coup.
DAVID: So to be honest that doesn't sound to me like a coup. I mean there are clearly things going on there that would make people who want to see democratic processes followed through in a conventional way uncomfortable. But, as you say, that sounds to me more like politics, raw politics, nasty politics than a coup. There's also the question then of Lula, who after all is in jail. And that’s more when people talk about judicial intervention…
GRAHAM: I think when people are using the idea of a coup what they’re talking about more is the selective deployment of the law. So the law is the product of politics, of course, and it is a good reflection of what the state does as a set of ideas and how it tries to order society. In Brazil of course there is a huge gap between laws on the books and law in practice, right? So there's an arbitrariness to the way that law is actually enacted and deployed, upon who it’s deployed, and all those kinds of things. Who has been the subject of law, who law is for, has always been a very big question of inequality in Brazil. So the impeachment of Dilma was very much a question of why her, indeed. You know, we have lists and lists of people…
DAVID: We could do this to almost anyone in public life…
GRAHAM: …who have taken bribes on the order of multiple millions of pounds even, and they have not been the subject of the same process. So indeed why her? A very big question.
DAVID: Nadya, are you happy with that language to describe what's gone on in Brazil in the last two to three years.
NADYA: I would agree with you that it's too narrow. There is much more politics going on on it. If you think about the scene, the very scene of the parliament voting for impeachment. This is quite impressive. This was quite impressive because it was a large group of people. What they did, what they expressed was the total inability to deal with parliament politics. There was a problem in the relationship between government and parliament. How she lost totally control, how she lost all capacity to negotiate with parliament, this is a question we have to have in mind. How politics was conducted by her. There was a problem. So we have to take different points of view on this. Of course inequality in the excess, in the use of law is crucial in Brazilian law. And this can be an extreme example: why she, precisely, she. That is the problem.
DAVID: And with Lula, so there was a point where it looked like he would run, and he was prevented from running. Was that preventing of him from running extra-democratic intervention in a democratic process or was it just politics? [11:09]
GRAHAM: The bigger question is really, so, ‘how can law be deployed to these kinds of ends?’
DAVID: Who decides? So who did decide in that case with Lula? Who stopped him from running?
GRAHAM: Well it’s very unclear entirely what the negotiations were that made that form of investigation possible. But also, it's important to note that the judge did push that process forward has since been nominated as the Minister of Justice, which is a new position that is going to aggregate a series of different ministries into one so-called super ministry. So it's made that process quite transparent, actually—that the judge responsible for putting the person who had actually the largest favorability to be elected president in the opinion polls was the person who actually then became, or is likely to become, the new Minister of Justice.
DAVID: So just before we get on to the question of how Bolsonaro actually won. Are you saying that Lula would have beaten him?
GRAHAM: That's what all of the opinion polls suggested.
PEDRO: Definitely Lula was the candidate with the most support in any poll and he was prevented from run by this low level judge, called Sérgio Moro.
DAVID: Who’s now a high level minister.
PEDRO: Who is now a high level minister. And Sérgio Moro in his own interviews repeatedly said that he'd never take up a political position because that would put in question his previous actions as a judge. So from the horse's mouth if you like. There are several other instances of the judiciary acting in a very politicized manner recently. That's one of them. But also the Supreme Court in Brazil prohibited a newspaper from interviewing Lula in jail, saying that this could spread misinformation, effectively censorship. The court decided what could be publicized or not. The investigations that Sérgio Moro conducted in this big corruption scandal were also politicized in other ways, such as the systematic release of plea bargain agreements, systematic release to the press of other information with political timelines for previous elections, for this election. Then even at the Supreme Court level, other discussions… there were other corruption investigations going on. One judge, whose name now escapes me, decided not to carry out the law as it should be because that would have destabilising political implications, so effectively made an ad hoc decision based on a political consideration.
DAVID: So we have a whole series of actors here, generals, judges who maybe contrived to get this man elected. We try to avoid this kind of language on this podcast but that's the kind of agency side of it. And then there's structure, there's the background conditions. There's the economy. There's the fact that Brazil has just been through one of the worst recessions, is still going through, you can tell it’s one of the worst recessions in its history. So let's sketch out that side of it, too and then try and work out which is really driving this. So what is the current state of the Brazilian economy and how tough has it been?
PEDRO: Well it is the largest or at least the second largest recorded economic crisis in Brazilian history. So you have a decrease in per capita GDP of about 10 percent between 2013 and now. There has been a slight recovery but still timid. You have about 8 percent of the primary deficit and the government budget. You have foreign deficits since 2009. So there is an economic crisis at several different levels, and socially, this has had massive impacts: the increase of poverty and extreme poverty by a couple of million people. Unemployment doubling, now it reaches about 40 million people in Brazil. Informality, bogus self employment. So all of these social and economic issues have been big factors playing up to the election and disillusionment of voters.
DAVID: Nadya, how much strain is Brazilian society under at the moment? So when I hear those figures I tend to kind of compare them with European examples—you know this is this isn't quite Greece but it's not far off and of course it’s starting from a lower base. Greece was a pretty affluent country before its economy fell apart. Is Brazilian society really straining now?. [15:33]
We have one of the worst crises in Brazilian history, it's true. What I was wondering if we remember the Fernando Collor de Mello election, there was a crisis, an important crisis, previous to his election. The first Fernando Henrique Cardoso election, the first Lula election, every turn in a certain extent was succeeded. Not a so impressive recession but a recessive conjuncture. Is there any necessarily connection in contemporary Brazil between worsening economic conditions and insatisfaction in political turns? I think we should think a little bit about this.
DAVID: Certainly that's the pattern not just in Brazil. See when you try and understand how democratic politics goes through structural shifts, you do often need background pressures and strains on a scale to create it.
NADYA: I think there is an interesting issue connecting economy and politics in this moment. You have this huge importance of agribusiness in Brazil. And the presence of leadership from agribusiness in Parliament, in government, in the direction of this turn.
DAVID: When you say agribusiness, what are we talking about here and what scale are we talking about?
NADYA: Not only the traditional landowners—it’s grain, it’s grain production, it’s meat production, strongly integrated in global productive chains.
DAVID: And huge corporate players in this.
NADYA: Yes, I would say. So this is interesting.
GRAHAM: It really is a bigger question of a larger political economies too. In the period that we went through prior to this recession there were a lot of efforts from Lula’s government and from other governments to try to allow Brazilian companies to have takeovers in believe in American companies in terms of meat production and other kinds of things. So that was a really important time. And the way that shift then happened has left a lot of people hurting in a lot of ways.
DAVID: And blaming the previous regime?
GRAHAM: It’s an interesting point but yes—I mean the rhetoric has become this is the PT’s fault, this is all the PT’s fault, that all this happened. Even though, if we reflect on all the things that actually happened under those governments…
DAVID: So to be clear, the PT is Lula and Dilma’s party.
GRAHAM: Yeah, 2002 up until the second part…
DAVID: So despite the fact that this is a leftist government, they're being blamed for what you might call this corporate turn in Brazilian politics.
GRAHAM: Well, in fact if we look at the politics of Lula and Dilma, they may have started left, but they shifted decidedly towards the center. So there is nothing structural in terms of any of the changes that they made to the Brazilian economy or to politics. I mean their sort of flagship social policy was conditional cash transfer, or a series of them actually, right? Which is very much about moving around or bypassing many of those larger structural challenges. And the bigger kinds of projects were infrastructure projects and these sort of thing. So there was very little effort, for one reason or another, to change structurally the way Brazilian in politics works. And so the economic interventions were often also very much about incentivizing private forms of accumulation. That's also true in terms of the higher education sector. The biggest boom in private universities and in American investment in Brazilian private universities since forever. And the policies about that are very much about having students accumulate some debt in the process, using loans. So it's an entire misnomer that actually Lula and Dilma were from the left. They moved decidedly towards centrist forms of politics in keeping with neoliberal ideas and capitalism.
DAVID: So how then are we going to explain Bolsonaro’s victory? I mean it’s obviously a combination of all of these things. But what would you make primary in this? Is it people's sense that they really have reached the end of the road with a way of doing politics in Brazil, maybe even a set of institutions, and they are starting to have doubts about democracy, for want of a better word? Or is it more of a kind of, maybe shorter term, cyclical reaction against a set of economic conditions and as it were frustrations that are five years old rather than maybe building up over a generation or more? [19:55]
PEDRO: I wouldn't say that there is this deep generation-long disillusionment with democracy but there's a big disillusionment with the way that politics had been happening in Brazil, which relates to this economic crisis, its social dimension, and also to corruption scandals that really flourished during the PT’s government. It wasn’t by any means restricted only to the PT—it hit right, left, and center, which explains a lot the loss of votes of the traditional center right party in Brazil, which is PSDB, the Social Democratic Party. But it’s the traditional place for the center right and Brazil. So all of these traditional parties last votes massively, in part due to people being fed up with corruption scandals, being fed up with the economy, and looking for something different. I don't think it relates to this big discomfort with democracy but things may change rapidly. Because the way that Bolsonaro interpolates his voters is in a bifurcated way—he would say some more bland things to the media but then have really inflammatory discourses to his base. And this has been legitimating a lot of street level violence against minorities, against leftists, and against anyone who is not conforming to this rhetoric of his. So this strategy of talking to different things and being really anti-institutional at some points and then denying that will offer both things, an accommodation at the top and street level violence to which the state can turn a blind eye.
DAVID: He won a lot of votes, I don’t know how many… 58 million?
PEDRO: Yeah, give or take. 55 percent of valid votes.
DAVID: So who are his base and then who are the people that he added to his base? Who are the people who voted for him?
NADYA: When you look at this very high percentage of votes but also this divide—because there was a divide in the second turn it’s clear.
DAVID: He was up against a leftist candidate who got 45 percent of the votes.
NADYA: Yeah. There is a range of force, I'll say. You have the extreme right on one side, ideologically committed with electing someone like him. But you have all this arrangement of economic force that were related to the conduct the governing process. This is another branch. You have this cluster of moral adherents that are coming from very different type of moral resistant groups. There was this conservative middle class—they were on the streets in the 60s too. They were with Bolsonaro. So this is a large range. Yet there is something very interesting… this morning I was reading a Brazilian newspaper from a northeastern state—PT won all over northeast Brazil—and almost half of congressmen and women elected in this state, they were with Bolsonaro. And they say they are with Rui, Rui is the guy running the state, the PT guy. So it's totally unconceivable under this division, huge division in broad scene that…
DAVID: That you can be on both sides.
NADYA: But you can see in the mirco-scene people doing the convergence. So it’s complex, I’d say.
GRAHAM: I think one of the other things that's really important here is that of course, in Brazil, voting is mandatory, and everybody has to vote by law. And so actually what comes out in a lot of the results was of course 55 percent for Bolsonaro and 45 percent for Haddad. But actually there were a lot of null and an absentee votes cast, more than a third, actually, of the entire of the entire electorate. And so you had a huge polarization between those people who actually wanted Bolsonaro and those who absolutely did not want him at any cost and then a huge slice of the population that was just kind of like, ‘We don't want either of those things at all.’ So they voted but they didn't vote for either of those things because they had to actually show up. You can’t get a passport for, example you, can’t access public services, unless you formally vote using the electoral voting machines. So it's a different kind of consequence than say in United States where you just don't go to the polls at all. You had to go to the polls but you actively chose not to enter the numbers for either of those candidates. It's a very political decision not to vote as well, right? So I think that's a big part of that. I mean around Bolsonaro, of course, the sort of idea that captures the imagination is that there are two big populations that matter, right? One is the sort of wealthy, white Brazilian who is constantly in favor of having a highly unequal society, of having cheap labor in the household… you know, of black labour. And then you have the Pentecostals, right? Who are somehow seen as this retrograde population that is increasingly pervading Catholic society in predatory kinds of ways. But there's all of the rest of this stuff moving throughout this, which is that Brazilian politics has never been equitable and a lot of people have never had access to state services or played a role in political parties or anything like that. So there is a larger kind of sensibility, I think, that does exist, particularly in the places where I've done research, where people kind of said, ‘You know, why don't we burn down? It's never done anything for us in the first place.’
DAVID: [25:59] I’m sure not just me but people listening to this will be hearing lots of echoes of things going on in other places. We’ve been talking about impeachment, we've been talking about politicians who seem to be on both sides at the same time… We'll come on to that and we've done pretty well so far not to make the Trump comparison. But one question which arises with a lot of these kinds of politicians is what is the socioeconomic base of their support? So the extreme right bit of it, is that this kind of better off class or does it tap into the dispossessed as well? Because you can't win that number of votes without putting together a coalition which straddles the economic divide. But what's driving it? Is it is it the poor?
PEDRO: As you said, 55 percent of the votes, you do need to have a big coalition and it probably varies a bit in terms of what matters for each segment of the population that voted for him. One thing to bear in mind is that although he did get a lot of votes amongst the poor, the rich were more likely to vote for him than the poor, perhaps differently from what happened with Brexit and Trump and so on.
DAVID: Actually not. I mean that's the interesting thing, which is Trump is not supported by the left behind. The profile of his voters was wealthier than Hillary Clinton's.
PEDRO: Okay. Brexit might be a bit different. But in any case, there is this greater support amongst the rich. What matters for these people, as Graham was saying, might be more related to an interest in maintaining inequality. Whereas for the poor people, it's probably a mixture of being constantly interpolated as anti-corruption, corruption is the big problem in society. Bolsonaro plays as an anti-corruption candidate although his record isn't exactly too good on that and the people he's appointing aren’t too good on that either. A big disillusionment with the economy and not necessarily these oppressive values, but conservative ones. It's not that the dispossessed in favor of oppressing the black population and so on but they might be in favor of, say traditional family values in a sense. But it's a difficult thing to play out, these competing interests. So reviving the economy, reviving jobs, reducing inequality, catering to conservative values, and to the elites, who are in a sense the main supporters of Bolsonaro.
DAVID: Because something else that really came out in the Brexit vote and the Trump votes... two divides. Actually there are generational divides too. But there is a kind of metropolitan/not-metropolitan, or urban/rural divide. And then there's always a question about towns, which are neither one thing or the other. And then an education divide. So the more highly educated people were, the much less likely they have been to vote for Trump and Brexit. Is something like that going on in this case too, or is it different?
NADYA: This is interesting in the Brazilian case because there is an education divide but the more educated people tended to be more likely to vote for Bolsonaro.
DAVID: Okay, so that really is different.
NADYA: This is interesting. Even if you take the cities issue, it’s interesting too that Haddad could lose to a right wing candidate in Sao Paolo’s election for mayor and then have a very good performance against Bolsonaro in the same city, very few years later. It's interesting because those patterns can vary on time even from country to country.
DAVID: So why would education correlate with voting for Bolsonaro? Is it an economic issue?
GRAHAM: Well education in Brazil, particularly higher education has always been a kind of a proxy for wealth and influence, political kinds of influence and other forms of influence in the country. So it's not surprising, really, that you know the people who in theory are more educated and more enlightened would align with some of those ideas because there are larger interests at play for them rather just their thoughtfulness about politics. I mean that stands in very stark relief, actually, and is deployed in the way that people talk about this, which is that of course the PT governments tried to do something very particular in the university system, which was provide greater accessibility. Of course they did that through privatization of higher education and other sorts of things, but they also did it around quotas and by getting underrepresented or historically underrepresented groups into universities. And that has been one of the big backlashes actually from the Bolsonaristas, which is basically, 'We don’t want those people who are in our universities to be in our universities because they shouldn’t have been there and they don’t deserve to be there.' That was actually an effort to transgress that big divide in terms of higher education, which is a huge thing in Brazilian society.
DAVID: So who do we think we can or should compare Bolsonaro to? The lazy shorthand in British and American newspapers is that he's the Brazilian Trump. People also compare, particularly at the level of rhetoric,... you can find lots of politicians around the world… I mean he's pretty far out there. He's pretty extreme, more extreme than Trump in what he says. But we know that there are lots of politicians out there, whether its Duterte or others, who use this language—it's violent, it's profoundly prejudiced, and it identifies groups that are going to be the victims of this violence if this politician gets his or her way. And it’s a him in almost every case. Is that the right comparison or should we think about this as a quintessentially Latin American or South American kind of politics and we should be comparing with other populist leaders on the continent? [31:23]
GRAHAM: I think it’s such a difficult comparison to make. I mean there are so many larger similarities really about reclaiming what the nation state does and about identity and about the forms of power that exist within them. The Brazilian case is a very interesting one too because the tropes that it has taken on are so heavily about race and they're so heavily about violence and they’re so heavily about who belongs…
DAVID: Also about gender and sexuality.
GRAHAM: Oh absolutely. I mean it's a highly masculine project this one, I mean you could say that basically about all of these larger nationalist projects, so I think there is something very heavily about reclaiming what the nation state does in terms of in terms of masculinity, in terms of race, in terms of who has benefited from power within these locations, which does then also beg the question, ‘Why does it need to push back against that?’ Is there a threat to it that it could be transgressed? Is there something else going on in terms of political consciousness? That's an important question to me. So obviously, you can make these comparisons are different scales.. But the tropes that are takes on in Brazil are particularly Brazilian in a lot of ways, very particularly Brazilian.
DAVID: And Nadya, you can't win 55 percent of the vote just with men either. So how does he speak to his female supporters?
NADYA: It's interesting because it changed along time. There was much more refusal from females at the beginning than at the end of the process. So he got much more votes from women than I would have expected.
DAVID: Which is also a comparison with Trump. People were astonished, he couldn't win without women… it turned out that he could win with women.
NADYA: He got much more votes than we would expect with that kind of discourse, so aggressive, anti-women. And at the end of the campaign, he was exposed. The scenes came again and again and again in the television, the violent scenes again women. And his acceptance among women increased. This is interesting to think—what kind of contrary force, what kind of counterbalance was working? [33:40]
DAVID: So he's not in office yet. First of January, I think, is when he starts. So he faces the challenge that all politicians of his stripe face, including Trump, that they get there by running down the institutions, the conventional institutions of the state of democratic politics, and they are they are outsiders, and yet they’ve got these ambitious programs. And you can't deliver on these programs without those institutions. Something's got to give here. And there is a fear here, which I think does make it very different from the American case, that what might give here is overt military intervention—that if you actually have a politician like this, once it becomes clear that he's going to start disappointing these supporters—and no doubt he is not going to make the state completely uncorrupt either—then the question is what comes next. Because it's unlikely that people will simply revert back to conventional politics. How worried should we be that this is a stage on the road to actually a much more familiar story about the end of democracy in Brazil?
PEDRO: It's definitely a concern because not only has Bolsonaro spoken against institutions but his vice president, who is a general, said that if things turn a bit difficult we might have to stage a coup. He said that in the run up to the elections. His two sons, who are now deputies—Bolsonaro’s two sons—they have talked about closing down the Supreme Court, that would be easy. So they have overtly talked about demolishing institutions in Brazil. So that's one thing. The other thing is, as you said, it will be hard to balance all of these demands. It won’t get there and there will be a backlash from institutions, which weakened by now, what are they going to do? It might revert to oppression, it might revert to trying to blame someone else. But there's also the chance that this will lead to regional conflicts. So there have been more or less overt declarations from Colombia and the U.S. about intervening militarily in Venezuela. Bolsonaro and his supporters and future ministers have signaled to the possibility of doing that. So using foreign wars as a way of taking away domestic pressures might be a solution as well. So it can be a military coup, it can be war, it can be repression. It's hard to say but there is real reason for concern.
DAVID: So here’s another comparison with Trump.There was a Trump bump and there's been a Bolsonaro bump: the stock market has risen, I don't know… I think it’s just short term. There is a sort of bit of animal spirits excitement in the business community but the challenges remain enormous. And presumably he is really going to struggle to turn around the Brazilian economy. It’s one thing to kind of froth up the stock market. It's another thing to tackle the structural challenges.
PEDRO: There are two interesting points in that which are, one, the stock market has really bumped but there have been a series of interviews with manufacturing and service business people in Brazil and they're not all that happy with Bolsonaro. They have a lot of concerns that he's only going to play into the financial market and not into the productive sectors. Even agribusiness, soybean exporters, are concerned that his complete disregard for the environment will make it harder for them to get export markets. So it's not entirely clear how you resolve that. And the other thing is that in Congress he's got a lot of support from moral issues conservative values, but for economic issues it's a horse of a different color, really, because it involves big decisions that will go against a lot of his constituency. He's got a big liberalizing agenda but it's rather unlikely that he'll be able to implement half of that.
He himself for his career, along his career in the Congress… He was a statist. Anti-liberal. He was very conservative in moral terms but he wasn’t at all this liberal figure.
DAVID: He wasn’t a kind of deregulator. He was a, like you said, a statist.
NADYA: Not at all, against deregulation. He was in favor of more state control.
DAVID: It’s so close to what's going on in other places and yet it’s so different.
NADYA: Any way, he was very unexpressive in Parliament, too. So we have to take this…
DAVID: He got two things done in 26 years or something. So one last question then, and it's not an easy question to answer, but Nadya, you say there's a pattern in Brazilian history there are both economic crises and democratic turns, there are also political crises and extra-parliamentary or extra-democratic interventions. Does this to you feel like part of that pattern or does it feel like it's moving outside of that pattern into something dramatically new.
NADYA: I wouldn’t say that we are going to move outside democracy, at least I pray it’s not the case. If we take, for example, Lula's problem, the first problem of public denouncement of corruption. There was a move toward impeaching Lula at the time. And he wasn’t impeached. This move was aborted. It was interesting because it was a political coalition, the center, the so-called social democrats, was crucial in sustaining Lula at this point of the time and they did not do the same with Dilma. So it's interesting to see how coalitions and institutions, they can be part of different political arrangements sometimes under the same conditions. There was crisis, there was corruption, there was this unsatisfaction with the corruption in government, but the result was totally different. So I think we are quite close to a dictator government. If you observe the last two days, judiciary positions, it’s is quite interesting because we
spoke previously on the presence and importance of the judiciary on this coup. But two days ago there was a woman in Brazil, who face to face with Bolsonaro, in front of him in a celebration of 30 years of that the new constitution, she told him on the importance of democracy on respecting minorities, women, sexual orientation. And she was quite aggressive. He even never looked at her. And everyone applauded and he didn't. So she was a woman from Temer. She was part of the coalition who completed the coup against Lula. But the thing time, at this moment, she is confronting Bolsonaro. So this is interesting to see how institutions can move, can adapt.
GRAHAM: I think what's interesting about Bolsonaro too is that he is so absent of substance. You know it's the guns, it’s the ‘I'm going to be a law and order.’ But you ask him a question of any depth about what he's going to do, what his reforms are, he has no idea. So I think actually what we're going to see is a battle behind the scenes for who's going to have the territory to be able to deploy the ideas that might matter. So he's given that space to a couple of people, so Guedes, the Chicago boy who's going to be doing in a lot of the economic stuff, and then Moro who’s in Justice. But behind the scenes is really where I think the battles are going to take place. I mean Bolsonaro is seen as this white knight, emphasis on the white, also. But there is nothing really behind it. I think there is so much there that is going to be about who the other players are and who are the other figures that are going to emerge as prominent in that discussion. I mean like Brazilian politics, it's always it's always been about what happens behind closed doors. I don’t think this is really that different. Because he can't… he can't bring the rhetoric down to bare the way you would think he could.
DAVID: We will tweet links to some interesting articles that can give you more background to this incredible story. Another incredible unfolding story is happening in Italy. And we will be talking about that on Thursday. And we will have bags available again soon. My name is David Runciman and we've been talking politics.