Brazil – the ongoing political crisis and the Rio Olympics
Brazil’s ongoing political crisis continues to deepen. As the Olympic Games in Rio were played out, with the world’s eyes descending upon Brazil, the opposition moved in April to impeach President Dilma Rousseff of the governing Workers’ Party. So, as millions took in what is arguably the premier event in sport, many eyes were also cast upon the unsporting games of political intrigue unfolding in the most populated country of Latin America.
Whilst impeachment against Rousseff is for the vague crime of manipulating the federal budget, that is not the proper context to the scandal. Instead it comes on the back of affairs at Petrobras, the state-owned oil company. The scandal has engulfed the entire political class.
“After being partly privatised by the centrist government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990s, the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva steadily restored state control of the company during his eight-year rule which ended in 2010. This process was turned into a patriotic cause when in 2007 Petrobras discovered the “pre-salt” oilfields, so-called because the oil lies under a two-kilometre-thick layer of salt, which is itself under the ocean. As the biggest deepwater offshore oil find in decades, the PT was keen to keep the pre-salt out of private hands. It invented a new regulatory regime that made Petrobras the sole operator of the pre-salt discoveries, leading the company to embark on what was the biggest corporate capital expenditure programme in the world.
“The PT and its coalition partners appointed their own candidates to Petrobras’ most important executive positions. These figures, led by Paulo Roberto Costa, a former director, secretly diverted funds valued at up to 3 per cent of all contracts to the PT and its coalition partners. This amounted to billions of dollars because of the huge investment in the pre-salt and an accompanying refinery programme.
“The corrupt directors collaborated with Petrobras’ contractors, including some of Brazil’s largest construction companies, to line their own pockets. Some of the directors accumulated funds of more than $100m in Swiss bank accounts while others put the money into extravagant art collections. They were assisted by a ring of black market money dealers, led by convicted criminal Alberto Youssef, who was in charge of laundering the funds. Investigators suspect the scheme was part of a ‘project of power’ to keep the PT and its allies in government by using funds from Petrobras to pay off the ruling coalition and fund election campaigns. The PT denies such claims, saying all its election campaigns were funded legally” (John Leahy, ‘What is the Petrobras scandal that is engulfing Brazil?’, Financial Times, 1 April 2016).
It is on the back of this that the knives were out for the President, even though she has emerged as one of the cleanest politicians from the scandal. State budgets are merely a pretext to facilitate change, as will become apparent.
Impeachment proceedings began with the lower house of parliament voting by over a two-thirds majority to impeach Rousseff. The debate preceding the vote can only be described as a farce which clearly revealed the forces at work. Undoubtedly, imperialism is the moving hand, supported as it is by the Brazilian bourgeoisie and other domestic based forces of reaction. During the debate, the house resembled a monkey enclosure at the zoo, with volleys of verbal excrement thrown around. Invariably some sticks. Following the vote, the house was the scene of repugnant singing and dancing as the enemy celebrated in the fashion of the mob. The sentiments of this parliamentary mob were expressed quite clearly by deputy for Rio, Jair Bolsonsaro, who dedicated his yes vote (for impeachment) to Carlos Brilhante Ustra. Ustra was the colonel responsible for the Dol Codi torture unit in the era of the junta (see Jonathan Watts, ‘Dilma Rousseff: Brazilian congress votes to impeach president’, The Guardian, 18 April 2016).
This proved an embarrassment to imperialism. It is simply harder to sell impeachment to the watching world, when these are the people doing the impeaching. Therefore, there were no repeat scenes when the upper house voted in May. This time the proceedings were sombre. The puppets had been reeled in by the imperialist master. Instead we had parliamentarians take this tone:
“All the people here are broken-hearted. We don’t want this, but it is unavoidable. Brazil has come to a stop since last year. We all recognise that Dilma has done a good job during her life for the democracy of Brazil”.
These were the words of Republican Party lawmaker Roberto Crivella. Despite being “broken-hearted” and recognising Rousseff’s “good job“, Crivella voted to impeach the president. In his own words it was “unavoidable“. However, he does not mean it is unavoidable on the basis that Rousseff is guilty. Nope, he voted because: “the country is mired in crisis and needs a change of economic policy”.
So there we have it, the confession of a lawmaker who voted against the President because of a desire for “a change of economic policy“. Which type of person uses an impeachment vote for their own ends, who judges not on a legal framework, who does not consider the case itself, but instead opportunistically seizes upon a crisis? Well, Crivella is not only a Republican lawmaker, he is also a ‘Bishop’ for the notorious evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. This is a right wing cult implicated in all kinds of financial irregularities, as well as ‘demonology’ – its British wing was implicated in the notorious 2001 death of Victoria Climbie who died aged 8 of neglect and torture at the hands of her mother and who had been taken to the ‘Church’ for a ‘deliverance from witchcraft service’ only a few days before she died (BBC News, 6 December 2001). The ‘church’ has strong links to the United States, and even encourages its poor members to give the church money, rather than join trade unions or organise as workers, should they wish to improve their lot. Such are the forces conspiring against Rousseff.
A semblance of a more measured critique came from the 1994 World Cup winning striker turned maverick ;socialist; senator, Romario. At least the former Barcelona hero had the decency to claim to be basing his vote on an estimation of the case. He said ” I know some will disagree, but I think there is sufficient evidence to admit the process.”
Finally, in contrast, Communist Party senator Vanessa Grazziotin read the situation as so: ” this is the saddest day in the history of our young democracy. This isn’t a valid constitutional process, it is a coup that goes against the majority in the 2014 election .” This salient point is worth stressing, when an elected President is being impeached as a result for the sake of a “change of economic policy“.
Rousseff’s own stance is that ” I am being judged for a non crime. What is happening is not a military coup but is a parliamentary coup…I was elected with 54.5 million votes” (Matt Sandy, ‘Dilma Rousseff on her impeachment trial, the Olympics and Zika’, Time, 27 July 2016).
It is evidently not the electorate who are judging the president. A look at those who do the judging is typically unsurprising.
“Deputies were called one by one to the microphone by the instigator of the impeachment process, Cunha – an evangelical conservative who is himself accused of perjury and corruption – and one by one they condemned the president.
“Yes, voted Paulo Maluf, who is on Interpol’s red list for conspiracy . Yes, voted Nilton Capixiba, who is accused of money laundering. ‘For the love of God, yes!’ declared Silas Camara, who is under investigation for forging documents and misappropriating public funds.
“And yes, voted the vast majority of the more than 150 deputies who are implicated in crimes but protected by their status as parliamentarians.
“At times the session exposed the farcical side of Brazil’s democracy, such as the Women’s party that has only male deputies, or the Popular Socialist party that is one of the most right-wing groups in congress.”
“Brazil’s presidential chief of staff Jaques Wagner said the government was confident the senate would dismiss the impeachment, insisting the vote was a setback for democracy and was ‘orchestrated’ by Rousseff’s opponents who never accepted her re-election victory in 2014 ” (Jonathan Watts, op.cit.).
Some of these religiously motivated politicians, including Cunha and Crivella would do well to remember Jesus’s maxim let he without sin cast the first stone. Instead the very biggest sinners sit in judgment.
Furthermore, the party that has filled the vacuum of power, the Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), is as implicated as anyone in the affair. First of all, it was a junior coalition partner in the Rousseff government. It and others have been politically shrewd in shifting the focus from themselves onto the bigger and juicier figure, the president. In a swift act they have removed their rival, shifted attention and been the political beneficiaries of the scandal. As a result, Rousseff was replaced by her vice-president Michel Temer. Yet prior to his ascension the BBC reported:
“Temer could face impeachment himself over the same accusations as those put to Rousseff. Two other possible successors, lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha and Renan Calheiros, face corruption allegations” (BBC News, 18 April 2016).
“Senator after senator repeated the phrase that ‘nobody is above the law’, yet many are living proof that this has long been untrue in Brazilian politics. As in the lower house many of the politicians who voted for Rousseff to be stripped of her post for fiscal irregularities are themselves accused of far greater crimes. Thirty-three of the 81 senators have either been charged or are under investigation by prosecutors. Some have been found guilty by the supreme court, such as Ivo Cassol, a senator from Rondônia , who is fighting a five-year prison sentence for fraud and has been fined for illegal deforestation of the Amazon (Jonathan Watts, ‘Dilma Rousseff suspended as senate votes to impeach Brazilian president’, The Guardian, 12 May 2016).
It is for such reasons Forbes declares:
“The foxes are running the hen house…but those foxes were once the partners and pets of the ruling Workers Party…The allied Democratic Movement Party is now running Brazil post-Dilma, with clear evidence wanted to manipulate justice and roadblock the Petrobras investi-gation” (Kenneth Raposa, ‘Facts and fictions behind the pending impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma’, Forbes, 6 June 2016).
It is evident that the forces of reaction in Brazil have learned the art of the big lie. Additionally, they are not only guilty of a big lie, but their lie acts as camouflage for the fact that they themselves are guilty of that with which they charge Rousseff. Lalkar readers will be aware of such type of dark arts for it mirrors the attack mode by the Soviet revisionists against Stalin. We all know how the Khrushchev group, for every wrong of theirs, shielded themselves by pre-emptively and wrongly attacking Stalin over the same issue. For instance, their own construction of the “cult of personality” – they instead accuse of being Stalin’s creation. Stalin is accused of removing political opponents as a justification for removing Khrushchev’s political opponents. There are many more such historical examples of this method of camouflage by lie – from Katyn to US concerns for human rights and democracy.
Impeachment is expected to come at the end of August. The impeachment trial began on the 24th which just so happened to coincide with the end of the Rio games on the 21st.
Rio Olympics and the demonisation of Russia
If it was ever in doubt, what these games illustrate is that the Olympics are now every bit as much a political weapon as they are a sporting event. Just as with the World Cup and European Football Championships, participation in general, and hosting in particular, brings an element of danger for non-imperialist states.
For example, surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the imperialist media were suddenly concerned with the plight of workers and democratic rights.
Yet 4 years later the 2012 London games saw no expression of concern regarding wars, occupations, no fly zones, human rights abuses, police violence, austerity etc.
Interestingly, when Ukraine co-hosted the 2012 European Football Championships the imperialist media suddenly covered the fascist problem in that country. Black England fans were even warned not to travel to the event. Of course this was prior to the fascist seizure of power in that country – and now our media give every appearance of believing there are no fascists in Ukraine.
In contrast this year’s Euros in France, evoked no concern for the anti-worker legislation and resulting strikes and protests.
Brazil’s tribulations, on the other hand, have been covered in depth. Throughout these events we have witnessed threats of boycotts and bans, attempts at political change etc.
Also in the crosshairs today, of no surprise, is Russia. The current anti-Russia campaign is an extension of that triggered by Russia hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The stick Russia is being hit with is allegations of “state-sponsored doping”. On July 24th the International Olympics Committee announced its decision regarding the participation of Russian athletes in Rio. Here are some key points of the report:
“The study included the discussion of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s Independent Person (IP) Report by Prof. Richard McLaren; the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on 21 July 2016 concerning the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF); as well as the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code…
“The IOC EB discussed the status of the ROC [Russian Olympic Committee]. In this respect, it took note of the fact that the IP Report made no findings against the ROC as an institution.
“The IOC EB took note of a letter dated 23 July 2016 from the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF). In this letter the ISSF confirms having received from WADA information about the three ‘disappearing samples’ concerning shooting. The ISSF states that these three samples had been entered, at the time they were reported, into WADA’s ADAMS Results Management System as positives, and all the result management procedures have already been followed.
“On the basis of the Findings of the IP Report, all Russian athletes seeking entry to the Olympic Games Rio 2016 are considered to be affected by a system subverting and manipulating the anti-doping system. The IP Report indicates that, due to ‘the highly compressed timeline’, the IP has ‘only skimmed the surface of the extensive data available’. The IOC EB therefore came to the conclusion that this view cannot be restricted only to athletes from the 20 Olympic summer sports mentioned in the IP Report.
“Under these exceptional circumstances, Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions, and the ‘presumption of innocence’ cannot be applied to them. On the other hand, according to the rules of natural justice, individual justice, to which every human being is entitled, has to be applied. This means that each affected athlete must be given the opportunity to rebut the applicability of collective responsibility in his or her individual case ” (Olympic.org, 24 July 2016).
Most strikingly, Russian athletes are to be presumed guilty until proven innocent. Turning all norms of liberal justice on their head, the “collective responsibility” of the IOC can only be understood as collective punishment. Also:
“The ROC is not allowed to enter any athlete for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 who has ever been sanctioned for doping, even if he or she has served the sanction.”
Therefore if any athlete happens to be Russian, it does not matter whether they have served their sentence or not – they are to be punished twice. Here is the illiberal liberalism of the prevailing orthodoxy. This would be like someone serving a prison sentence and on their release date being told they are being held indefinitely.
Yet the IOC decided against a blanket ban on Russian athletes. But 118 athletes were banned, around a a third of Russians who qualified for the games. The bans did not come from the IOC itself; instead the IOC passed the decision on to the body governing each individual sport. So, for instance, both the International Association of Athletics Federation, and the International Weightlifting Federation banned all Russian competitors.
In contrast, the International Paralympics Committee opted for the maximum collective punishment by banning all Russians from competition. And so a host of disabled competitors who have dedicated their lives to these games had the chance to compete snatched away from them. Russia appealed against the decision but this appeal was unsurprisingly rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The mood of the Russian paralympians to this is captured here:
“Roman Petushkov, a six-time Russian Paralympic champion, called the decision ‘inhumane’ and a ‘humiliation’.
“Long-jumper Vadim Alyoshkin said athletes were ‘pawns in a big game we have nothing to do with'” (BBC News, 23 August 2016) .
The IPC ban brought praise from WADA’s Prof. McLaren.
“They have consulted with me very closely. We have done forensic work with them, we’re in the process of doing analytical work. They were in contact with me within hours of my report being published” (Owen Gibson, ‘All Russian athletes to be banned from Paralympic Games in Rio’, The Guardian, 6 August 2016).
This is specifically interesting when looking at McLaren’s words on the IOC’s contrary decision. He said:
” I would like to see the debate turn to the contents of the report and the spin that has been put on it that it is all incorrect and allegations. Look at what is there and what the data is and make a decision on that basis and don’t turn it into what it isn’t – a doping results-management investigation of specific athletes. It never was that ” (quoted by Owen Gibson in ‘Richard McLaren accuses IOC of misrepresenting doping findings’, The Guardian, 4 August 2016).
“People have misconstrued what was in that report, particularly the IOC and international federations. I have not done the work to drill down and see which athletes may have been doping and what they had been using.
“That was something I didn’t have time to do and I made it very clear that was not part of the report. The report was about state-sponsored doping, manipulation of results, swapping of samples, preparation of wash-up schemes before London 2012. It’s a state-run system. That’s what in the report and people seem to have completely missed that.”
And as The Guardian comments, McLaren, is “frustrated that the debate has focused not on state-sponsored doping” (ibid.).
So on the one hand we are to believe the professor wants all spin removed from the debate, yet on the other, his entire report boils down to political spin. For he himself has openly declared he has no interest in “which athletes may have been doping“. Instead he is entirely concerned with nailing the Russian state.
So let us assume he is correct, that Russia is running a state-sponsored doping system. If this is the case why does he want to ban the Russia athletes? For if it is a state-sponsored system then the Russian athletes are victims. They are not the Russian state. Instead we can only assume a state-sponsored doping system imposes itself upon athletes. Perhaps the professor and the IOC could have suggested measures to help such victims rather than punish them.
Secondly, if the system is state-sponsored, how are we to explain all of the overwhelming majority of clean Russian athletes? Perhaps the state only encourages doping, rather than forcing it. But even with this softer coercion of the supposedly almighty oppressive Russian state, would it not be far fetched to see most refuse the enhancements on offer? It is difficult to accept both propositions, that Russia is a totalitarian/authoritarian state running a doping programme, and yet most of their athletes are clean.
Moreover, the professor has only released his report. He has released zero evidence. He refuses to do this.
“I have the evidence, I have it secured. I have the evidence backed up by forensic analysis of databases, sample bottles, I have laboratory evidence of some of those samples. It’s true I haven’t revealed.
“But if you conduct a proper investigation, you don’t put the evidence out there to create misinformation. I was at the stage where I could say what I knew beyond reasonable doubt. I wouldn’t put anything in the report that I didn’t have evidence of and wouldn’t meet the criminal standard in any court around the world” (ibid.).
A final comment on the professor has to be to note another obvious contradiction, namely that a proper investigation creates misinformation. Yet if it creates misinformation, then the investigation necessarily lacks rigour. A proper investigation would be prepared to explain the evidence and contextualise it so that it is real information. We can only assume his evidence has holes. Instead all we have is his reference to some “missing positives” from the London 2012 games. Which also leads to the question of why the report has taken so long? Much like the timing of the coup in Brazil, it is rather convenient to see this sparked prior to Rio, just in time for maximum effect.