Brazil Heading Towards Ungovernability
May 27, 2019 (EIRNS)—Twelve days ago, tens of thousands of Brazilian students and professors took to the streets in nearly 250 cities, in all 26 states, to demand that the government of Jair Bolsonaro rescind its announced 30% cut in funding for public universities. Many universities closed in support of the demonstrations, and trade unionists and others joined the protesters in many cities.
It was the biggest demonstration since the mobilizations to bring down Dilma Rousseff in 2015-2016, and it was organized in defense of the universities for “educating generations and producing the knowledge necessary for Brazil’s sovereignty,” as the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo declared in a statement issued by the university’s chancellor.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s response, that the protesters were “useful idiots and imbeciles,” fed the anger against him. He made the remark from Dallas, Texas, where he was meeting with ExxonMobil about his government’s plan to privatize the state oil company, Petrobras, piece by piece.
A few days later, the President sent out a text by WhatsApp social media from an “anonymous author,” which said the country was becoming “ungovernable,” provoking so much talk that he was considering closing Congress that he had to deny the rumors. It is being publicly discussed, for and against, that the military might step in to remove Bolsonaro, and put Vice President Hamilton Mourão (an Army general) in his place.
Adding to his weakness, five months after taking office, Bolsonaro is also no closer to getting Congress to pass a brutal pension reform—the biggest task Wall Street has demanded of him so far. On May 24, his “Chicago Boy,” Finance Minister Paulo Guedes threatened to resign if the “reform” (massive cuts) did not pass.
To gain some political leverage, Bolsonaro organized a demonstration in support of Guedes yesterday. His party split over whether the demonstration should be held. Demonstrators did take to the streets in 100 cities—but not in the numbers he had previously mobilized, or anywhere near the size of demonstrations on behalf of education.