Lula, Bolsonaro et l’avenir incertain du Brésil : regards croisés avec les spécialistes Malena et André Rehbein

Le 30 octobre 2022, avec près de 51% des voix, Lula a été élu président du Brésil face au candidat sortant d’extrême droite, Jair Bolsonaro. Un peu plus d’un an après les faits, nous avions envie de faire un bref état des lieux de la situation politique et sociale brésilienne.
Pour l’occasion, nous avons eu la chance de nous entretenir avec les spécialistes et professeurs brésiliens Malena et André Rehbein, qui enseignent depuis le mois de septembre le séminaire en anglais
“The Brazilian setback: How thecountry was driven to the brink of dictatorship”.,
Dans cette interview, nous aborderons divers sujets tels que l’engagement des jeunes brésiliens, le futur incertain de la politique et l’analyse des dernières élections, en passant par le changement climatique et la forêt amazonienne.

Could you introduce yourselves and in what field you work?
I am André. I was born in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. But I was raised in Minas Gerais, and I went to the Federal University of Minas Gerais where I studied economics. I was living in Sao Paulo and I used to work for a university as a faculty professor. Then I decided to go to Brasilia and to work at that chamber of deputies. So right now I work in the chamber, in the political field as an assistant to the party. I don’t have a link to the party, but this is a kind of structure that all the parties have in the chamber.
I’m Malena, I’m from the south of Brazil, but I’ve been living in Brasilia most of my life. I graduated from journalism at the University of Brasilia, and I’ve been working for almost30 years as a journalist. I also did a master’s in political journalism, showing how the press sets the Congress agenda.

Then I did the first semester at the University of Westminster in London. So showing if or how the press interfered or helped in the Brazilian democracy’s conservation process. And my PHD was at UERJ (Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro) and it was about press and quality of democracy. So I’m more focused on the quality of democracy in general, its relation with the press, media and politics, digital parliament and fake news. And nowadays I work in a leadership, more in the political area mainly. Writing reports,writing amendments, helping deputies tovote, explain the themes, going to committees, going to the plenary.
What’s your analysis on the last presidential elections ? How can you explain the results and Lula’s come back after so many years ?
Well, first of all, it’s important to say that it was a really tight election so anyone could have won. And I think Bolsonaro has shown a huge strength because we had the pandemics and all those things Bolsonaro did not do. And you know, Bolsonaro was against the pandemic saying that it was nothing, that it was a little cold so you don’t have to worry. Since he was against vaccines, a lot of people that don’t like Lula and don’t like the Workers Party were really afraid about the posture of Bolsonaro during the pandemic. But Bolsonaro also in the last six months ofhis government injected a lot of money in tothe economy, huge money on Bitcoin. So really it was around the amount of 300 billionin the economy, which helped him. And Lula has won because he was able to build a huge alliance with all these actors that don’t like the Workers Party, but didn’t like Bolsonaro,since he was against democracy. […]

Even Geraldo Alckmin became his vice president, he was against Lula in the past and has already called Lula a bandit. But facing Bolsonaro, he became vice-president. So it’s a symbol of this massive alliance that he was able to build for the election, but to maintain it for the government is really difficult.
He was the first president of Brazil that’s not reelected when trying. But the other important point is the rejection Lula and Bolsonaro have. Like important rejections, but also Bolsonaro’s rejection was a little bit higher. Then why? Well, as I told you, the Covid pandemic was very important because we had around 800,000 deaths around it. Researchers in Brazil from Fiocruz, a very important institution on health in Brazil, said that we could have a voided these deaths. And even Bolsonaro himself admitted that he would have done differently if he could go back in time. But then you have a package of things that made him being rejected, such as speeches against women, indigenous people, including the quilombolas. But his main group of supporters doesn’t care about it. So it would be 18% of his voters. They don’t care about what he says because they think he’s defending the best values in life. But there’s another economic reason for that. Aspolitics in Brazil was very unstable, we couldn’t have much money from abroad. Soalthough the market liked him because he would favor it in everything, it was also not easy to get the money. People didn’t want to invest in Brazil from abroad because of instability. And then people were, “oh, who could be who could defeat him ? we need a third choice. Not the left or the right.” They didn’t want to get together. Incredibly, the only person that did it was Lula because As he had a government for two mandates, he has more experience. So he brought to work for him in the campaign candidates from the left and from right, but not as far right as Bolsonaro. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whose party was center right, but nowadays, more to the right was always against one another, but now he was with Lula. So he could even bring people like liberal economists to work for him. Of course, his economic program was also liberal, even being from the left. So they were all with him. We worked in leadership, so we received the tracking everyday. And it was crazy because there was like one, 2 or 3tracking per day and we knew it would be tied, but it was even tighter than we imagined. So, we kind of knew that the rewere more votes for Lula. In the first round, they tried to stop people from voting, like stopping their buses. Especially in the northeast, where Lula had more voters. So we don’t know how many votes it took from Lula.
So usually the first year of a mandate is the best year to do whatever a president wants to because he’s legitimized by the people. But in this case, not much because almost50% think differently. So he doesn’t have the same political power and that’s quite difficult to handle the government and the mandate. So the costs of negotiations are much, much higher than when you are elected with like 70% of votes.
How is Brazilian democracy nowadays, especially with the attempted coup d’état in January ?
What we can say is that we survived. What we know is that the only reason the coup d’état in January didn’t happen was because the armed forces were not all on board withit. There are men from the Marine Corps who were the only ones that would accept to help. They wanted to close the Supreme Court, arrest Alexandre de Moraes, then bring a provisional government or something, say that the election was a fraud and then give the power to Bolsonaro. Democracy is very fragile. So we are going to need a lot of time to recover. And it’s going to depend on the next elections. Brazillost a lot of points in the democracy ranking, especially during the Bolsonaro government. […]

But, even if we lose points we are a democracy. A weakened one, but a democracy. And they used to say that democracy was at risk. What we should see right now is that Brazilian institutions didn’t support Bolsonaro. If Bolsonaro got elected, maybe we would have a crash of democracy. We wouldn’t resist another one of his terms. There is an analisis that Brazilian institutions are even better in this case than American institutions, you know, because maybe Trump will be able to run and will be able to get reelected next year. And Bolsonaro was already declared ineligible. In terms of institutions, Brazilian institutions tend to gain points.
In terms of population, it’s not that they (those who tried the coup) don’t like democracy. They use the word ‘democracy’ to say it is what they want. But what they want is not democracy. So they confuse the concepts, but in the end they are saying, no, we are fighting for democracy and we must get rid of these people, these corrupted people that want to tell how everybody has to think and behave. They want us to accept LGBTQ+rights and we don’t want to. So they are trying to impose things on us. We want democracy, liberty, in our terms. If you ask them, they will say they defend democracy ,but on their terms.
According to you, what is the future fo rpolitics in Brazil with the rise of the extreme right and the multiple challenges that Lula’s government faces ?
We all would like to know! Well, it is fragile and it will depend on the next elections. The scenario is a little bit confusing. Lula says that he will be running for next elections again but he will be 86 by then and his health is not great. He is an eighty man like Biden. Moreover, they are not preparing another candidate to compete. Bolsonaro is ineligible, he has lost force but not the far right. So there is a huge chance for the right candidates to be elected. However, no matter who is elected both the right and the left will respect the institutions. They always did. The vice-president Geraldo Alckmin is a democratic and many others are. So, it depends. There is only one man who can be elected and who is similar to Bolsonaro but he is smarter than him; Tarcísio de Freitas from the government of São Paulo. He has much more experience and he knows how to be have but he thinks similar to Bolosonaro. It can be dangerous in some way.
And from the left ?
Haddad. He lost the elections in 2018 but he recovered with the market although he is not for PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, abrazilian political party).
What do you think about the political commitment of young people in Brazil ?What is their position towards power ?
The results have shown that among they outh, Lula does better than Bolsonaro. They outh is looking for different things, a new way of thinking. In fact, Bolsonaro was better over thirties. From my point of view, teenagers and young people are not really connected to politics. They usually don’t get involved and they are not affiliated to parties but they know way more than our generation that is for sure. For instance, feminism is something that is growing in Brazil so our adolescent girls know much more about their rights, they claim them and they impose them. They are more progressive. Bolsonaro has a conservative speech that doesn’t match with adolescents. He has a religious perspective:women have to follow their dads orders, hedespises gay people. Actually, he said that he would be incapable of loving a gay son.
How does Brazil manage to handle climat echange, especially concerning the Amazon? Would you say that Lula’s measures and initiatives are effective ?

I read that in 2023, the deforestation of the Amazon decreased by 22% . I don’t think that Brazil deals really well with it. Of course, it is better right now than it was 10 years ago.
Lula was the first president to reinforce the support for the automobile car industry – especially the oil powered ones. They were not even green cars! They also wanted to finish with the support they previously offered when they gave discounts for electric cars. In that sense, Lula approved a major proposition and put an amendment to help the industry of “traditional” cars. For example, he was looking forward to enlarged oil production and extraction in the Amazon! It was mostly because of the private sector pressure. Things are going better. Sure, Bolsonaro is worse than him since he was a supporter of the mining industry and deforestation but still. Deforestation has to do with different things mixed together; indigenous people who live in the Amazon, gold mines that attract those who want to deforestate in order to take out minors, and drug traffic. They are all in the Amazonia. It is huge, many things happen at the same time. That makes it a land of nobody. The other thing has to do with Brazilian people. I think that we are not mature enough in our routines. For instance, we don’t recycle in general. Well, you can do it at home by yourself but when they pick up the trash they mix it all. Another problem is that we don’t have a market that is looking forward to protecting the environment even if people fight very hard for that to happen.