What is at stake in Brazil's Oct. 5 presidential election? If Dilma Rousseff winds up losing, we could see a return to clientelism and realignment with the U.S.
BOGOTA - Depending on the results of Brazil's upcoming general elections, the country will either continue leading a subcontinent moving toward greater maturity and autonomy, or go back to serving U.S. regional interests as a junior partner, a minor associate in need of tutoring.
The positions of the two countries began to diverge after Washington's plans for a free-trade zone in the Americas fell flat. Since then Brazil has demonstrated a real commitment to building a multipolar world, particularly through its involvement in the association of emerging economies known as the BRICS, which also includes Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Marina Silva has emerged as the presidential candidate whose postures on international affairs are most closely aligned with U.S. interests. The 56-year-old environmentalist favors bilateral agreements, would like Brazil to have a lower profile within the regional trading bloc MERCOSUR, has called for a more distant relationship with the BRICS, and wants the country to play a smaller role in the left-leaning Union of South American Nations (USAN, or UNASUR in Spanish) and its associated military alliance, the Council of South American Defense.
"Given these positions, one can imagine the consequences of Silva's victory," says academic Emir Sader. "It would be the greatest advance for the U.S. in a long time."
The candidate’s economic proposals are consistent with her foreign affairs platform. She has already announced her support for an independent Central Bank, with the pretext of avoiding political corruption. Her argument is a fallacious one. It suggests market influence and financial interests are merely technical, which they are not. The influence of big money in our time is the clearest example of political corruption. Would the Obama administration disagree, after failing to prevent financial interests from devouring the U.S. state apparatus?
Silva’s support of Brazilian big capital comes is surprising given her background. She was born poor and didn’t learn to read until she was 16. Silva worked as a rubber tapper and a metal worker, and began her political activity in the state of Acre, preaching a liberationist sermon while engaged in union activity. There she met the theologian Leonardo Boff, who backed her when she resigned from the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) following disagreements regarding the environment.
"Silva has become a Christian fundamentalist with a mentality similar to those of certain Muslim leaders. She doesn't read God's will in history...but literally in a text written 4,000 years ago," says Boff, who is no longer with her. "As the PSB (Socialist) candidate she represents the old politics, allied to finance," he says.
Policies implemented by Lula and his successor, current President Dilma Rousseff, have lifted 36 million people out of poverty. As the widespread protests of 2013 demonstrated, the Brazilian people are now demanding even more: they are hungry for improvements in education, healthcare and transport. They will not accept a Brazil of murky deals or concessions to the powerful, either from Silva or her rival, President Rousseff. It is this desire that will determine the outcome of the elections.