Page 10

8

An Unfolding Tragedy

BRAZIL

An Unfolding Tragedy By Peter Evans

T

he full-blown political tragedy of Brazil’s 2018 presidential elections was only lurking as a frightening possibility when Dilma Rousseff (President of Brazil, 2011-2016) gave her speech at UC Berkeley in April 2018. Nonetheless, her address provided a cogent summary of the perverse dynamics that led to the outcome of the October 2018 elections. President Rousseff offered us an analysis of the startling series of transitions that have transformed Brazil in four short years since her election, drawing on her experience as a central actor in the drama, her expertise as a political economist, and her political commitment to building a more politically and economically equitable Brazil. Brazil’s cascade of transitions started with the shift from the unusual social and economic successes of the early years of the 21st century, led by elected administrations of the Workers’ Party (hereafter “PT,” the acronym for Partido dos Trabalhadores), to the regressive regime of Michel Temer, installed in August 2016 through what is best described as a “legislative coup.” The next transition in January 2019, to a regime dominated by Jair Bolsonaro and his allies, will reinforce and extend the regressive policies of the Temer administration, adding a new level of vicious authoritarian repression. The contrasts between these three regimes are not difficult to set out. The challenge is to offer a plausible account of the dynamics that enabled the transition from the first to the second and from the second to the third. The temptation is to focus all our attention on the most recent transition — after all, it represents the most significant political shift in Brazil since the redemocratization of the 1980s — but understanding this triumph of reaction requires setting it in a larger context. President Rousseff’s address offered an excellent start, highlighting the character of the first of these regimes, which she helped construct. Though Rousseff is an economist with a sophisticated understanding of how the Brazilian economy operates, her presentation at UC Berkeley defined the successes of PT administrations in a simple and straightforward way: improved lives for ordinary Brazilians. The concrete policy manifestations were “expanding the population’s >> BERKELEY REVIEW OF LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES

The flag of Brazil on a sidewalk in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by AKRockefeller.)

Profile for Center for Latin American Studies

Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Fall 2018  

The Fall 2018 edition of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, published by the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley.

Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Fall 2018  

The Fall 2018 edition of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, published by the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley.