President Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) electoral strategy of recommending to the electorate “comparisons” between PT administrations and his own reached a new phase in the electoral campaign: that of associating former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) with presidents and Left dictators in Latin America.
Since the 16th, when the official campaign began, Bolsonaro has associated Lula and former president Dilma Rousseff (PT) with leftist administrations in six Latin American countries: Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Criticism of countries led by the left began at the official launch of the campaign, in Juiz de Fora (MG), on the 16th, when Bolsonaro called the Nicaraguan dictator, Daniel Ortega, a “friend” of Lula. The reelection candidate also said that Ortega “has been arresting priests and closing churches.”
In a meeting with mayors the following day, Bolsonaro said, without mentioning Lula by name, that he “had the participation of this other candidate” in Ortega’s election in Nicaragua. He also said that “this other candidate” supported the elections of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. At the same event, the candidate said that 40% of the Argentine population fell into poverty, defined the economic situation in Chile (a country ruled by the leftist Gabriel Boric) as “complicated” and criticized the “turn to the left” in Colombia, which elected former guerrilla Gustavo Petro.
The current president of Brazil reinforced the speech in live held last Thursday (18). He said that “the Venezuelan people are even poorer than the Haitian people”. He said that “socialism forgives no one”, and commented that Cubans are being condemned for protesting, to then say that, in Brazil, the voter has “two names”. “Choice is important, nowadays, because of what lies ahead, you have two names. You have to find which one will do best for your country, but make comparisons,” Bolsonaro said.
In another part of the broadcast, he said he regretted the economic crisis in Argentina and said that he hopes that the economy in the country reaches a “good term”. However, he said he doubted that would happen “in view of the philosophy of the left”. According to Bolsonaro, “where the left puts its hand, there is a problem”.
In the same live, he made a new association of Ortega as a “friend” of Lula and criticized the closing of churches, radio stations and censorship of the press in Nicaragua.
Bolsonaro also cited some arrests and convictions stemming from protests in Cuba that amount to up to 25 years in prison. “I want to make it clear that the guy who contests an election there [Lula] he has been president of Brazil for eight years and doesn’t say anything about it. He certainly defends those prison sentences in that country. There is no freedom there, and a hack like that goes to sign a manifesto for democracy, and there are people who believe in this manifesto for democracy “, he criticized.
The president also said that the PT supported the election of the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, and mentioned that the Colombian was a guerrilla, “like Dilma”. The Brazilian president said that, “like Chile”, Colombia was a “small country” economically, in terms of “rights” and “freedom”.
Bolsonaro said that the “mentioned countries” and their heads of state are, “the vast majority”, members of the “Foro de São Paulo”. He mentioned that the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, visited Lula while he was still in prison, in 2019, commented that the PT member is “linked” to the former president and current Argentine vice president, Cristina Kirchner, and said that the Argentine economy is going “downhill”.
The Brazilian president said that inflation in Argentina alone in July rose 7.4% and that the index is higher than the forecast for the whole of 2022 in Brazil. Bolsonaro criticized the country for taxing exports of some items, such as wheat, at 33%, and said that despite pressures for him to also tax exports, he promised not to do so with agricultural products.
The reelection candidate also suggested that, like Venezuela, Argentina could face a flight of part of the population to other countries due to the economic crisis.
It has also been suggested by Bolsonaro that voters compare Brazil with Argentina. “And why? Choices. Chosen wrong,” he said. “I remember that, a few months ago, I was getting beaten up because diesel in Argentina was cheaper, and it was true. But cheap in the pen. And today Argentina still has problems of not guaranteeing the supply of its diesel, because the price It’s more what it was a while ago,” he added.
THE People’s Gazette asked Lula’s press office for a position on Bolsonaro’s comments, but received no response until the publication of this report.
What is happening in Latin America that underpins Bolsonaro’s criticisms
In Nicaragua, a Catholic bishop critical of Ortega’s dictatorial regime was arrested on Friday (19) along with seven other people. Before that, the Church had already denounced the arrest and disappearance of a priest.
In addition, the Ortega dictatorship ordered the closure of Catholic radio stations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in the country and recent actions against the Catholic Church and civil organizations.
In August of last year, Lula advised Ortega to “not give up” on democracy, in an interview with Mexican TV. In November, PT played down the dictatorship in Nicaragua and compared Ortega’s long period in power to that of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We have to defend the self-determination of peoples. You know, I can’t keep cheering. Why can Angela Merkel stay in power for 16 years and Daniel Ortega not?”, asked Lula. “I cannot judge what happened in Nicaragua. In Brazil, I was arrested,” she added.
The elections in Nicaragua, held in November, were accused of fraud by the opposition and the international community. The PT even released a note in support of the country’s elections, but it was later deleted. The party’s national president, Gleisi Hoffmann, disallowed the publication on the grounds that it had not been submitted to the party’s leadership.
On Cuba, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Defenders of Prisoners reported in early August that there are 1,002 “political and conscience” prisoners in the country who have been sentenced to prison or suffer “limitation of liberty” without any “judicial supervision”.
The UN condemned the arbitrary arrests in Cuba and demanded the release of protesters who protested against the dictatorial regime. A German was sentenced to 25 years in prison for filming protests in Havana, the country’s capital. Last November, Lula relativized Cuban repression. “These things happen all over the world,” he commented.
Regarding Venezuela, Lula supported the reelection of Chávez and the election of Maduro. In 2012, Lula told Chávez that “your victory will be our victory” in a video sent to close the meeting of the São Paulo Forum in Caracas.
A year later, after Chávez’s death, the PT supported his successor, Maduro. “I do not want to interfere in an internal matter in Venezuela, but I cannot fail to give my sincere testimony. Maduro president is the Venezuela that Chávez dreamed of,” Lula said in a message released at a meeting at the São Paulo Forum in Caracas.
Bolsonaro’s assertion that Venezuela has surpassed Haiti as the poorest country in the Americas also follows, as well as the president’s speeches about the economic crises in Chile and Argentina.
Chilean inflation reached 13.1% in the 12 months ending in July, and the country’s Central Bank does not rule out a recession in 2023. In Argentina, a study published by the Torcuato Di Tella University points out that about 40% of the population lives in households. poor. The inflation projected for this year in the Argentine economy is above 90%, while in Brazil the market expects a high of 6.82%.
Why the president associates Lula with leftist governments
In addition to being a strategy to convince voters not to vote for Lula and for PT candidates, Bolsonaro’s strategy of citing left-wing countries and dictatorships is also an attempt to get the PT to talk about ideological agendas in defense of allies or the PT. progressivism. The former president adopted a more centrist stance as a tactic, aware that he would be provoked into talking about progressive ideology.
Bolsonaro’s campaign understands that the president does better in relation to Lula when he bets on a more ideological and conservative discourse.
International relations specialist Nicholas Borges, a political analyst at BMJ Consultores Associados, understands Bolsonaro’s speeches as part of the campaign’s strategy and understands criticism and associations between Lula and other leftist governments in Latin America as natural.
“Foreign policy may not decide elections. But, in a way, it influences. This strategy by Bolsonaro is old to try to attract mainly middle-class voters”, he says.
The analyst recalls that Bolsonaro has already bet on a similar speech in the 2018 elections. , says Borges.
The expert assesses, however, that the seriousness of the economic crisis experienced by Chile, Argentina and other countries in Latin America is more linked to the impacts of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine than to the policies adopted by leftist administrations.
“All the countries in the region face rising inflation, rising interest rates, trying to maintain the competitiveness of their currencies, since historically the United States has never risen as its interest rates have. interest rates to maintain the competitiveness of their economies, which generates a reduction in purchasing power, in the level of wages and jobs”, he says.
What are the implications of criticism in a possible second Bolsonaro term
Borges says that, in the event of Bolsonaro’s re-election for another four years after criticism of other countries, there may be some degree of short-term embarrassment between Brazil and Latin American nations.
“Obviously, there could be an embarrassment between the main partners in the region, even because the institutional leaders themselves are waiting for this possible change of power. Therefore, some treaties and negotiations are stalled during electoral periods, as so many private and external investors are waiting for some developments to move forward with some guidelines”, he analyzes.
However, Borges understands that the embarrassment would be overcome by the pragmatic relationship of Itamaraty in foreign policy. The political analyst does not believe that Bolsonaro would change the guidelines of his Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would favor the diplomatic conduct of the current chancellor, Carlos Alberto França, with neighboring countries.
“What Bolsonaro realized is that a much more pragmatic stance in foreign policy is more fruitful,” he says. For the analyst, the very need for trade between countries would generate a natural diplomatic pragmatism after the elections.
“The trend, in fact, is for a much more pragmatic relationship with all these countries. The scenario of economic dependence and slow recovery caused by the pandemic and conflict in Ukraine makes Latin American integration one of the main keys to accelerating the economic growth. A much more distant relationship could bring more burdens than bonuses”, says Borges.