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BRICS Under Attack: The Empire Strikes Back In Brazil

by Eric Draitser, MintpressNews

Despite all the fancy anti-corruption rhetoric, the assault on President Rousseff’s leftist government is the result of a coordinated campaign by business interests tied to Washington and Wall Street.

The last decade has seen a remarkable coalescing of non-Western nations in both economic and political partnerships. These multilateral institutions have been championed as alternatives to Western organs of political and economic power such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

From the growth of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy to link much of the Eurasian landmass via trade and investment, and most recently the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, many have viewed these developments as essential for the decentralization of global power away from the imperial centers of Washington, Wall Street, London and Brussels.

But perhaps none of the emerging Global South international groupings has been more promising in terms of both public relations and real economic partnership than that of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

BRICS countries account for 46 percent of the world’s population – over 3 billion people, as of 2015 – making it the single largest bloc in terms of human capacity among global alliances. The scope of BRICS, combined with its increasing assertiveness as an economic power unto itself, has undoubtedly ruffled a few feathers in Washington and elsewhere in the West.

It should come as no surprise that major moves have been taken in the last 12 to 24 months to undermine each BRICS member nation and destabilize them through political and economic means. And it is no coincidence that those leaders shown smiling and shaking hands at recent BRICS summits are now either the targets of destabilization efforts and subversion – as in the cases of Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – or are a target of a military and political charm offensive, as in the case of India. In each case, the United States and its allies benefit significantly from the latest developments.

APTOPIX Brazil Corruption

Soldiers stand guard outside Planalto presidential palace where protesters have projected the word “Impeachment” on the building, as they call for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 21, 2016. Brazil’s political turmoil comes as the country prepares to host the Summer Olympics in August while struggling with an economic crisis and an outbreak of the Zika virus, which health experts believe may cause a devastating birth defect in newborns. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil in the crosshairs

One of the U.S. empire’s tried and true methods of destabilizing a targeted country is through manufacturing and promoting political scandals and/or political movements that appear oppositional but whose interests, whether consciously or not, align with the ruling establishment in the West. Both of these elements are at play in Brazil, which has been moving toward increased economic, and consequently political, independence in recent years.

In Brazil, the government of Dilma Rousseff is facing a major destabilization campaign orchestrated by powerful right-wing elements in the country and their U.S. backers. Under the always convenient banner of “anti-corruption,” millions have turned out in the streets to demand the ouster of the twice-elected Rousseff government on the heels of a series of revelations about alleged corruption pertaining to the quasi-state, quasi-private Petrobras oil company.

Brazil Corruption

Woman shows poster written in Portuguese “There will not be a coup” next to a picture of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, during a rally in her support and of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, March 18, 2016. Supporters of Silva and Rousseff gathered for rallies in a handful of cities across Brazil, particularly in the industrial south, where the former factory worker has his base. Silva has been tied to a sprawling corruption investigation involving the Brazil oil giant Petrobras. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

According to the allegations, a number of leading political figures, some of whom are connected to President Rousseff and the Workers’ Party, have skimmed at least 3 percent of the billions in oil revenue from Petrobras, illustrating the still active tradition of corruption in Brazil.

The latest target is former President Lula da Silva, who was forcibly removed from his home in an ostentatious show of force by law enforcement authorities meant to humiliate the 70-year-old founder of the Workers’ Party. Because of his working class background, the former president was seen as the hope and pride of the left in Brazil, and the public removal from his home earlier this month sparked the latest round of protests.

But what — or who — is really behind the soft coup in Brazil?

The right wing is the driving force of the protests, despite any progressive-minded, anti-corruption sentiment being expressed by various segments of the protest movement. Two of the principal groups responsible for organizing and mobilizing the demonstrations are the Free Brazil Movement (MBL) and Students for Liberty (EPL), both of which have direct ties to Charles and David Koch, the right-wing, neocon, U.S. billionaires, as well as other leading figures of the far right, pro-business neoliberal establishment.

MBL is fronted by Fabio Ostermann and Juliano Torres, both of whom were educated in the Atlas Leadership Academy, a satellite of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which is directly funded by the Koch brothers. EPL is a direct affiliate of the U.S.-based Students for Liberty, a well-known Koch brothers outfit with deep ties to the right-wing political establishment in the U.S.

One of the leading faces of the movement is Kim Kataguiri, a 20-year-old “activist,” who is both a founder of MBL and a leader in EPL. Unabashedly pro-big business, he’s an adherent of the so-called Austrian School of Economics, the economic ideology that advocates total deregulation of the economy in the interests of private business, and a great admirer of Milton Friedman, the father of what is known today as neoliberal capitalism.

Kataguiri and his fellow right-wing activists have been quick to distance themselves from the blood-soaked legacy of right-wing coups in Brazil and Latin America for obvious reasons. Yet they espouse precisely the same economic policies as those enacted throughout the region, perhaps most famously in Chile under the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose economic policies were directly guided by none other than Friedman.

Kataguiri

In this March 18, 2015 photo, anti-government protest leader Kim Kataguiri poses for a picture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP/Andre Penner)

As Kataguiri explained to The Guardian in 2015:

We defend free markets, lower taxes and the privatisation of all public companies. … In Brazil, the left is still seen as cool by young people. … We want to destroy this idea that if you defend free markets then you’re an old man who is asking for a dictatorship. …  Unfortunately, we don’t have any big sponsors. The government and some sectors of the press say that we are financed by rich people. We would have no problem in being financed by rich people.”

Unfortunately for Kataguiri, Ostermann, Torres and their colleagues, the truth about their connections to powerful finance capital and business in the U.S. and throughout Latin America is well known. Still, the corporate media whitewashes these connections, presenting the protests as some sort of pure expression of people’s discontent, rather than a manufactured form of political manipulation and destabilization which has seized upon difficult economic times to cynically exploit public opinion. Brazil’s economic downturn over the past two years has made this much easier.

Other influential groups such as VemPraRua (“Come to the Streets”) are directly funded by powerful right-wing business interests inside the country, including Brazil’s richest man, Jorge Paulo Lemann. As Bloomberg noted in a 2013 profile of Lemann:

In the U.S., Lemann is virtually unknown, even though he and his two longtime partners, Marcel Herrmann Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira, now control three icons of U.S. consumer culture: Heinz ketchup, Burger King, and, after the $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch in 2008, Budweiser beer. The combined market value of the companies they run is $187 billion—larger than that of Citigroup.

In Brazil, Lemann is a business-class hero. … Worth some $20 billion, Lemann is No. 32 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, seven slots behind George Soros and three ahead of Carl Icahn.”

Meanwhile, the reactionary, pro-U.S. elements inside (and outside) Brazil are particularly angered at the Workers’ Party and, more broadly, the left. This is not because of corruption – though corruption undoubtedly remains a problem – but because of the ascendance to power of political forces representing working class and poor Brazilians.

As the North American Congress on Latin America correctly assessed in April 2015: “Don’t believe the right-wing media’s emphasis on corruption—the recent demonstrations are motivated by entrenched elite discontent over expanding economic and political inclusion for the nation’s majority.”

Bringing BRICS to heel

In short, despite all the fancy anti-corruption rhetoric, the assault on Rousseff’s leftist government is the result of a coordinated campaign by business interests tied to the U.S. Washington and Wall Street that see in Brazil a dangerous precedent in which a left-wing government sympathetic to and allied with Bolivarian movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and until recently, Argentina, was able to gain power and preside over an economic boom.

Indeed, this point should not be understated — namely, the economic downturn in commodities such as oil which has put the brakes on Brazil’s rapid economic progress.

end of the party graph

A graph demonstrating the correlation between expansion of anti-government sentiment and the stagnation of GDP growth.

In fact, recent data shows that the expansion of anti-government sentiment directly correlates to the stagnation of GDP growth, which itself directly correlates to the decline in commodities prices. As many have convincingly argued, the collapse of oil has no doubt been fomented and encouraged, if not directly orchestrated, by the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf in order to target non-Western countries whose economies are tied to oil and gas revenue — Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and especially Russia.

Essentially, what’s unfolding in Brazil is a multi-pronged effort to destabilize the country via a variety of political and economic means, with the ultimate goal of bringing to heel a key member of BRICS. But it is not the only one.


Eric Draitser is a geopolitical analyst based in New York and the founder of StopImperialism.  He can be followed at Twitter.

 

16 Comments

  1. George says

    Whoever wrote this article has obviously never been to Brazil or doesn’t know Brazilians at all well. I lived there for a few years, am fluent in Portuguese and have many Brazilian friends. If there’s one thing Brazilians rail against it’s politicians’ corruption. There is a concept, “rouba mas faz” (“he may steal but at least he gets things done”), that disgusts most ordinary people, and is given extra poignancy by sheer hypocrisy of the PT / socialists who sermonised about corruption for decades before getting into power. Corruption is THE aspect of Brazilian and many emerging markets’ public life (eg South Africa) that holds them back, and, sadly always will. The idea that the Koch brothers somehow orchestrated these protests is absurd and highly patronising to ordinary Brazilians who are indignant at the moral bankruptcy of their political class.

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    • Jen says

      A person could live her entire life in a country, speak and write the language fluently, have many friends at all levels of society, and consider herself to be well versed in the country’s history, culture, economy and politics, and still not know who really controls the country or directs its affairs. Do you claim to know your home country’s politics very well? Do you know who funds your country’s politicians and their election war chests?

      In an age of the Internet, it’s possible for someone to gain a fairly good general knowledge of a country’s politics and political systems, and an idea of how the country is run, even if she has never been there.

      If corruption is the aspect of developing and underdeveloped countries’ public life that holds them back, one should inquire into the nature of that corruption. Is it not possible that one common denominator in the corruption that infests countries’ public lives is that they are all pressured by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to open up their markets and institutions, and their financial systems, to private and foreign individuals and corporations?

      Plus nowhere in his article does Eric Draitser say that Charles and David Koch or their foundations and think-tanks are actively organising the protests or directing them. Their philanthropy funds the organisations that donate money and provide training and materials to the people that lead the groups that have organised the protests or have hijacked other protests with legitimate grievances and turned them into circuses calling for government dismissal and instigating violence. The nature of the beast is intended to be layered and opaque, so as to prevent ordinary people from finding out about it.

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    • Jostein Garder says

      Yes corruption is everywhere and in 2018 people can have their say at the ballot box. You know; Democracy!

      But perhaps the right-wingers and foreign interests don’t feel confident in winning the next election?
      That’s why the US Empire had to stage a coup in Ukraine. And the Ukrainian–Russian action plan (December 2013) might actually have worked to reverse the negative economic spiral facilitated by policies in the EU/IMF packages.
      Maybe the poor majority in Brazil knows full well that they are all corrupt as fuck and then it’s better with somebody who doesn’t aim to asset strip the whole country.

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  2. yan says

    Shallow article. The corrruption they have engaged in is endless. They go themselves into this mess through many wrongheaded policies. That the right wing whites hate them…of course. That’s to be expected. They gave them the perfect opportunity to overthrow them.
    Those rich white students protesting are detestable, though.

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  3. Tom Welsh says

    It’s not a level playing field, because government corruption is still illegal in most countries – such as Brazil and Russia. Whereas it was legalized long ago in the USA, so no one comments on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As per usual Draitser gets it spot on. Wish the populations of the world would get it . The west is doomed the two other members of the BRICS are dedollarizing all their financial interest, the massive fiat -ponzi scheme is coming to an end and the petro-dollar shelf life is beyond shelf life, Khedaffi’s demize prolonged it but the Syrian Arab army along with Itan are sure bringing it to an end. Once Hitlerry and Netliryahaoo end their political careers maybe we can sleep well at nite. P.S Yesterdays news gets wrapped in todays fish.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seamus Padraig says

    Another direct hit from Eric Draitser!

    “Essentially, what’s unfolding in Brazil is a multi-pronged effort to destabilize the country via a variety of political and economic means, with the ultimate goal of bringing to heel a key member of BRICS. But it is not the only one.”

    That’s definitely true. It’s looking like South Africa–another founding member of BRICS–will be next: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/22/jacob-zuma-south-africa-nec

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    • elenits says

      It also looks exactly like what the imperialists accomplished so recently in Argentina with the election of Macri. This true social and sovereign disaster is hardly covered anywhere.

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      • Seamus Padraig says

        Yup. As Schlüter (below) points out, this is happening all over Latin America. The revolutionary rollback began in 2009 with the coups in Honduras and Paraguay–the weak links–and now Washington is working on the rest of the ‘Bolivarian’ countries. I am even convinced that Obama’s opening to Cuba is a trick intended to lure the Cubans into a false sense of security (and perhaps debt, too) so that a color revolution can later be launched in Havana.

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  6. Very good article and one for my library. It jives with another article I found on Global Research: United States Sanctions Aimed at Starving Zimbabwe into Submission
    By Abayomi Azikiwe,
    and of course not forgetting Ecuador and Libya. The US has it’s fingers in so many pies trying to re-arrange the governments to serve their interests rather than the indigenous peoples. It is so often the youngsters that are striving for their future against the bought and paid for incumbents. We just have to hope they prevail.

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