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Exit, Stage ‘Left’ — How Brazil invited impeachment into its parliament

Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment shows how a political movement that aspires to socialism in Latin America can never achieve its objectives by practising liberal reformism.

Haneul Na'avi

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On 31st August 2016 the ‘B’ in BRICS finally succumbed to a 14 year-long battle with opportunism.  

Following Lower House Speaker Jose Eduardo Cardozo’s annulment of its majority vote, head of Senate Renan Calheiros defiantly continued the impeachment process. As Sputnik reported 

“Following a three day debate, a majority of 61 senators voted definitively to remove Rousseff from the presidency. 20 senators voted against; there were no abstentions.”

Responding to the impeachment, Rousseff dejectedly addressed her supporters.

“The will of 61 senators has replaced that of 54,5 million people who voted for me.”

The bitter irony is that these ’54.5 million Brazilians’—many whom depend on former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Borsa Familia conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes—could only watch as Brazilian Democratic Party Movement (PMDB) leader, Michel Temer, was officially sworn in on 1st September 2016.

Shortly after receiving the news, three countries—Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia—recalled their embassies and denounced the new leadership.  As Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa explained

“Never will we condone these practices, which recall the darkest hours of our America.”

Unsurprisingly, the United States, the godfather of colour revolutions, hurriedly expressed its solidarity with Temer.   In the well-crafted Duckspeak of US State Department spokesman James Kirby declared

“[…] the Brazilian Senate in accordance with Brazil’s constitutional framework has voted to remove President Rousseff from office.  We’re confident that we will continue the strong bilateral relationship that exists between our two countries as the two largest democracies and economies in the hemisphere.”

Latin America’s far-right parroted the State Department. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, in banal political jargon, declared

“[The] Argentine government expresses its respect for the institutional process [and] its willingness to continue on the path of a real and effective integration in the framework of absolute respect for Human rights, democratic institutions and International Law.”

Latin America is no stranger to Western contortions of ‘human rights, democratic institutions, and international law’, where in November 2015, acting Argentinian President Mauricio Macri beta tested Temer’s privatisation scheme after defeating leftist Daniel Scioli in elections, and like a despotic oncologist, followed up with a cocktail of media blackouts, budget cuts, privatisations and deepening ties to the US State Department to remove as many traces of Kirchnerismo as possible.

As expected, Pro-Rousseff demonstrators flooded the streets across Brazil. RT reported

“The greatest act of civil disobedience took place in Sao Paulo, where protesters clashed with police on Agenda Paulista, in the downtown area; in Rio de Janeiro, where activists gathered in Cinelandia square; and in Brasilia, where activists rallied in the Praca dos Tres Poderes square.”

Despite the public’s legitimate concerns, the Worker’s Party has squandered its ‘revolution’.  Nevertheless, hindsight is 20-20, but Brazil’s future stands at 50-50, and the chagrin of Rousseff’s adamant supporters may not be enough to reinstate her in power due to an uncomfortable truth: the Worker’s Party’s immature understanding of socialism was its primary shortcoming.

Several prominent member states of the Boliviarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA) such as Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, and Bolivia, have struggled almost unabatedly with foreign interference and have won, at least temporarily, by uniting under a common framework which is politically, economically, and socially Marxist in nature.

Since its foundation in 2004, when United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) founder Hugo Chavez increased bilateral agreements with Cuba, the ALBA has expanded from 2 to 11 countries, serving as a model for Latin American self-determination and not simply an Economist quick fix of common market and trade associations.   Brazil however was only partially involved.

A Latin American Bureau article highlighted this

“[…] the most serious disappointment of all was the PT’s failure to develop a strategy for political reform, the only way of breaking the right’s stranglehold over the country’s political institutions, particularly Congress, and of curbing the insidious impact of massive electoral financing by the country’s economic elite.”

Yet, even this only flaccidly represents the truth. Brazil needed political revolution, not reforms, in order to purge the very opportunists now in power.

Secondly, Lulism, the theory behind Lula da Silva’s politics, was impossible under its coalition-based parliamentary system.  Furthermore, Lula wrongly assumed that creating an ‘alternative’ to Latin America’s Boliviarian and Chavism movements, instead of fully integrating with them, would yield better results. Dan La Botz asserts that

“during [Lula’s] first term, rather than leading the working class forward in struggle against the country’s capitalists and politicians as many expected, he made peace with them.”

The PT simply pandered to Brazil’s class contradictions instead of dissolving them.  For example, the PT relied on Petrobras oil sales and government coffers, but forged partnerships with the World Bank to monitor payouts.

Dubbed the “Quiet Revolution”, Brazil’s Borsa Familia programme created a welfare state dependent on capital from the Washington-funded InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). Brazil even initiated the IADB partnership and sought financing for its pacing of disbursements programme (SWAp components).  As a World Bank report highlighted

“[They] requested the World Bank to partner the BFP in the context of longstanding Bank support for its social agenda under the Policy Sector Reform framework.  The Bank’s four-year project loan, excluding counterpart funds, is expected to be US$572.2 million.”

The World Bank is the economic muscle of US imperialism, created to financially restructure post-War (and coup) countries, ensuring US dollar dominance.   When Rousseff challenged this by shifting to Iran to trade in Brazilian Reals, this infuriated the State Department, which later commanded its ‘assets’ to overthrow Rousseff and privatise Brazil’s pre-salt oil deposits.

Conversely, Brazil’s neighbours remained vigilant. President Nicholas Maduro, although not as politically graceful as Chavez, still defended socialism by expanding it across South America in defiance of US-led sanctions, colour revolutions, falling oil prices, and ongoing parliamentary coup.

In fact, Boliviarianism, the unifying ideology of the ALBA nations, is to combat Western imperialism and liberal democracy.   As a FRIDE report puts it

“[…] the emergence of Chavism and other populist leaders can be explained by the limited results of liberal democracy and the neo-liberal politics designed in Europe and Washington.”

In international relations, Brazil and Venezuela both see the Islamic Republic of Iran as a strategically; however, Venezuela has expanded ties since the Ahmedinejad administration as a measure of solidarity, not trade.  As FRIDE says

“Both [Iran and Venezuela] are strongly committed to creating a bilateral alliance based on common oil interests, military cooperation, ideological affinities between the presidents and open hostility against the United States and its allies.”

Going against public ‘opinion’, former MERCOSUR leader Rodolfo Nin Novoa (Uruguay) chose Venezuela as the bloc’s new leader, ignoring protests from Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil’s reactionary leadership.

To combat these advancements, the State Department currently uses neoliberal parliaments and colour revolutions as weapons against the ruling party.  However, where Venezuela has preserved its autonomy as the centrepiece of ALBA and MERCOSUR, Argentina and Brazil succumbed to their American creditors via regime change, failing to counteract them.  

One such example—rather than becoming victimised by bogus indictments and legislative skullduggery, Maduro wielded them both to crush the colour revolutions of Popular Will leaders Leopolo Lopez and Lester Toledo; well-documented State Department assets.  As reported by Venezuela Analysis

“Minister of Domestic Affairs, Justice and Peace, General Néstor Reverol […] has issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Lester Toledo of the Popular Will Party (VP) in Zulia state for allegedly ‘financing terrorism’. This comes after President Nicolás Maduro also said on Tuesday that he will consider stripping all Venezuelan politicians of immunity in order to permit courtprosecutions for suspected coup-plotters.”

ALBA members fully understand that the ‘moderate opposition’, just like Islamic State, is a loose confederation of dog-eat-dog extremists used to overthrow democratic governments.   The CEPR think-tank outlines

“The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, […] some of the people and organisations involved in the 2002 military coup [to] get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking.  The outside pressure for unity […] has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.”

Rousseff could have followed Venezuela’s example by creating an executive order, citing threats to the public ownership (privatisation) by any foreign government assets as an act of treason, jailing all congressmen—59% whom are suspected of corruption—and preemptively ending their chicanery.

Other self-proclaimed ‘democracies’ love executive orders; especially the United States.  

Instead, the PT crawled into bed with every single opponent to its democracy, and even the US intelligentsia noted this.  As even a 2011 Brookings Institute report explained

“Contrary to the consensus among scholars and political analysts, unified government in the multiparty [coalition]-based presidential regime might not necessarily lead to an easier life for the newly-elected Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff-PT, in regard to her relations with the Brazilian Congress.” 

The report continues, predicting her demise:

“With regard to power sharing, she will also be tempted to follow the same path of her political “guru” given that she will be under great pressure to preserve several PT internal factions in power.  […] Thus, disproportionally treating the PMDB and other coalition partners (like PL and PSB) with a small number of cabinet positions and other coalition currencies, as did Lula, might generate growing dissatisfaction within an already fragmented and regionally based key coalition partner.”

These predictions were evident in Temer’s 2015 letter to Rousseff.  Rousseff’s ‘socialist’ government only succeeded in forming a coalition with hardcore capitalists devoid of any profit (and power) motive.

It goes without saying that members of the ALBA rightfully denounced the coup, which mirrored the one that ousted then-President João Goulart in 1964, after his Basic Reforms Plan socialised corporate profits, provoking the anger of US assets within the Brazilian military.

Any amateur socialist who has fumbled through a copy of The State and Revolution understands that the state apparatus, in every government, is used to repress those hostile to it, and Brazil’s true state power wielded that authority on 31st August 2016.

Brazil created a welfare state similar to the British Labour Party, where former PM Clement Attlee attempted to build socialism in the vacuum of capitalism; there is nothing revolutionary about that.

Without ownership of the means of production, a common ideology, strong international  friendships, an effective defence of public capital, and worker representation, there can be no socialism.

Simply put, revolutions have no business in bourgeois hands.  With Rousseff gone and protesters at the mercy of unbridled privatisation, Brazil should recall former Uruguayan president Jose Murcia’s words as he entrusted Venezuela with MERCOSUR:

“Politics must prevail over law and legality”.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

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