Will pensions bring the Left together against Bolsonaro in Brazil?

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Will pensions bring the Left together against Bolsonaro in Brazil?


Leonardo Sakamoto writes about the first and most important battle for the opposition to fight in Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

We must say that the Brazilian Left today needs energy and needs to work together in Congress and in society. So far, President Jair Bolsonaro is his own strongest opponent.

His government spends a lot of time creating ‘facts’ for social media to interest and excite its far-right supporters – more time than finding agreement in Congress to make it possible to pass important bills.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the former president of the Workers’ Party (PT) and he is the man who would be the main opposition leader. But he is in prison on corruption and money-laundering charges. The Party says there was no evidence for his crimes. There are appeals now and it is possible they will free him.

The Workers’ Party has a good number of representatives in the parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. But it has problems getting the opposition to work together. The Party can only solve these problems at its national conference, expected later this year, 2019.

Bolsonaro has said many terrible things about minorities and taken actions that are bad for human rights, education, and the environment. It has not been possible for him to explain his family’s connections with violent militias in Rio de Janeiro or his party’s connections with electoral crime.

Journalists, opinion makers, and people in society have spoken against him but so far none of this government’s policies has had a real effect on the people. This may soon change as he tries to pass the Pension Reform Bill.

The government says that the country has a serious economic problem and a population which is getting older, and so it wants to change the pension and social security system. They say they want to look at the rights of the richest. But the plan also includes making people pay into their pensions for a longer period of time and making the rules stricter on social security for very poor older people and the retirement rights of rural workers.

Leaders of social movements say that pension reform is the first topic which can bring the opposition together, get workers of different kinds to protest, and drive thousands onto the streets. They remember the strong protests against previous president Michel Temer when he tried to reform pensions.

Guilherme Boulos is the national leader of the Movement of Homeless Workers – one of the most important social movements in the country. He is travelling around the country to get opposition to Bolsonaro’s bill.

But the situation is not easy. Funding cuts have made the unions weaker. And the war started by Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp is still very active. It is now trying to tell people that the idea that they will lose their rights with pension reform is ‘fake news’.

The financial markets, big corporations, and some media do not support Bolsonaro but they are supporting his pension reform. If the President can pass the bill without too many changes, he will have the political power for his terrible social and anti-human rights policies.

This is the first and most important battle for the opposition to fight in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. It will show whether society and Congress can win against him or whether the government will crush Brazil’s more than 30 years old new democracy.



(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)