Andressa Alegre is a Brazilian socialist. She talked with Solidarity from the city of Salvador in north-east Brazil.
I kind of expected that when Bolsonaro won, we would have a reaction similar to Trump’s victory in the USA. That wasn’t what happened.
In Salvador, we went to see the election results in the place where the left usually meets up for that. It was all very sad. People were crying. But there were no demonstrations or protests on the days following. None in other cities too, that I’ve heard of.
The left is not organised. It is left to individuals. For example, LGBT people are trying to create small organisations for self-defence and to get lawyers and so on. But it’s individuals doing damage-control for their own lives.
Since the election, we haven’t heard of physical attacks organised by the state. There’s been a rise in homophobic violence, and anti-north-eastern violence in the south of the country. On the day of the election results, there was quite a lot of violence by the police. In the place where we were watching the election results, police beat up a young woman quite badly because she was defending a trans comrade who was being insulted by the police. In other places, the police shot in the air.
Bolsonaro is trying to lay some ground with his allies in the Chamber of Deputies before he takes power on 1 January. There’s a law proposed on “the school without parties”, to ban teachers from expressing political ideas in schools, which will end up cutting a lot of philosophy and sociology in schools which was introduced by the Lula government.
Bolsonaro needs the PMDB [the party of the current president, Temer] to vote with his coalition on those laws, but it probably will. They also want to get the anti-terrorist law amended to say that any political, ideological, or social movements that try to coerce the government should be included in the list of terrorist organisations, so that occupations, or damage to property on protests, would be “terrorism”.
The MST [Landless Workers’ Movement] and MTST [Homeless Workers’ Movement] have agitated about this being an attack on them, but I don’t know of them calling any massive demonstrations recently like the MTST usually organises in Sao Paulo.
In Sao Paulo, the MTST is the leading group that organises demonstrations. That’s where Guilherme Boulos, who was the PSOL candidate for president, comes from. [PSOL is the major party to the left of the PT].
The reports of the militarised police coming into universities?
That was before the election. The electoral authorities asked the police to go into universities and take down anti-fascist propaganda, saying it was contrary to electoral law. It felt very much like an authoritarian move.
In Latin America, there’s been a tradition of the police and army not coming onto university campuses. Does that exist in Brazil?
Yes. Police and troops can technically only come into universities if they are called in, which is why what happened before the election was so outrageous. During the military dictatorship (1964-85) people who were being persecuted by the police would go to the university buildings and sleep there.
I don’t know to what extent the state is likely to be coming on to the left in that way now, and to what extent the idea of physical self-defence may develop on university campuses.
Self-defence may be more needed in other communities which already get the militarised police coming in on them much more and which, if Bolsonaro gets what he wishes, will now get the police coming in to their communities and, for example, not being punished if they kill someone who is stealing. You can’t fit a whole favela [shanty-town] into a university.
In Rio, the favelas where the police were scared of entering, or where they would face resistance on entering — that pretty much doesn’t exist any more. The army has been going into favelas with tanks. The militarised police and the army were going into favelas even under the Dilma government [Dilma Rousseff, PT president 2011-16], but that has increased under the Temer government [since 2016]. Similar situation in Sao Paulo: just more of it in Rio.
Rio, as a city and as a state, has always been right-wing, and the state governments control the militarised police. Since the military dictatorship, the militarised police has been organised and trained like the army. It’s not like the cops in England. And I’d guess most of the militarised police would support Bolsonaro and the far right.
Self-defence by favelas? I don’t know. Militias already exist, controlled by drug-trafficking leaders. For the population itself to organise self-defence against the militarised police is very difficult.
What about the Frente Brasil Popular [Brazilian Popular Front]?
It includes the PT [Workers’ Party], the Communist Party, the Brazilian equivalent to the National Union of Students (usually controlled by the PT and CP), and many other groups which I haven’t really heard of as being activist organisations. It seems to be a channel for the PT and the CP to outsource most of the organising when they are not confident to organise in their own names, but it’s on the back foot too.
In Salvador there was a demonstration — or they called it a “walk” — before the election with Haddad [the PT candidate]. It was big, 100,000 — as big as I’ve ever seen in Salvador. But I didn’t see any agitation there from the FPB — only electoral material from the PT.
As far as I know, PSOL stands outside the FPB. Boulos gave support to the PT on the second round of the presidential election, but only critical support.