The BJP government celebrated the 71st Republic Day parade, 2020 with a Chief Guest who is currently denounced worldwide for the Amazon massacre. While our Prime Minister himself is facing criticism on the Kashmir and Citizenship Ammendment issues, both domestically and internationally, the choice for the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as the Guest-of-Honour portrays a canvas of a political meet between two far-right leaders, both of whom are facing severe economic crisis, resorting to disastrous neo-liberal ‘solutions’ and opting for socio-cultural chauvinism as an easy way out.
Bolsonaro is on a 4 day visit to India since 24th January. It is publicized that such a state visit is intended to strengthen bilateral ties since the 2018-19 bilateral trade worth 8.4 billion US dollars included Indian exports (petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, agro-chemicals etc.) of 3.8 billion US dollars with 4.4 US dollar Brazilian investments on automobiles, IT, mining etc. With the current slowdown in the automobile and IT sectors in India, both leaders are clueless with regards to further investments on either sides.
Amidst the ongoing sugarcane crisis in Maharashtra, Karntaka and Uttar Pradesh, Bolsonaro has criticized India’s policy of subsidies (which came after a huge delay only when the mill owners were facing bankruptcy) as against the global business norms. Brazil being the largest sugar exporter in the world, Bolsonaro’s obvious intentions definitely prove antagonistic to the farmer’s cause.
The ‘Strategic Action Plan’ ready to be signed by both sides includes mutual co-operation in defence, technology and logistics. While positions of the two leaders seem to differ with respect to climate change, but it so only superficially since in terms of policy implementations, both are ready to promote corporate land grab, reckless deforestation, extensive illegal mineral extraction etc. The ready to be signed “Social Security Agreement” between both countries is intended to promote investments in each other’s domestic pension schemes. The grave concern on the security of the senior citizens amidst growing opportunities of speculations in the pension reserves is thus justified.
Based on his year-long track record since he assumed office on 1st January, 2019, the socio-economic and political agendas of the present Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro surrounds the following:
- Snatching land rights from the indigenous people: A practical implementation of this agenda and the consequent corporate appeasement has come to limelight in the aftermath of the devastating Amazon forest fires. Being one of the largest environmental massacres in recent times, the Amazon debate, triggered by the government’s ignorance and the ecological importance of the forest, has put the ulterior intention of the Bolsonaro administration into question. While Amazon is dominating the criticisms against Bolsonaro, his other anti-people agendas are not inferior in any regard.
- Neoliberal Policies: Bolsonaro intends to denationalize the health and education sector, changing the pension system by raising the retirement age, reducing federal spending, increasing domestic taxation, reducing the cost of doing business and transferring the country’s natural resources into the pockets of multinationals and speculators.
- Direct attack on the working class: Alongside both the above central characteristics, the attack on the working class is continuing at an unprecedented pace. Since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the interim administration of Michel Temer had faced the largest Brazilian general strike in 2017. However, the condition of the working people is worsening under the current Bolsonaro government as he cuts end-of-year bonus, intends to revoke a long list of labour laws and criminalize those associated with movements demanding rights of peasants and the homeless.
- Liberalizing Brazil’s gun laws: Brazil being the homicide capital of the world with a record of 63,880 people murdered in 2017, enabling easy access of guns to the public may prove otherwise in the question of public security.
- Propaganda in Education: Instead of trying to make the education system free and more inclusive, the Bolsonaro administration has embarked on deleting the so-called ‘Marxist garbage’ and gender studies and introducing chapters on morality, traditional values and patriotism into the syllabus. At the same time, the Bolsonaro administration is desperate in promoting Evangelical Christianity amidst a wide range of Christian sects living in his country. Needless to mention, the new introductions are mere propaganda in the road to authoritarianism. Bolsonaro’s endorsement of the 1964 military coup and his pre-election speeches promoting militarism against democracy further raises concerns.
- Denunciation of Maduro government in Venezuela: The Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo had earlier appealed to the BRICS nations to recognize US-backed Juan Guaido as the Venezuelan President in opposition to the incumbent legitimate socialist President Nicholas Maduro; needless to mention why Trump is enthusiastic in recruiting Bolsonaro into the NATO. However, the BRICS nations remained silent on this issue.
Though the 14 year-long leftist rule in Brazil since 2002 was successful in championing various pro-people agendas such as improvement of healthcare, education systems and introduction of government schemes for the unemployed but widespread corruption, massive national debt, real-estate speculations and political instability sowed the seeds of its downfall. A further catalyst to this turmoil was the economic crisis triggered by the sluggish return from cheap credits distributed throughout the last decade, consequent stock market upheavels, fall in international oil prices and disruption of the country’s import-export stability. Brazil is the largest exporter to and importer from China. Hence, the economic slowdown in China on 2015-16 accentuated the Brazilian economic crisis with fall in the country’s GDP by 3.8% in 2015 and 3.6% in 2016.
Though a by-product of Brazilian economic crisis and military support, according to the election statistics, Bolsonaro does not politically represent 60.76% of the population. Under his administration, the economic recovery from the previous recession has been sluggish, unemployment has increased from 7.6 million in 2012 to 13.4 million in 2019 and fiscal deficit has raised national debt to 77.1%. It is anticipated that another recession is on its way…
A quick look at the above characteristics of the Bolsonaro government shows a striking similarity with the present far-right administration in India. Some of such similarities are:
- India exports mainly to the US and imports mainly from China. Economic crisis in both countries has fuelled an economic slowdown in India. The IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva has said, ‘The global economy is now in a synchronized slowdown… In some of the emerging market economies, such as India and Brazil, the slowdown is even more pronounced…’.
- India is ready to accentuate corporate land grab and has an inherent disregard for environmental causes. The revoking of Article 370 of Kashmir for easy access to lignite (among other causes), extension of AFSPA in Nagaland to undermine indigenous land rights, support towards man-made forest fires in the Ayodhya Hills, enactment of laws for snatching Adivasi land in Jharkhand (igniting the Pathalgadi movement against the previous Raghubar Das led BJP government) proves that Modi and Bolsonaro are twin brothers for the corporate cause.
- Demonetisation (to stabilize the speculative market), GST (to boost the monopolies), reckless privatization, bank mergers and other neoliberal sanctions of the Modi government against the common Indians has only deepened the economic slowdown.
- Modi government’s passive support towards mob lynching, honour killings, murders inciting resistance against ‘Love-Jihad’, atrocities on student protests, discrimination of Dalits, Muslim hatred and widespread intolerance surpasses the outcomes of the vicious Brazilian ‘Gun Law’.
- The draft ‘National Education Policy’ is a clear indication of Modi’s agenda of privatisation in the education sector. Distortion of facts in history textbooks familiarizes with Bolsonaro’s gag law in education.
- The war-mongering efforts of Modi and Amit Shah with regards to Pakistan and support of several US and Israeli policies are enough to clear their intentions. Modi’s opportunism with respect to Venezuela surrounds its dependence on Maduro for 10% of its oil imports.
Brothers-in-arms for the common cause, the Modi government appears to be in a tutorial role for its Brazilian counterpart. Bolsonaro’s reserved statement “Dynamic democracy India will solve internal matter CAA, Kashmir” shows that he is keenly studying the aggressive, communal and divisive position of the BJP before implementing similar policies of hatred in the Brazilian context.
Resurgence of movements of the working people of both countries against neoliberalism and fascistic policies is the only solution to put an end to the vicious outcome of such a far-right political conclave.