Amid a severe political and economic crisis, with astronomic unemployment rates and the worst recession since 1990, the Brazilian politics faces a new turn of events with a raid at former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s apartment in São Bernardo do Campo, state of São Paulo.
Lula is an iconic Brazilian figure and also the most notorious name of the Worker’s Party, founded by him and other members with different backgrounds 36 years ago. The raid, on the other hand, contemplates the 24th stage of the Lava Jato operation, led by the Federal Police, called Aletheia (the Greek expression for the pusue of truth).
How to Carwash the dirty linen
Operação Lava Jato (‘Carwash’, in English) began in March, 2014, initially investigating a huge scheme of money laundering and embezzlement and ended up disclosing the Petrobras scandal in Brazil. From this point, the operation revealed several players in a huge net of beneficiaries, among contractors, politicians, lobbyists, marketers and private institutions.
The biggest investigation of its kind in Brazil brought indelible consequences for the national politics, especially for politicians from the Worker’s Party and its coalition, being the current president, Dilma Rousseff, among them. This resulted in many demonstrations during the year of 2015 (and the first of 2016, coming up this month) and an unsteady political environment that considered the impeachment of Dilma as a solution for the situation.
Months have passed and illicit measures were exposed, either from the government and the party, but there wasn’t (and still isn’t) a concrete accusation against Lula. What culminated today was the summon of the former president to give the police his version of the facts – he might have a link to two luxurious properties, one in the countryside and the other on the beach, besides having received donations and money for lectures overseas form the aforementioned contractors (namely OAS and Odebrecht , among others). He claims all the money for the lectures is legal and that he has no connection to those addresses, saying that one those is owned by some friends of his family, being that the reason of his constant visits to the said place.
The workers unite
After being listened by the authorities, Luiz Inácio gave an inflamed speech to the other ‘petistas’ (activists from the party), in which he highlighted how absurd he believed it was obligating him to go to a Police station, when he had volunteered to give information before. He called the militant political activists to go to the streets in his defence and also stated the difficulty Rousseff faces nowadays, when it comes to governing the country – he argues the opposition has blocked all her moves and that it is impossible for a president to rule a country with no support at all. He also referred to Época magazine, which is said to have leaked parts of his fellow party senator’s testimony to the police (Delcídio do Amaral) and to other communication means as biased, questioning, at the same time, the veracity of the said facts.
These words come after a difficult period for the party. As the government and the party’s leaders wouldn’t agree on how to lead the country out of the crisis, Dilma and Lula were apart and in different influence zones, which were key points for a Lula’s possible reelection in 2018, as Dilma’s popularity plunged locally. The president, too, went in Lula’s favour.
As the political figures reunite in their support for each order, the party, as it has been since its irregularities started showing up, along with Lula Institute, went for a more emotional line, which is intrinsically related to the sort of argumentation present in the election rallies and also among the most fervent activists in the party. In the press releases, extracts that explicitly accused the police of having no objective but to expose Lula to an embarrassing situation were not rare – neither was the discourse of those who defended him in front of his house or in Congonhas airport (where he was taken), as it was possible to see at least one banner with a message like “the most honest man in the country”.
Somewhere over the punches
It is still admirable our need for political consciousness. Those discourses, the online rants and also the demonstrations show that, although the law permits the freedom of expression (and that is something to reflect on in another article), we still have a long way to go to reach the so desired political maturity.
Physical aggressions and verbal offenses come from passionate demonstrators and also from politicians (not so long ago, for different reasons, at the lower house). Once again it is harder to distinguish citizens with legit purposes – be them in favour of or opposite to the current scenario in Brazil – from those whose persuasion and diplomacy can be found in their fists. This happened today, and I dare to say it will not be an isolated episode. But I hope that our political development happens independently of that.
Is that all, folks?
Absolutely not. There is a great expectation that many events will occur in the next few days and redefine the direction of the Brazilian politics. There is no formal accusation against Lula, but many believe it to be a matter of time, whereas others cringe, alleging the methods used to investigate his possessions were unfair, even unconstitutional – whatever the closing of this story is, it is going to impact directly in the elections this year, for mayors and council members, and the presidential elections in 2018.
Also, the Worker’s Party is not the only one involved in corruption schemes, naturally. But being the party in the power and having spent so many years in opposition, not to mention being object of the greatest operation of its kind in the country invariably draws a lot of attention to the occurred. It is important to say, nevertheless, that Eduardo Cunha, president of the Chamber of Deputies who authorized the opening of the impeachment process against Dilma, will respond to the Supreme Court for bribery. And, ironically enough, one of the biggest impeachment enthusiasts, the former candidate from PSDB that ran for presidency against Dilma, Aécio Neves, was also cited in denouncements made in the same Operação Lava Jato. That is to say that this is our time to fight corruption, no matter what label it comes in.
Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World
The president of the United States, who came to power in 2016 with the slogan of “Reviving Washington’s Power”, has become the messenger of failure and defeat of his country in the West Asian region and in the international system. The U.S. numerous military and political defeats in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were so outstanding that there’s no way Trump can brag about his achievements in the region.
On the other hand, many Democrats in the United States, and even the traditional Republicans, have been criticizing the President’s costly and barren foreign policy in West Asia. In such a situation, Trump attempts to attribute this failure to the country’s previous administrations and condemn them over what is happening in today’s world, especially in the West Asian region, and he blames Obama for Washington’s constant and extensive failures in this area.
Besides, Trump’s other projections about the hard conditions of the U.S. in West Asia are noteworthy. In his recent remarks, Donald Trump said that if he wasn’t at top of the U.S. political and executive equations, Iran would capture the Middle East (West Asia)! This is while Islamic Republic of Iran created stability in the West Asian region, and besides, has stood against the long-term, medium-term, and short-term and destructive goals of the United States and its allies in the region.
Trump’s strategic weakness in the West Asia is an important issue which can’t be easily overlooked. Of course this strategic weakness did exist during Obama’s presidency, but the truth is that it reached its peak during Trump’s presidency. And in the future, this weakness will bring severe blows to the United States.
The fact is that the strategic calculations of the United States in the West Asia region have all failed. And many of the pre-assumptions that Washington called them “strategic propositions”, have never turned into reality for some reasons, including the vigilance of the Resistance movement in the region. This is the reason why America is so confused in confronting the equations of West Asia.
Under such circumstances, the only way before the President of the United States is to leave the region and confess to his defeat; an issue that many American analysts and strategists have noted. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in spite of his campaign slogans for stopping the military intervention in the region, the current president of the United States has intensified conflicts and created constant security crises in West Asia.
The direct, perfect, and comprehensive support of Donald Trump for takfiri terrorists reflects this fact. Trump started his support for ISIL since the beginning of his presence at the White House in early 2017, and he stood for the terrorists until the fall of ISIL in Syria. Even now, Trump is attempting to revive terrorist and takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.
Despite passing half of his presidency, Trump has claimed that the defeat in Yemen, Syria and Iraq was Obama’s legacy. There is no doubt that Obama and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, played a major role in creating terrorist and takfiri groups (especially ISIL), and committed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.
There is also little ambiguity in the strategic, operational and even tactical defeat of the Obama administration in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. However, Trump can’t deny his share in this defeat, and pretend as if he’s the messenger of the victory of the United States in these scenes! The fact is that Trump completed the military and political defeats of the United States in the West Asia region. Today, the United States is defeated in the battlefield, and can well see that its pieces had failed in these wars.
On the other hand, the White House has lost the political arena of the region. The failure of the United States in the Lebanese and Iraqi elections, on the one hand, and the popular support for the resistance groups in Yemen and Syria, has left Trump and his companions disappointed in the region. In such a situation, attributing the recent and ongoing defeats of the United States to the Obama administration is completely expectable, and at the same time, unacceptable!
Finally, we can see that just like Obama, George W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter, Trump is stuck in this strategic miscalculation in the West Asian region. Undoubtedly, in his last days in power, Trump will also understand that there’s no way he can overcome this strategic weakness through Saudi and Emirati petrodollars.
However, it seems that the scope of Trump’s defeat in West Asia would be wider than the previous presidents of the United States. Undoubtedly, in the near future, Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley will become the symbols of failure in the US foreign policy, especially in the West Asia. In other words, the president of the United States and his companions at the White House will have to admit to defeat in the West Asian region at a great expense, and this is exactly what frightens the American authorities.
first published in our partner Tehran Times
Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom
Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle. The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake. Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path. It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier. We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.
In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight. Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police. Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.
Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.
Thins are certainly warming up in the White House. Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president. A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector. So said the announcement. An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration. Some tout her as a future presidential candidate. Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.
The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office. A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance. He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican. Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero. And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.
A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th. Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon. A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting. Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home. Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced. Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.
The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’. It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Always fair, aboveboard elections? Not bloody likely, as the British would say. Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.
The hot November for Trump is arriving
Political turmoil in the United States has become extremely unpredictable. The turn of events became worse with an op-ed at the New York Times on September 5. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon described it as a coup against Donald Trump.
The reality is that the president faces domestic problems in his second year in office. This has rarely happened in the US political history. The issue is of great importance with regard to the approaching mid-term congressional elections in November. Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but they feel the risk of losing the majority in both houses due to Trump’s record.
Indeed, a feeling has emerged among some American politicians that their country is heading in the wrong direction because of Trump’s policies. Even former President Barack Obama has joined the election campaigns by breaking his promise not to get involved in political affairs.
The situation is not also good for Trump internationally. Disagreement with the European Union – a traditional ally of the United States – over trade and political issues, trade war with China, increasing tension with Russia, exit from international treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement Iran, have all made Trump to look dangerous in the eyes of the world. All these issues have made the situation unfavorable for Trump and his government at home and abroad.
But what is the answer of the president of the United States to these criticisms? The answer to this question is one word: economy. However, Trump is proud of his economic record.
According to statistics, the Labor Department published on September 8, US employment growth in August has beat market expectations, the non-farm payrolls increased by 201,000 from the previous month. Analysts were expecting growth of about 195,000.
The unemployment rate for August remained low at 3.9 percent. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent from the year before. That’s the highest level since June 2009. The latest figures are increasing speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate this month. The US economy expanded 4.2 percent in the April-to-June quarter, and is expected to grow more than 3 percent in this quarter.
But the economy cannot keep the president of the United States from the edge of criticism. Trump is in a difficult situation and worried about the result of the election and possible control of Congress by Democrats.
Issues such as the confessions of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on bribing women for having affairs with Trump and Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 presidential election could possibly lead to his impeachment and his dismissal from power.
The US constitution says that the impeachment of the president should be endorsed by representatives from both chambers of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats now have 49 seats in the 100-member Senate, and if they get 51 seats in the November election, they will still need at least 15 Republican senators to impeach Trump.
Still, if Democrats win the November election, even if this victory does not lead to Trump’s impeachment, it can put further pressure on him and cripple his government. According to a CNN poll, decrease in Trump’s popularity even among his supporters shows that the days following the November election will be hard times for Trump and his government.
First published in our partner MNA
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