Transcript: Dilma testifies – ‘I am afraid for the death of democracy’

Transcribed by Joe Delaplaine

The following is a rush transcript from the Aug. 30 episode of Loud & Clear with Brian Becker on Radio Sputnik. Since this aired, the Brazilian senate voted 61-20 to impeach President Rousseff. However, resistance to the coup is ongoing. Click here to listen to the episode.

Brian: From the studios of Radio Sputnik in downtown Washington, D.C., it’s Loud and Clear, we take you inside the news five days a week. It’s happening and it’s happening now, I’m Brian Becker.

Brazil’s embattled president Dilma Rousseff has spoken at her impeachment trial striking a combative tone in front of the Senate. Will it be her last address as president or can she overcome the coup against the Workers Party government?

The former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee faces a primary challenge today but will the DNC email Scandal continue to follow Deborah Wasserman Schultz whether she wins or loses?

John McCain is embroiled in a bitter primary fight as voters go to the polls in the Republican primary in Arizona today. A contest between the “ultra ultra right” and the ultra-right.

But first we turned to the impeachment trial of Brazil, we are joined by geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar welcome back, Pepe.

Pepe: Great to be with you, Brian!

Brian: Thanks so much. Dilma Rousseff testified yesterday in front of the Senate, what did she say?

Pepe:  Well, look, she’s not an orator, like Obama. So, for her standards, this was a very powerful speech. She was extremely emotional. She remembered when she was tortured. She remembered her fight against cancer. And the final punchline was very very strong, she said, “My only fear is the death of democracy.” Which that’s exactly what’s happening here in Brazil, anyway you look at it.

Even some of those scoundrels in Congress and the Senate who are accusing her, they admit –some of them on the record– that there is reasonable doubt about the whole accusation in fact that she was… sort of doing some sort of “maquillage” with the state budget. What, in Brazil, we call “a dribbling”, –rough translation– and this was also authorized by the Constitution.

In her rebuttal, which was basically a fifty minute speech, she did detailed how this was authorized by the Constitution, that previous governments did exactly the same thing, that state governments in Brazil actually also do the same thing and she characterized the whole farce, in fact, and even The New York Times and the La Monde in Paris, they are admitting now on the record that this –if not a coup– at least a farce. In the words of an editorial by La Monde.

So international public opinion really knows how, in Brazil, a political articulation like this can go on. Especially since Brazilian Congress is extremely conservative AND CORRUPT! Everybody knows the story by now. And a pretext was found in this alleged tampering of State budgets in 2015.

So she refuted all these arguments. And she even, once again, confirmed –and this is also on the record– that the Brazilian Public Ministry in fact said that there is no grounds for a trial based on a crime of responsibility. Which is the legal figure in this case.

So obviously she had to conclude that this is a sort of political persecution –which it is– and in fact everybody in Brazil that knows how the coup was articulated in Congress and now in the Senate, the main articulators of the whole thing, including the most notoriously corrupt politician in Brazil, Eduardo Cunha, was the former leader in Congress, and now sidelined.

How they did it is a sort of political vengeance against the Rousseff presidency especially because the car wash investigation was centering on politicians of all strengths and not only worker party politicians.

So this is a political power play. It is a parliamentary coup, essentially. But it is much more complex than that because it involves big corporate media interests in Brazil, Big business, agricultural business, big banking. And of course, traditional Brazilian elites who have been basically running the country for four hundred and fifty years before the Lula and Dilma Presidency.

This, of course, does not excuse Dilma because she did commit many political and economic mistakes. Especially in the second part of the presidency. I would say that in her speech yesterday she should have admitted that. Basically she said what, a ten second admission that she made mistakes? But she should have detailed these mistakes and why. It would be much better. She was very combative and in the end she challenged the Senate to prove that she committed a crime of responsibility. and that what they tried to do in the next few hours, sort of grilling her, but they were not very convincing for that matter.

Brian: That’s Pepe Escobar. He is the geopolitical analyst. We’re talking of the impeachment trial of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. Very good, Pepe. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, because there was a coup. a real military coup in 1964. Thousands of people died. People were imprisoned. the country was shut down. But this coup which is using extra… that is, non-electoral means to remove the elected president, it doesn’t have the same show of force, the power, the terror that’s been instilled in the population as happened after 1964. So you have a lot of resistance going on. You have a lot of people in the streets. And Dilma whose popularity went from 90% down to 10% since the coup, she’s been touring the country and getting a lot of grassroots support. I want to quote for the audience what you alluded to it is very eloquent. She said at trial, “Twice I have faced death. First when I was tortured, days and days of horrible acts that made me doubt the meaning of life. I also faced cancer that could have taken my life away. Now I am afraid for the death of democracy.”

And then she said, “It is the people who remove the President through elections. What’s at risk isn’t my mandate, but rather respect for the voting booth.” Will they get away with expelling her from the position of the president? I mean, she won the last election.

Pepe: Yes, they will get away with it. But history… in fact this speech was a speech to be recorded in history. She’s setting the record straight, historically, in fact. When you look at this speech, [in] 30, 40 years from now it will be very powerful. Most Brazilians who are not living this absolutely sorry spectacle now, they will look back in extreme disgust as young generations look back at the 1964 military coup.

I remember very well, I was 10 years old at the time. I was in school. I remember the coup. I remember tanks in the street. And I remember people saying that the dictator had been expelled.

He was not a dictator, he was a guy doing what Lula did 45-50 years later, the same thing. He was a low level socialist in fact. He was trying to redistribute wealth in Brazil. Which is what Lula managed to do in 8 years in power. And Dima was more or less following. The problem is Dima is not Lula. She’s a very bad communicator. She’s not a very good economist. She doesn’t have the charisma that Lula had. She’s not a political articulator like Lula is. So she was not able to convince, seduce, manipulate Congress, in fact. And what we’re watching now is a sort of “revenge of Congress”. And the latest manifestation of Brazil’s Congress. A Congress and Senate that is extremely conservative, people who were paid by their… their political campaigns were paid by Brazilian… very very arrogant, ignorant old elites, in fact. They control most of Congress and most of the Senate. Not the Workers Party. The Workers Party was a coalition government. The Party of the interim President, Michel Temer at the moment, the PMD Party is extremely conservative. They don’t have experience in governing. They have experience in “backroom” articulation. So these are the people who are driving the impeachment.

And of course the former social democrats the PSDB, who became, basically a bunch of hardcore neoliberal “cons”. Just like the neoliberal cons in the U.S., in fact.

By the way, Cardoza our former president, is very close to the Clinton family. So let’s say he’s a sort of surrogate of Clinton and interests in Brazil, Cardoza. He used to live in my neighborhood [laughs] when I was in Brazil years ago. I remember following him when he was President, touring Europe. ANd he basically started a –not of distribution– but a “sanitizing” of inflation in Brazil. And conducting a little bit of development, right? But basically, wild privatization, “neoliberal style” in Brazil. No wonder he was replaced after two terms by Lula, who did exactly the opposite. Which as real redistribution of wealth. And at the same time, because of the global economic boom, Brazil was booming.

The problem is, the Workers Party didn’t have a “plan b”. Their only plan was to export commodities, especially to China. After 2008, there was no “plan b”, which would have been a lot of investment in Brazil’s manufacturing, but there was not.

But because Lula chose to invest in Health and Education –which was very good– but Brazil didn’t have enough money to invest in all sectors at the same time. So [Lula] was doing it gradually, as policy, and Duro was supposed to follow it.

The Problem is the crisis, post 2008-2009, hit Brazil many years later then it hit the United States and Europe. It hit Brazil last year in 2015.

And obviously, Dilma’s government didn’t have an alternative policy or a “plan b”.

[Instead] she went for another neoliberal “shock”. So she antagonized her own base in Brazil. And that was her major political mistake. And of course her articulation with Congress was not good enough. If she had explained to Congress what she was doing and the effect of the global crisis in Brazil…she alluded to that in her defense yesterday, but it was too little too late.

Brian: Pepe Escobar, let me ask you about that. The 2007-2008 economic crisis rocked Wall Street. Brought down some of the biggest banks, but they were rescued by the U.S. government. They were given $660 billion dollars in money, no strings attached. [And] another $7 trillion dollars in in loan guarantees. So they [the banks] were stabilized. But big parts of the emerging world are still suffering the aftershocks of that economic earthquake. And you have Brazil, the sixth largest economy, which was export-oriented. Okay, what would “plan b” have been?

Pepe: Well they didn’t have enough time to do it. [“Plan B”] would be to invest in added value manufacturing exports. Brazil exports commodities. It’s not good enough. It should have [done something similar] to what South Korea did, but over at least two decades. And obviously, Lula didn’t have enough time to do it. So investment in high productivity, and added value manufacturing all across Brazil.

In Brazil, for example, they have a “Special Economic Zone”, but that’s not good enough. In China they have 6-7-8 [such zones] and it’s a process started in the early 1980s, and it took at least ten years to develop.

Of course, Lula and Dilma were thinking about that, but the priority was to reduce inequality –which they succeeded [in doing]– at least 30 to 35 million Brazilians were elevated from absolute poverty to lower middle class, which is an extraordinary achievement in itself. And obviously investment in education but also long term but the problem is the way Brazilian elites control and run the country as their own fiefdom. And I’m talking about no more than about one hundred families since the discovery of Brazil in 1500.

Especially after the end of the monarchy in the 19th Century, there were twenty thousand civil servants [who] came from Portugal. These were the people who controlled [and ran] Brazil, starting in the late 19th Century. These are the families that STILL RUN the country, the “old elites”! It is one of the most unequal countries in the world.

I worked all over the “global south” and Brazil ranks among the Top 3 of the most unequal countries in the world.

And the fact that it used to be the 7th largest economies in the world, now the 8th…it’s still the same thing, there’s a lot of wealth there, but the distribution of wealth is absolutely ghastly, [rivaling Europe’s exploitation of Africa].

So this is what the Workers Party was attempting to diminish, but they didn’t have enough time. And they were hit by a global crisis [which] was a head-on crash, and they were not prepared for it.

Brian: Yes. So here we are, we have two minutes left. The Senate leader of the PMD Party plotting Rousseff’s ouster in order to stop the corruption investigations. I think we all know about that. Now what’s going to happen the rest of the week? Do the senators –the right-wing, the coup-makers– do they have enough votes? And if so, what would that… how would that impact the 2018 election? Will Lula run again?

Pepe: that’s a very complex answer, Brian. I’ll try to [answer it] in less than two minutes. As we speak, we still don’t know if they have enough votes. In fact, both sides are saying, “we have enough votes.” We really don’t know because there’ll be some swing votes at the last minute. Assuming there’s going to be final vote on Wednesday. So, we still don’t know.

I would say impeachment is going to go [ahead] because the conjunction behind impeachment is enormous. It’s a parliamentary coup. Big business, big banking, corporate media. In fact, the “old wealth” in Brazil…everybody wants a new start. But it’s not a new start because the the interim President Premier, he didn’t even go to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Rio. Because he knew he’d be boo-ed, just like in the opening ceremonies. 80% of Brazilians want him out. Dilma has proposed new elections because –if she’s not impeached– new elections would be the ideal solution at the moment.

And new elections, including Congress because this Congress is not representative of Brazil as it really is.

But [what] we are going to have for sure –if the impeachment passes– is total paralysis, total polarization like we’ve seen in the past few months. And a country, effectively, ruled –not by a President, because this President is a puppet, he’s a vassal of the people in Parliament– but a hugely reactionary, conservative, non-representative Brazilian Parliament. And this is a very very sad story for the nation.

Brian: Okay that’s the voice of Pepe Escobar, geopolitical analyst. We’re talking to him from Thailand about Brazil, about the impeachment proceeding against Dilma Rousseff. You’re listening to “Loud and Clear”, we’ll be back.

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