The Washington connection and third-world fascism



Opinion Columnist Mohammed Rawwas discusses the meeting between President Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

MOHAMMED RAWWAS, Opinion Columnist

On March 19, 2019, President Trump met with the fascist leader of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, to discuss plans to conduct a military coup to replace the democratically elected leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, with the unelected Juan Guaidó, a Western-educated and-aligned elitist.

Bolsonaro, who only came to power after the most popular Brazilian candidate, Lula da Silva, was jailed in a politically motivated witch-hunt, is a literal fascist, having decried the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985  and killed hundreds of dissenters and tortured thousands more, for not killing enough of its political opponents, citing 30,000 as a good number for the amount of people he would like to kill.

Bolsonaro’s self-declared hero, Carlos Ustra, was a colonel during the military dictatorship, whose division killed hundreds and utilized rape and torture in an effort to subdue their political opponents, the communists. Bolsonaro has also declared that he would rather his son be dead than gay and referred to black people as animals. His followers have taken it upon themselves to engage in a multitude of hate crimes, from murdering one of his opponent’s supporters to attacking someone carrying an LGBT flag and carving a Swastika into her stomach with a knife. His first acts in office have been to halt action on LGBT rights and support agribusiness against indigenous people’s claims to land.

Recently, he has been involved in corruption and other scandals, as it has been discovered that he is directly connected to right-wing paramilitary death squads and terrorist organizations operating in Brazil, who have been assassinating left-wing political opponents, including Marielle Franco, a human rights activist who was murdered on March 14, 2018. The murderers in cases like these are often current and former police and military officers. Investigations into financial corruption by the Bolsonaro family have uncovered both personal and financial connections between the family and the leaders of some of these paramilitary groups, as well as the specific killers of Marielle Franco, from being personal friends with them to putting them on official government payroll. Bolsonaro’s son has even praised these death squads for engaging in extrajudicial killings, and encouraged them to continue to do so.

It is horrifying, yet unfortunately unsurprising, that Trump would meet with such a character as an ally, or that they would work alongside each other in an effort to undermine Venezuela’s right to self-determination through escalating violence. This is unsurprising not only because of Trump’s own fascist-adjacent tendencies, which land him in the same ideological realm as Bolsonaro, but also because of the history of the United States’ foreign policy since its inception.

As noted in the National Truth Commission’s 2014 torture report, the United States, and especially the CIA, was heavily involved in training Brazilian military officers in torture techniques that they would then use to persecute the dictatorship’s left-wing opponents, as the torture was taking place. This training was completed at the School of the Americas, a Department of Defense installation that has graduated a multitude of Central and South American dictators and terrorists, including in El Salvador and Guatemala. In fact, recently released memos show that President Lyndon B. Johnson had directed the U.S. military and Navy to assist in the military coup that deposed the democratically elected leader of Brazil in 1964 and ushered in the two decades of dictatorship and torture, if necessary. That is why it is important to view support for fascists and dictators by the US not as isolated incidents, but as part of an overarching strategy by the US to combat the rise of left-wing, communist movements by any means necessary, including supporting right-wing death squads and military dictatorships if necessary.

While it is heinous that Trump is meeting with Bolsonaro in such a capacity, it is nonetheless important to bring this specific event into its relevant context. Trump’s most vocal detractors, usually quick to criticize him for the most trivial of reasons, have remained rather quiet in criticizing the Trump-Bolsonaro connection. Perhaps it is because these detractors, while opposed to Trump, still represent the military-industrial-complex status quo, and are therefore in agreement with Trump on the necessity of violently overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Venezuela, with Brazil’s support.

This is why, for all their supposed opposition to Trump, they will never be able to mount a substantive criticism, because they are actually ideologically aligned. They could never criticize Trump for allying with a dictator such as Bolsonaro, because they want to rehabilitate figures that have done the exact same thing, and are part of the same military-industrial-complex nexus. Yet publicly, they must distance themselves from Trump in order to resurrect respectability politics while maintaining the current political and economic structure. Thus is the futility of American “democracy,” in which voting against the imperialist-capitalist status quo is rendered impossible, and the machinations of both political parties continues, mainly unaffected by the general populace. One party provides symbolic gesture that belies their true policy convictions, while the other, evil incarnate, is at least more forthcoming about its goals.