Brain Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly, has just returned from a week in Brazil, and what he describes is incredible.
The once unthinkable is now becoming normal…
SÃO PAULO – I arrived here on Sunday in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Or so it seemed. A nationwide truckers’ strike was in its seventh day and 99 percent of São Paulo’s service stations had run out of gasoline. The roads of South America’s biggest city were deserted of cars and people, and the skies were a murky gray. The normally hellish drive from the airport, which often lasts two hours or more, took a disconcerting 23 minutes.
In 15 years of following Brazil, I have *never* been as pessimistic as I am following a week in Sao Paulo. Open clamor for military "intervention," politicians frozen, CRAZY ideas circulating in society at-large. Bolsonaro rising. More here: https://t.co/zCEK6F9vBD
— Brian Winter (@BrazilBrian) 31 May 2018
Up on Avenida Paulista, the city’s closest thing to a public square, things seemed more normal – at first. Huge crowds milled about, vendors were grilling beef and sausage, and girls in hot pink roller skates clomped by. A quadruple amputee was belting out the falsetto ending of Pearl Jam’s “Black” to an enthralled crowd. The sun was out now, and families sat at wooden tables with sweaty buckets of beer, laughing. Of course, I mused, Brazilians are going to make a party out of a bad situation. I bought a can of Skol and decided to join the fun.
Then I saw it. A huge banner, spanning the entire avenue, carried by a group of protesters:
“SUPPORT FOR THE TRUCK DRIVERS. MILITARY INTERVENTION! ARMED FORCES, URGENT!”
And that was the start of a week where I saw and heard things I never believed I would in Brazil.
The Brazil of mid-2018 is a frightened, leaderless, shockingly pessimistic country. It is a country where four years of scandal, violence and economic destruction have obliterated faith in not just President Michel Temer, not just the political class, but in democracy itself. It is a country where there will be elections in October, but most voters profess little faith in any of the candidates. Given that vacuum, many Brazilians – perhaps 40 percent of them, according to a new private poll circulating among worried politicians – believe the military should somehow act to restore order. Amid this week’s strike, the clamor became so loud that both Temer and a senior military official had to publicly deny the possibility of an imminent coup.