Editorial: Brasília Consensus

brasilobserver - Dec 19 2014
This Brasilia Consensus has almost nothing new. The same was done by Lula

(Leia em Português)

After the fiercest presidential election in almost 30 years of democracy in Brazil, Dilma Rousseff (Workers Party) has little political capital put into practice, for her second term. It will be interesting to see what changes she implements and how she deviates from the party’s traditional leftist stance in the year ahead.

During the election campaign, especially in the second round, Rousseff adopted what many considered a “leftist line” to clearly point out the differences between her and her opponent, Aécio Neves (Social Democracy Party). The latter, unequivocal representative of the conservative emission was labelled with the failings of the social democrats project that from 1994 to 2002 produced little beyond the poorly explained economic stability. With Neves, after all, the country would be engulfed by the interests of the market and bankers towards a scenario of wage squeezes, job losses, rising interest rates and less social policies.

Dilma Rousseff, in turn a representative of a Neo-Developmentalism model programmatically committed to economic growth and income redistribution, it was argued would lead the country to a new cycle without succumbing to neoliberal pressures that led the world economy to collapse.

Faced with a difficult choice, the majority of the electorate opted for the project that allowed at least a small dose of hope – for a sovereign government that would accelerate the reduction of inequalities between rich and poor, paving the construction of a fairer democracy.

Victorious at the polls, Rousseff acts as if she had been defeated. In November’s issue, Brasil Obsever warned that her second term economic policy, which is clearly in need of new guidelines, would put the president in risk of adopting the discourse that she fought against in the election campaign, losing credibility with her voters and party hardliners. The choice of the team that will lead the economy from 2015 confirms this hypothesis.

It is not strange that the opposition continues acting as if the election is not yet finished. Confirming the right turn in the economy, Dilma Rousseff passed the message that she has admitted the error of her government’s ways. With this admission, it is very natural that her opponents feel more confident in this scenario.

This Brasilia Consensus, in fact, has almost nothing new. The same was done by former President Lula when he took his first term in 2002. At the time, he committed to continue the inherited macroeconomic policies of Fernando Henrique Cardoso signing the famous “Letter to Brazilian People”. The situation, however, is not the same anymore.

Under Lula, an international scenario of economic expansion, and the high price of commodities guaranteed the ability to accumulate the necessary surplus to advance in social areas. This is no longer the situation; the strategy of “reconciliation” with the market could be wrong. The answer Dilma Rousseff hopes for is an increase of the private investment, but naming ministers that will appeal to financial elite does not ensure that.

Of course, simply demonising the market will not solve any problems. But it is essential to understand that the construction of a new development cycle involves the absorption of the lessons of past experience. And the most important is that the market alone is not enough to ensure progress or stability of economic systems, much less the welfare of citizens. Many contradictions remain in Brazil’s economic policy. How is it possible to make Brazil a successful economy without discussing the amount spent on the payment of the public debt? How can we truly face social inequality without debating a tax reform that tax more large fortunes than the poorest earnings? And how is it possible to do undertake change with the participation of society, without more democratic reforms? The year of 2015 has to be surrounded by these issues.


On 10 December the final report of the National Truth Commission, who have spend two years and seven months investigating the crimes against humanity committed by state agents during Brazil’s military regime (1964-1985) was released. In all, 434 victims have been recognised by the Commission, which listed 377 people as direct or indirectly responsible for torture and killings during the period – this included presidents, generals, diplomats and police officers.

On the one hand, people criticise the Commission for not having investigated the crimes committed by leftist guerrillas – as if the armed resistance of decentralised groups was compatible with illegal state policy put in place by the military dictatorship that turned political persecution, torture and murder of opponents in systematic acts of power maintenance. The Commission was right on this matter.

On the other hand, people criticise the Commission for not being punitive. Unlike in other countries like Argentina and Chie, investigations will not lead to prosecutions for responsible of crimes. This is not necessarily a failing of Commission itself, but with the conciliatory nature of the Brazilian State. The Supreme Court of Brazil has declined to review of the Amnesty Law, which for 35 years has maintained unpunished violations of the military regime.

Although the work of the Truth Commission is commendable, it is difficult to measure which came out winning, the democracy or the impunity.

*Read more: Brasil Observer #23