The following is a transcript of Moderate Rebels episode 29, “Brazil’s fascist threat and US-backed war on Latin America’s leftist Pink Tide” – with Aline Piva

Transcript

Intro

(0:02)

BEN NORTON: This is Moderate Rebels. I’m Ben Norton, joined by Max Blumenthal. And today we have an amazing guest, Aline Piva, who is a Brazilian journalist and political analyst. She lives in Caracas, Venezuela and is also right now reporting from Sao Paulo in Brazil.

And we’re going to talk about the most recent election in Brazil, in which a far-right extremist, Jair Bolsonaro, won the election. I mean this is really one of the best examples we have right now of an actual fascist in power. And we’re gonna talk about what Bolsonaro’s election means, not just for Brazil, but for Latin America and of course for the world as a whole.

Bolsonaro is very extreme. He comes out of the military. In fact he has repeatedly called for restoring the military dictatorship. He has lamented that in fact the problem with the military dictatorship was that it didn’t kill enough, that it actually only tortured instead of killing leftist opponents.

And of course we’re going to talk about the implications for Venezuela in particular. Aline lives in Venezuela, and Aline is a professor of international law at the Bolivarian University of Caracas. So she’s the perfect guest to talk about the implications for both Brazil, which is her native country, and for Venezuela.

Thanks for joining us, Aline.

ALINE PIVA: Thanks for having me.

BEN NORTON: And before we begin, here are some highlights from this upcoming episode.

Episode highlights

(1:22)

ALINE PIVA: Brazil is the biggest country in Latin America. We have, we make frontier with almost all countries in South America. We have the second-largest reserves of oil in the region. So it’s very strategic to have a government that is completely aligned with other geopolitical interests rather than the country’s or the region, right?

This election is just the confirmation of the coup d’etat that we had two years ago, no, the ousting of Dilma Rousseff.

You know, Steve Bannon — Steve Bannon, we all know him — he gave an interview for one of Brazil’s major newspapers, Valor Economico, and he said that what was happening in Brazil was a wonderful case of a psychological operation that went very well, and that this should be studied, and endorsed, and copied in other places.

During the campaign, another major new newspaper here in Brazil, Folha de S.Paulo, they discovered that Bolsonaro’s campaign received millions, millions of dollars in illegal money, so that they could strategize and do this fake news campaign through social media.

You know that Paulo Guedes, who is Bolsonaro’s Chicago Boy, he actually worked in Pinochet’s government. So he has that background to add to his curriculum.

We are talking about a region that is under attack in a psychologic war. We don’t have to have tanks invading Venezuela to have a country being at war with. I think Brazil can do a lot of damage.

There was an important shift in the balance of power in Brazil. Even during Dilma Rousseff’s government, that was not completely aligned with Venezuela, or Ecuador, or Bolivia, or any of the more progressive countries, but Brazil played an important role in trying to push back more, trying to have a moderate approach to problems in the region. Brazil was kind of the mediation agent there.

Now that we have someone like Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro is just the front of this. The person who is his vice president, who is a general, he is called Hamilton Mourao, he has a plan to invade Venezuela. He talks about it openly

I don’t think we can rule that out. But I also think they could use other strategies that are not going to have that political impact. They could for example exacerbate the so-called humanitarian crisis, because Venezuela is not only under a psychological war; it is also under an economic war, a diplomatic war, so they could exacerbate that.

It was [US Ambassador William] Brownfield that said they needed to make the crisis worse, make the people suffer more, so they could justify an intervention in the country. This intervention could come in many, many ways; it doesn’t have to be a war.

The new Pentecostal, you know Evangelicals, played a very, very important role in Bolsonaro’s campaign.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Pentecostal ideology has been exported from the US Bible Belt into Latin America as a form of counterinsurgency. It was part of the attack on liberation theology within the Catholic Church.

ALINE PIVA: Bolsonaro was baptized in Israel two years ago. Throughout the campaign he said that the relationship with Israel would be an important part of it. And somehow that turned into a sign for the Evangelicals here. When people were celebrating Bolsonaro’s win in Sao Paulo, Avenida Paulista, the Sao Paulo capital, you saw flags, Israel’s flag, everywhere, alongside with Brazil’s.

There is a history of US intervention in the region, you know direct intervention, that they tried very hard to overcome. It’s not that they don’t intervene anymore, but they intervene through various means, through other means that are not as direct, not as open.

But I think that if we are going to have a military intervention, the two countries that are going to play an important role, that will work as proxies to the US, are for sure Brazil and Colombia.

But then again we need to remember that Colombia, for example, has a huge paramilitary apparatus. It could go like that; they could send, I don’t know, those paramilitaries to do an aggression against Venezuela, and put Venezuela into an impossible position.

There are a variety of scenarios. But one thing’s for sure, one thing’s for sure, they are going to escalate the attacks against Venezuela. They are going to profit from this government now in Brazil. And they are going to do, they are going to go for the final campaign against Venezuela.

They are desperate. They tried everything, the sanctions, years of blockade; they are trying to suffocate the country, and still we have a country that has difficulties, yes, true, but is thriving in some aspects.

Jair Bolsonaro, presidential election, and rise of fascism in Brazil

(8:26)

BEN NORTON: So let’s just begin here by talking about who Jair Bolsonaro is. This is a right-wing extremist from the military, a kind of classical fascist. And specifically can you respond to what you’ve seen in your community in Sao Paulo. You came back to your country to vote in the election. Can you just talk about why you came home to vote and what the response has been to the election?

ALINE PIVA: So this was a very unique electoral process. I think this second round particularly, it was more like a plebiscite, like a consultation to the people, on what country we want for the future of Brazil.

But I think it’s important also to say that I never really believed that we had any chance of winning. Not because of the Workers’ Party, not because of the candidate, not because of the campaign; because the campaign was great, and in the second round this campaign was able to bring on board sectors of the society that are never that involved in politics. But why I don’t believe, I never believed: because this election is just the confirmation of the coup d’etat that we had two years ago, the ousting of Dilma Rousseff.

And when you go through the you know this whole process of undermining the rule of law just to impose a political project, you are not going to get back to the democratic path in regular elections; this is going to be a long process, just as the process that brought up someone like Bolsonaro; who is a guy that is presenting himself as an outsider, but has been in politics for 27 years in public office. You know it’s a long process.

BEN NORTON: Yeah and a quick note here for viewers who might not know the context: you referenced Dilma Rousseff, who was the previous Workers’ Party president, democratically elected. In 2016 she was ousted in a kind of soft coup, which is what you’re referencing, accused of corruption by some of the most corrupt people in the Brazilian government, by these right-wingers, and they brought in an unelected right-wing, “pro-business” leader who implemented a bunch of neoliberal reforms, named Michel Temer.

So you’re arguing that by launching the soft coup against the democratically elected leadership and installing this unelected right-wing leader, that the Brazilian state was kind of paving the way for Bolsonaro today. Can you talk a bit more about that specifically?

Because we also saw Lula, Lula was the previous Workers’ Party president, before Dilma Rousseff, and Lula is an extremely popular leader. In fact when he left office in 2010, he had an 86 percent approval rating. And this isn’t to say he’s perfect; he still had issues. But he had widespread support among the population, and polls showed that Lula would have beaten Bolsonaro if he had run in the election.

Which is of course why the Brazilian state rushed through a probably bogus corruption allegation and charged him and imprisoned him for 12 years, preventing him from running. And that is ultimately what allowed Bolsonaro to win the election. So can you talk about how this has been coming for two years now, at least, and Bolsonaro, as you mentioned, Bolsonaro’s election was really just kind of the cherry on top of this two years of repression of the left in Brazil.

ALINE PIVA: Exactly. This neoliberal agenda, they call it the “Bridge to the Future,” that is the program that has been being implemented by Temer in the past two years; it is something that has been rejected on the ballot box for four consecutive elections. And when we say, oh yeah, they all said because of that, it feels like a conspiracy theory; but Michel Temer went to New York, just I think a couple of months after ousting Rousseff, and he said exactly that: we had to take her out because we needed to implement this project.

This is a project that is not, you know, it’s not done yet; so they needed more time in power.

It’s the same dynamics that we saw happening for example in Honduras, Paraguay. Other countries that experienced the same kind of soft coup, and change the government elected by the people, just so we can have a change in the balance of power in the region.

And in Brazil, you know, Brazil is the biggest country in Latin America. We have, we make frontier with almost all countries in South America. We have the second-largest reserves of oil in the region. So it’s very strategic to have a government that is completely aligned with other geopolitical interests, rather than the country’s or the region.

So I think what we are seeing is that they needed more time to actually fulfill that plan.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: That plan meaning implementation of neoliberalism, rolling back the Pink Tide.

ALINE PIVA: And changing the balance of power in the region. There is a wave of ousting, by different means, progressive governments in the region. And that’s very strategic in a moment when you see that the United States is at war with you know their traditional allies; they are trying to set back the advancement of Russia and China in different countries. And Latin America plays a very important role in that.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah we saw John Bolton today get up and announce that there’s a “Troika of Tyranny”: Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

BEN NORTON: Yeah, today is November 1.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Today being November 1. John Bolton being the Dr. Strangelove of the Trump administration. Basically just someone who’s still living in the ‘80s. And the Troika of Tyranny is like his version of the “Axis of Evil.”

And I see liberals on Twitter really upset just because he said troika, and it’s a Russian word; they don’t actually care about the content of what he said. Which is that the US intends to use the Brazilian election as a leveraging point for enacting regime change against the remaining Alba countries that still represent the Pink Tide — which is now kind of like a shallow little baby pool. So yeah, this is clearly, there is clearly a regional dynamic at play; it’s not just about Brazil.

But before we get into that, I guess I want to step back a little bit and, just for our listeners, who have been suddenly deluged in coverage of Brazil; maybe, I mean you’re in Sao Paulo, because you went to participate in the election, maybe you can just kind of explain what the electorate is like.

I understand that Jair Bolsonaro mobilized the right wing, the traditional right wing in Brazil. A lot of Americans who are familiar with the Christian Right in the US, and the libertarian right, and then the neocons, don’t understand that there’s a similar kind of three-legged stool of the right wing in Brazil, the BBB lobby: the Bible, beef, and bullets lobby.

Which is big agriculture; the Christian Right, which takes the form of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church, I think Bolsonaro is a member, these are the people that speak in tongues you know, all that jazz; and then you have the bullets, the military, which Bolsonaro comes out of.

So how did he move out of this kind of right-wing base and start to bring in new constituencies and get people so excited? And what are you seeing, what did you see in the streets after the election? Explain how Bolsonaro emerged after being in parliament for 27 years as this kind of notorious right-wing nut case, and became a national figure. I mean how did this all happen, and why do people seem to be so excited in Brazil about him?

ALINE PIVA: You know, Steve Bannon — Steve Bannon, we all know him — he gave an interview for one of Brazil’s major newspapers, Valor Economico, and he said that what was happening in Brazil was a wonderful case of a psychological operation that went very well, and that this should be studied, and endorsed, and copied in other places.

During the campaign, another major new newspaper here in Brazil, Folha de S.Paulo, they discovered that Bolsonaro’s campaign received millions, millions of dollars in illegal money, so that they could strategize and do this fake news campaign through social media.

So WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, they played a major, a major role in bringing Bolsonaro as you said very well, who was someone that we never heard about. He has been in public office for 27 years, and we didn’t even know he existed, until like a couple of years ago, when one comic show here came out with him in an interview where he said unspeakable things. But that was how he came to the public eye. And then after that, they just started to build, and every day, every day, you only heard about Bolsonaro.

And when you talk to people, they did a very good campaign in normalizing him, just what as they did with Trump in the US. So when Trump said things against immigrants, you know all these racist things that he said, people would say, oh he just said that, but he’s not going to do it.

And also what I did, once I bring him to the front page of the newspapers and make people believe he was someone, and an outsider for that matter, but also what they did is that they manipulated the fear that people have — you know economic scare, red scares, you know the Workers’ Party is going to change Brazil into Venezuela, because Venezuela is right now a major theme here.

People talk about that all the time, because of this induced migration crisis; I don’t even like to call it a migration crisis, because that’s not real. But they exploited those fears, they exploited deeply feared, hate, prejudice in the society, and then manipulated this for a political end, to have political gains.

You see the majority of his voters are young white males who feel, like in the US, oh you know it’s tough to be a white man in America. It’s the same thing down here; it’s the same thing.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Like a basket of deplorables, in Brazil

ALINE PIVA: I’m sorry?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Oh it was an expression used by Hillary Clinton, a basket of deplorables. You have it there as well, and the toxic masculinity factor.

BEN NORTON: And while we’re on this note, really quickly, I just want to have this context for listeners, just so they know. You mentioned some of the unspeakable things that he said, and I think we really actually should emphasize in some of these quotes for a second, because it really gets to the heart of what you’re getting at, Aline.

So for instance, I mentioned earlier that one of the most infamous quotes from Bolsonaro, he said that “the error of the dictatorship was to torture, and not to kill.” He also has recently, during the campaign, even before the election, he called for killing, and purging, and exiling leftists inside Brazil; he called them “red bandits.”

He also said that the problem with Pinochet, in Chile, was that he should have killed more people, that Pinochet did not kill enough. And then in relation to what you’re saying about toxic masculinity and homophobia; Bolsonaro, the president-elect, has said that, “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son, I would prefer that he would die than be gay.”

And then most egregious of all, maybe, I mean not to compare them, but he also told a woman that she doesn’t even deserve to be raped; like he threatened to rape her, but said that she wouldn’t even deserve it. So this is the kind of degree of rhetoric we’re talking about here. I mean Trump is bad enough; you know, Trump calls countries “shitholes”; he’s extremely racist; he calls Mexicans rapists. But this is a whole new level.

ALINE PIVA: Yes. He also said that his sons wouldnever marry a black woman, because they were well educated. So it’s that level of —

BEN NORTON: — explicit racism.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And then he leveraged WhatsApp. And this is what’s being used across Latin America, with professional help. And when I say professional help, I mean anything from Steve Bannon and the private companies that he brings in — we know that he worked closely with SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica in 2016 — to intelligence services.

And the WhatsApp campaign that was used by Bolsonaro, through I think hundreds of WhatsApp groups, pumped out one meme; it was basically fake news, that [Workers’ Party candidate] Fernando Haddad had overseen erotic preschools, and they were handing out pacifiers shaped like penises. And this actually fell on fertile soil.

ALINE PIVA: Yeah people believed that. You know it’s crazy. One part of this campaign, you know people who were working on the campaign and people who were trying to fight his fascism, we spent a lot, a lot of time, a lot of time and energy, just trying to combat those things. To like, please look at this, this is not real. “No but I saw someone that I trust send me on WhatsApp!”

So that’s the problem. So they take the thing, take the same rhetoric against mainstream media. So “mainstream media is biased.” Like in my family, when I talk to them, and say, please this is not real. “Oh yeah but you spent your whole life saying that mainstream media is biased, and now, now, we have to believe in them?” And then, “Oh but someone that I know, I trust, they sent me this!”

And then how you make a campaign, how — this was an electoral process when not even once Bolsonaro explained his project, his government, what he’s going to be, who he was going to bring on board, what he wanted for the country, you know for the future of the country.

It was just based on assumptions, on fake news like that, on religious rhetoric. And it’s very hard to talk, because we’re talking about subjectivities; we’re not talking about something that is facts. We are not discussing facts; we are just discussing people’s beliefs.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: God being on Bolsonaro’s side, for example. When I was in Nicaragua actually, in July, right after the coup [attempt], a lot of people who initially supported it had received on WhatsApp a prophecy from an American preacher about a change coming in the country. And I listened to it, they played it for me; I mean across the country people were playing this prophecy. And they believed that God had actually prophesied that the coup would take place, and that Ortega had to be removed. And this was why they went out in the streets, I mean the portion of the population that is Pentecostal.

So it’s not based on facts. That’s very dangerous, I think, because — you know you’ve always had that there, but now it’s so much easier to instrumentalize and weaponize very crude beliefs and mobilize people on that basis.

BEN NORTON: Yeah, you made you made two points Aline that I want to address here. One, it’s so fascinating how, this is not just true of Brazil; far-right movements in much of the world, they co-opt, and exploit, and reverse leftist talking points.

So it is true of course that corporate media outlets are biased. It’s just true in the US; it’s true in Brazil; it’s true in many places. Because they’re controlled by a small handful of right-wing oligarchs, of families, of large corporations. But what’s fascinating is how Trump did the same; he’s like, “the media is biased against me,” while the media was giving him billions of dollars worth of free airtime.

So it is true of course that the Brazilian media is extremely biased — against the left, not against the right. But the far-right co-ops that.

Bolsonaro’s full-fledged neoliberalism and Chicago Boy Paulo Guedes

(27:46)

BEN NORTON: And then the other important point you made, and I want to get your response to this, is how Bolsonaro essentially ran a kind of campaign where he didn’t focus really on policies. Instead it was mostly about attitude it; was about cultural values; it was about this idea of a kind of clash of culture. And part of this this point, which is very fascinating to see how he strategically maneuvered to get the support of international capital.

Because at first, when he started running in the campaign, and it looked like Lula was going to trounce him, and beat him by 10 or 20 percent, many international companies, banks, and such were a little wary at first. But then by April of this year, Bloomberg, here in the US, published a very interesting article titled “Chicago Boy Helps Calm Bankers’ Fears About Brazilian Election Wild Card.”

And of course this is a reference to, Bolsonaro gave a speech; he recognized that some people were wary and he gave a speech and he said, I don’t know anything about economics; I don’t know anything about the economy; I’m going to focus on the things I know, which would be like the military, these cultural values, as a Christian fundamentalist; and I’m going to let my economic advisor Paulo Guedes just do everything; he’s gonna take control.

This is a harsh neoliberal, a Chicago boy who will privatize everything, and pursue these international policies that Wall Street absolutely loved to hear. And that was a very clever part of his strategy, was telling Wall Street, “I will let you do whatever you want, Pinochet-style; you can privatize Brazil’s economy, which is the seventh-largest in the world; you can help privatize our enormous natural resources, the second-largest oil reserves in Latin America, the Amazon rainforest, which can potentially threaten life on the planet by exacerbating climate change.”

And Bolsonaro, I think that’s ultimately what got him the victory, was that he recognized that, by combining this fascist policy in terms of restoring the military dictatorship, in terms of cultural values of far-right evangelical Christianity; combining that with neoliberal capitalism, that is how he ultimately got the support of the US, of Israel, of all these other countries that immediately applauded Bolsonaro as he was elected.

ALINE PIVA: You know that Paulo Guedes, who is Bolsonaro’s Chicago Boy, he actually worked in Pinochet’s government. So he has that background to add to his curriculum.

I think this is a very important point, because we know this is a fascist government; we know we are talking about someone that is very similar to classic fascism. There’s one important difference: classic fascism was a nationalistic project, right; it was a mass movement led by nationalistic interests. What we are seeing now in Brazil and many other countries where we have similar governments is that this is a government very, very aligned to international interests.

So it’s privatize everything, just open up the country for the vultures, and that’s it. If we need to kill people, if we need to take people out of the way to do that, we are gonna do it, and we don’t care; we just don’t care anymore.

Environmental devastation, landless movement, and Brazil’s indigenous peoples

(31:38)

ALINE PIVA: You can see the persecution against for example the Brazilian landless movement. That is one of the most important movements here in Brazil, popular movements in Brazil. They are having a struggle for land reform in a country that is run by agribusiness. They are being killed; they are being attacked. There’s this whole sort of thing going on here, just so they can implement this neoliberal project.

BEN NORTON: And one of the first decisions that Bolsonaro has already announced is that he wants to combine the ministries of the economy, agriculture, and environment all together. And of course Paulo Guedes, this — I didn’t even know he worked with Pinochet — but this Chicago boy who worked with another murderous far-right dictator, Pinochet, now Paulo Guedes is going to be in control of this new combined ministry of economy, agriculture, and environment.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah he’s kind of, it’s like having a seance with Milton Friedman, when you listen to Guedes talk. It’s the same thing.

BEN NORTON: And it’s also like having Milton Friedman suddenly control the Amazon rainforest and decide what’s gonna happen to all of these natural reserves.

ALINE PIVA: And the second-largest oil reserves in Latin America.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: What could go wrong?

ALINE PIVA: Oh I don’t know.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I want to talk about the reaction in Washington, which is sort of, you know, it’s very interesting. But before that I think we should, you know because you brought up the landless movement. Bolsonaro has vowed to deprive indigenous people in Brazil and those who live on the remnants of the quilombos, which were the settlements of the former escaped slaves, sort of a bastion of afro-Brazilian resistance, basically to deprive them of all land.

Limitations and mistakes of Workers’ Party, Lula, and Dilma

(33:39)

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Where is the resistance going to come from, and what extent was — what were the failures of the PT party of Haddad and Lula? Do you see any failures? Did they drift too close to the center? Did they not provide a sufficient alternative?

ALINE PIVA: I think that is one thing that actually happened. They diverged from their base; they lost contact with their bases.

But there is also a secondary process to that, is that since 2005 there has been an attack on the party and most importantly on the historical leadership of the party. So we have on one hand a party that is trying to roll and implement all sorts of policies to bring some kind of social justice. Because Brazil is not a revolution; we did not change things but we tried to bring a little more social justice to one of the most unequal social countries in Latin America.

So the party was trying to rule while at the same time we saw leaderships and we saw this demonization of the Workers’ Party.

In 2005, for people who doesn’t know that much Brazilian history, they started something that is called Mensalao. And there was a sort of witch-hunt, just the same type of witch-hunt that we are now seeing with Car Wash Operation, where some part of some figures some parties were deeply, deeply persecuted by the judicial system in the country.

And that led to another important thing, is that people stopped believing in traditional politics. So since 2005 we don’t talk about politics in Brazil. Because when you start talking about politics here they say, oh you are a communist, or you are associated with the Workers’ Party, or anything to that matter. And you doesn’t discuss politics.

And on the other hand, you have this sort of crusade against corruption. They left people to believe that anything was worth so we can fight that corruption. It’s the same thing that we saw in the so-called war against drugs, when you have now Colombia, that is basically a US base here in Latin America, because people were willing, were so convinced that the root of all problems in Latin America was corruption.

So then they were willing to give up basic democratic rights and open up important democratic institutions to do things outside our constitution, just so we can do that, so we can fight this monster that is corruption. And I mean corruption is very easy; it’s a very easy subject. Who is in favor of corruption? And then you can do whatever you want from that.

So I think there were problems. One of them is not to be more close to the social movements. We never did the media reform that is so needed, the political reform. There were a lot of issues that were never, the party was never willing to face the political backlash that would entail. And this is also a result of that.

BEN NORTON: Yeah what’s interesting is how this issue of corruption, this is not just a problem Latin America. In many parts of the world it’s co-opted by the right, as this talking point. But what’s fascinating is how, especially here in the US, the issue of corruption is understood very differently, because here we just systematize corruption. Corruption becomes legal. We have Citizens United, and you can have infinite money in politics, which is just legalized corruption.

So it’s fascinating how in Brazil you have some of the most corrupt people in the entire political process leading the charge against the Workers’ Party, which — you know, part of the cost of doing business in a capitalist democracy is engaging in elements of corruption. And this isn’t a justified in any way.

But as you mentioned the Workers’ Party was democratically elected; they did not lead a revolution; they did not overthrow the state; they worked within the confines of capitalist democracy. And when you’re working in those confines, sometimes people do have to make these kinds of decisions that they wouldn’t want to make on their own accord, but they’re kind of compelled to under the institutions that exist.

And of course that has led to a kind of atrophying of those institutions. So now, like in the US, it’s interesting to see the parallels, in Brazil the support for the Congress, the support for other government institutions is at a record low; but one of the only institutions that does have that support and is seen as a non-corrupt institution is the military.

And that’s just like in the US, where people have high confidence in the military but have no confidence in the media, rightfully; no confidence in elected leadership, rightfully.

But in Brazil that’s even more dangerous, because, unlike in the US, you have a very recent history of a military dictatorship; and that opens the path, that faith in the military and that lack of confidence in other institutions, opens the path for someone like Bolsonaro to, with widespread support, reinstall the military dictatorship.

ALINE PIVA: And that’s a good example of how this whole war against corruption is instrumentalized. Because when you look at the numbers from Car Wash Operation, for example, you see that the corruption in Petrobras which is the major state-owned oil company here in Brazil, the corruption started during the military dictatorship. When you look at the parties that benefited most from the corruption in Petrobras, the Workers’ Party comes in like eighth place or something; it’s down the list. Bolsonaro’s party on the other hand is the second in the list.

But then he appears, he shows himself as the messiah, as we were talking, right, they need a savior. And they just build up on that, on this fear, on this deep sentiment that they are being robbed, that the middle class is not gaining what they wanted to gain, what they should gain, what they are entitled to, whatever their logic is. And then you see, you see someone being elected, someone like Bolsonaro being elected, with a 45 million votes. It’s not a majority of the country; 80 million Brazilians did not vote for him. But it’s expressive.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And it is not just limited to Brazil, this kind of narrative of corruption, and how it’s been sort of used to attack left-wing governments and movements. We saw it in Ecuador against Rafael Correa, who is a wanted man; against Cristina Kirchner, in Argentina. And the judge, I believe, who sentenced Lula was rewarded, given an award in the United States, by some right-wing legal society.

So it’s obvious there’s a plan afoot. Beyond the corruption blueprint, we’re going to see I think — and you work in Caracas, you teach there — an intensified attack now that Bolsonaro is elected — John Bolton basically gave the green light today — on Venezuela as the kind of last anchor of the Pink Tide.

So how do you see this shift affecting regional dynamics as part of a broader plan to destroy left-wing movements in Latin America?

ALINE PIVA: You know that Thomas Shannon gave an interview to BBC Brazil —

MAX BLUMENTHAL: — Shannon is a State Department official.

ALINE PIVA: Yes, so he gave an interview to BBC Brazil, where he said that Brazil should actually join OTAN, now that we have Colombia — oh NATO, sorry, I’m saying in Portuguese NATO.

BEN NORTON: Yes and this of course comes while Colombia itself has been very seriously considering joining NATO. Colombia has not officially joined NATO, but it has begun the beginning processes of beginning to join NATO.

ALINE PIVA: So we have Paulo Guedes saying that Mercosur is not a priority for this government. We have Tom Shannon saying that Brazil should join NATO. We have Bolton saying that — Brownfield, who was former —

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Brownfield was the CIA agent who is in charge of the kind of subterfuge against Maduro.

ALINE PIVA: Exactly, he was former US ambassador to Venezuela, and now he’s going to be some kind of czar of US politics to Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. And then that begs the question: why they are being so outspoken about this, why they are so empowered?

That’s because there was important shift in the balance of power in Brazil. Even during Dilma Rousseff’s government, that was not completely aligned with Venezuela, or Ecuador, or Bolivia, or any of the more progressive countries; but Brazil played an important role in trying to push back more, trying to have a moderate approach to problems in the region. Brazil was kind of the mediation agent there.

Now that we have someone like Bolsonaro. And I think just like Trump, again, the similarities are important to put down; Trump is just the face of a process; Bolsonaro is just the front of this. The person who is his vice president, who is a general, he is called Hamilton Mourao, he has a plan to invade Venezuela. He talks about it openly.

I’m not saying that we are going to have a war. When you look at history, Latin American history, we did not have a major conflict, a war, in the region for a long time, of that proportion; we had small conflicts. But we’re talking about a region that is under attack in a psychologic war.

We don’t have to have tanks invading Venezuela to have a country being at war with. I think Brazil can do a lot of damage, being NATO or not being NATO, sending our army are not sending our army; because of the message, the empowerment that it has of having someone like Bolsonaro running the country, like Hamilton Mourao, like the power we are giving to our military — we are not, the coup government is giving to the military since 2016. We have never seen something like this since the end of the military dictatorship. It’s very dangerous.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And where do you see it leading? Obviously we’re seeing psychological warfare against Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and Cuba, but particularly Venezuela. You’re writing off in the-near term a military invasion. What could happen instead? I mean the US is really working closely with the Colombian government on the border, in the same way that it worked with the Turkish government against Syria, on the Turkish-Syrian border. So what could happen?

ALINE PIVA: I’m not ruling it out. I think at this point, we could expect anything. Historically speaking, it’s something that we’ve never seen in recent history. But I don’t think we can rule that out.

But I also think they could use other strategies that are not going to have that political impact. They could for example exacerbate the so-called humanitarian crisis, because Venezuela is not only under a psychological war; it is also under an economic war, a diplomatic war. So they could exacerbate that. It was Brownfield that said they needed to make the crisis worse, make the people suffer more, so they could justify an intervention in the country. This intervention could come in many, many ways. It doesn’t have to be a war.

BEN NORTON: Which is a terrifying kind of echo historically of Nixon, who famously said that, when Allende was elected the first democratically elected Marxist in Latin America, in Chile, Nixon’s response was, “Make the economy scream.”

And we also know from declassified US government documents that after the Cuban Revolution, which was 1959, in 1960, the US government was already talking about imposing a brutal blockade — which still continues today. And then by 1961 they had it already installed. And this was before Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union formally, so that was the excuse used, but actually the US blockade began before that alliance.

And we know from declassified internal documents that the US government said very explicitly, we are imposing this blockade on Cuba to try to strangle the population, to force them into submission, and to bring about violence and overthrow of government. So the same strategy as being applied to Venezuela today.

Evangelical Christianity and the Latin American right wing

(48:53)

ALINE PIVA: It was in 2006, WikiLeaks revealed the document that was written by the same Brownfield when he was ambassador in Venezuela, when he described the steps to take down Chavez government — in 2006, it was Mr. Chavez. And one of the things that he describes there — this is a very interesting document; I recommend everyone to look it up; it’s very easy to find — one of the steps that he said there is that they needed to empower the internal opposition to the government.

So how they were going to do that? Through the traditional channels like NED, the National Endowment for Democracy. But they were also going to use church — you know the organizations, the community organizations that —

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Like NGOs.

ALINE PIVA: NGOs too. But no, the communities that were being organized in the country by the people. So they were going to try to instrumentalize that.

BEN NORTON: And specifically churches, you said, like religious organizations.

ALINE PIVA: Religious organizations, yes.

BEN NORTON: So this is like, in 1948, this is a classic tactic, the first operation the CIA ever carried out internationally, after it was created after World War II, was in 1948 in Italy. The Communist Party, which had led the resistance against fascism, was extremely popular. It was the largest communist party in Western Europe, with over 2 million members, and the US knew that if it didn’t act, the Communist Party would win the election. So the CIA spent millions of dollars, literally handed out sacks full of money to the right-wing opposition.

But one of the most important steps they took was not just bankrolling the right-wing Christian Democrats, but pressuring the Catholic Church to excommunicate all communists; and they said you cannot be a communist and a Catholic. And of course in a religious country like Italy, and what you’re referencing, in religious countries in Latin America, which are still very Catholic, that religious impact is very significant. And by destroying liberation theology, and associating Christianity and Catholicism only with the political right, that’s a very effective way of destroying not only the left now, but a future potential for the left.

ALINE PIVA: And you saw that in the guarimbas in Venezuela. There were priests that were performing the mass — I don’t know how you say that in English — but with the flag turned upside down in protest. So for a country like Venezuela, that is very religious, that says a lot.

And plus they have a lot of popularity. These religious institutions, they talk to people that not always traditional forms of representation or political parties, they don’t reach out to those people, they can’t, they don’t have the means to do so. That was what we saw here. The new Pentecostal, you know Evangelicals, played a very, very important role in Bolsonaro’s campaign.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah can you talk about that a little bit? This is a big component of the Christian Right in the US, is the Assembly of God. Charismatic Pentecostalism represents a minority of Evangelical Christians in the US, but they are some of the most politically extreme. One is former attorney general John Ashe. They called him the Crisco kid in the Senate. He represented the southern part of Missouri, which is the Bible Belt of Missouri. And they called him that because he was anointed with oil on the Senate floor when he was inaugurated, when he was sworn in. And we know how he functioned in the Bush administration as one of its most extreme members.

But Pentecostal ideology has been exported from the US Bible Belt into Latin America as a form of counterinsurgency. It was part of the attack on liberation theology within the Catholic Church. Part of a pincer attack, with the Vatican, under Pope John Paul, who was working hand-in-glove with the CIA, playing the other part in undermining the kind of Catholic liberationism from within.

And so now we see the logical conclusion, which is just the spread of proto-fascism across the southern sphere of America’s region of dominance. And it’s playing right into the hands of Washington, as it was intended to.

Are there any details you can offer on the role of the Assemblies of God churches in this campaign specifically, and in influencing Bolsonaro’s inner circle.

BEN NORTON: Yeah and especially in light of the fact that Bolsonaro’s slogan for his party was — correct me on exact quote — but “Brazil above everywhere; God above everything.”

ALINE PIVA: Yes exactly, that was the slogan. And it was very there was this moment, right after they announcing the results on Sunday, when Bolsonaro gave his speech through social media — he never went to TV; he never gave an interview or anything, through social media — and when he was speaking there was a Bible and the constitution on the same table. And then he went home to do a prayer for his victory with Magno Malta, who is a preacher in one of these Evangelical churches.

One thing was very determinant in this sense for Bolsonaro’s campaign: it was that [UNCLEAR (54:47)], who is the second-largest media outlet here in Brazil, that is directed by Silas Malafaia, who is the main leader of the Evangelicals here, a large spectrum of Evangelicals here in Brazil, he endorsed Bolsonaro.

When Silas Malafaia and his TV station endorsed Bolsonaro, they send a message to all the churches, so this is your green [light]; you go ahead and you start campaigning. And those churches, they are in the outskirts of cities; they are in places, as I said, that traditional parties, even movements, social movements, they do not follow, they do not, they cannot reach to those people. Because they are desperate, they are trying, they are looking for a savior. And they mobilized for it, and they sold Bolsonaro as that savior. So they manipulated all those fears, all those years of wanting change or everything, into Bolsonaro’s campaign. And it played a major role.

And when you look at it, and people were saying, “I can’t vote for someone who doesn’t believe in Christ.” Haddad is a Christian! He goes to church every Sunday. We’re not talking about someone that is an atheist or something. But he is.

Israel, Netanyahu, and far-right Zionism in Brazil

(56:40)

ALINE PIVA: And I think there was another important factor that we did not fully understand, was Israel’s role in all this. There were rumors that the Israeli Lobby in the US for loving for Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro was baptized in Israel two years ago. Throughout the campaign he said that the relationship with Israel would be an important part of it. And somehow that turned into a sign for the Evangelicals here.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah.

ALINE PIVA: There are more things to that.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Support for Israel and Christian Zionism is a central component of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God ideology. And actually during my recent trip in Nicaragua, I was seeing Israeli flags all over the place. And I would speak to people — I hadn’t seen it a decade before — I’d speak to people about it, and they say that they weren’t really even aware of the politics of the state of Israel. For them it was just a symbol of Christianity, the kind of Christianity they practiced. And it’s just seeping in across the whole subcontinent.

ALINE PIVA: So on Sunday, when people were celebrating Bolsonaro’s win in Sao Paulo, Avenida Paulista, the Sao Paulo capital, you saw flags, Israel’s flag, everywhere, alongside with Brazil’s.

Israel is two things; it’s not only Christianity, but also this kind of nationalistic example or something, like that, we are willing to do everything so we can get our nation back.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah I mean it’s the same; I assume it also is similar to when you visit Northern Ireland. I’ve been to Belfast, and you see the Catholic communities really that were affiliated with the IRA and Sinn Fein waving the Palestinian flag, because they were in solidarity with the PLO, and you see Carlos Latuff murals.

And then you cross into the Protestant section of Belfast, and it’s not as extreme as it was before, and there is an entire long mural honoring the state of Israel, with quotes from Netanyahu, and you see Israeli flags everywhere. So it’s the same kind of identification with a right-wing International.

And I think you see Netanyahu — I believe Netanyahu is going to be one of the first international visitors to Brazil to honor Bolsonaro. So there is this trans-Atlantic right-wing axis that emanates in many ways from Tel Aviv, or actually really from Jerusalem, as the Israelis see it; that goes through Hungary, and through the far-right parties in Europe, and now extends to Brazil as a way of projecting outwards across the South American continent. And I think that’s what’s really most troubling about this election, is what it represents for the future.

BEN NORTON: We should mention that immediately on the night that Bolsonaro was elected, Netanyahu tweeted, “I spoke this evening with the president-elect of Brazil. I congratulated him on his victory. I told him I’m certain his election will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and a strengthening of Brazil-Israel ties.”

And then he concluded, “We are waiting for his visit to Israel.” And that is a reference to Bolsonaro visiting Israel, but also Netanyahu has pledged to visit Bolsonaro during his inauguration, and that’ll be the first time that an Israeli prime minister has gone to Brazil for a presidential inauguration.

ALINE PIVA: Exactly.

The Atlantic Council

(1:00:35)

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I basically drew attention to a tweet by the Atlantic Council — which is NATO’s de facto think tank in Washington; it’s also backed by human rights champions like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and the arms industry — and they said they were having a panel today. I haven’t had a chance to watch it, on how they can help Bolsonaro fulfill his campaign promises. And we just talked about some promises; they were pretty ominous — with “Brazilian hopes high.” And they basically got treated the way that such a tweet deserves to be treated, with a lot of criticism. They deleted it. Then they responded to Ben. Ben, what did they say to you?

BEN NORTON: Originally they were announcing, they said they were discussing steps Bolsonaro — this is an exact quote — “Bolsonaro should now undertake to deliver on campaign promises as Brazilians hope high.” And then they deleted it, and then they commented to me.

I pointed out that they were effectively trying to help a fascist who has pledged to murder leftists and who has also incited violence against women with his rape comments, and has incited violence against LGBT Brazilians.

The Atlantic Council, which portrays itself as a beacon of liberalism, replied saying, yes, we also shared the same concerns, and that’s why we deleted our comment, and posted this statement. And then you read the statement that they linked to, and it has one paragraph that acknowledges his history of bigoted remarks. They don’t mention the fact that he has repeatedly called for closing Congress; they don’t mention the fact that he has repeatedly said he wants to restore the military dictatorship; instead they just have a throwaway line. And then they have a whole other statement about how this is going to be great for the business community.

Canada’s ‘liberal’ CBC Praises Bolsonaro

(1:02:25)

BEN NORTON: And we saw multiple media outlets — in fact, I wanted to read really quickly one of the most egregious of all this. It’s very easy for liberals in the West to point out, oh Trump loves Bolsonaro; they’re so similar; they’re both far-right demagogues.

But the CBC, the Canadian state broadcasting outlet, also was extremely excited about Bolsonaro. And this opens the issue of the Liberal Party in Canada. Trudeau portrays himself as the kind of foil to Trump, as the liberal opposite.

But the CBC was super excited, and they wrote, on the night of the election, they wrote: “For Canadian business, a Bolsonaro presidency could open new investment opportunities, especially in the resource sector, finance and infrastructure.”

They had three of these tweets. The CBC also wrote: “Critics have lambasted the former paratrooper for his homophobic racist and misogynist statements, but his government could open new investment opportunities.”

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, so he reminds us of Pinochet, but he reminds us of Pinochet.

ALINE PIVA: Exactly.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Bad Pinochet, and good Pinochet. I’ve been watching a lot of the some of the think tank panels, and that pretty much sums up what people are saying.

Potential for Bolsonaro to launch a military coup

(1:03:44)

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Aline, you worked in Washington for a while; you were with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which is one of the few think tanks that actually did thinking, prioritized it over tanks. But first of all, I guess why do, why are they so comfortable in Washington with this figure? I think you’ve summed that up. But also, where could things go wrong for Bolsonaro, as they have gone wrong for Temer, in trying to take away people’s pensions, for example, and enact the Washington Consensus? And what can Americans do to help out people like you in Brazil who stood against this kind of proto-fascist tide?

ALINE PIVA: I think the first thing is stopping normalizing him. Washington, DC’s think tanks did that a lot. The Financial Times for example wrote this op-ed completely normalizing him. That’s the first thing. What is going on now in Brazil is not normal; it’s not okay. Even if it goes with economic interests, it’s not okay what is going on.

I think it’s really important for us to understand that Bolsonaro doesn’t have the lead of this government. He’s just a puppet for bigger interests. So what we are going to see in the next days or upcoming months until he takes office in January, I think the people are going to start to realize that. I mean it has been, what, four days, less than a week, since the elections, and you can see on Twitter, you can see on the streets that people are uneasy, even people that voted for him.

So I think he’s going to start implementing — and here’s just assumptions from what we learned from history, right — he’s going to start implementing his completely unreasonable agenda, and what is going to happen is that it’s going, throughout, unrest in the country. And then comes the dangerous part, because his vice president is one general that had to be put on early leave because he was saying things against Rousseff, calling for a military coup. And the way things are, amounting here in the country, how the military is gaining space in civil institutions, throughout the government, that is very dangerous, very dangerous.

If in like one, two years, Bolsonaro can hold on to the government, can we rule out a military dictatorship in the country? The last time we had something like that, it was 21 years, under a brutal, brutal government, that killed and disappeared thousands of people. Thousands of people, we don’t know where they are yet. So I think that could be, that could go very wrong.

On the other hand, there are talkings, within the Supreme Court, the electoral court, that they might rule against his platform because of the use, the political views of fake news. Particularly, I don’t think that is going to happen, because we have been seeing how the institutions are aligned with the coup-mongers. So everything could happen in the next months and years to come. Because this is going to be a long process.

Venezuela

(1:07:52)

BEN NORTON: Yeah Aline, really quickly, I know you said that you don’t think in the near term a direct military intervention in Venezuela is likely. But I’m curious, we’ve already seen, just in the past few days since Bolsonaro won the election, an escalation of those threats. Of course during his campaign Bolsonaro would just kind of mention in passing the possibility of invading Venezuela; that was an important part of his campaign, was portraying the Workers’ Party as a kind of Venezuelan fifth column, and portraying himself as the real Brazilian nationalist.

We saw Venezuela Analysis published a very good article on October 31 called “Washington Classes Venezuela as ‘Threat to Regional Stability’ as Colombia Sends 5,000 Troops to Border Region.” And this article points out that a top US government official described Venezuela a “clear threat to regional stability and security.” Assistant secretary for terrorist financing of the US Treasury Department, Marshall Billingslea, gave his speech at the American Enterprise Institute. This is a DC think tank.

And in this the assistant secretary for terrorist financing said that Caracas is a “direct challenge” to the US. And he directly accused Venezuelan President Maduro of money-laundering; he personally accused him of money-laundering. And then he added, “Venezuela poses a clear threat to regional stability,” and, “This is a hemispheric issue and the implosion of the regime there is a direct challenge for us… We are on the hunt for Maduro and (his wife) Cilia Flores’ money and we are not going to stop until we find it.”

So with this heightened tension, this heightened aggression, we’ve already seen just in the past few days, do you think that the possibility for military intervention might be on the table? We know that Donald Trump himself had considered multiple times, he told members of his national security staff, that he wanted to invade Venezuela.

ALINE PIVA: Absolutely, I think we cannot rule out anything at this point. What I say when I, you know — it has a cost. Even if it’s in this political climate that we live now, we know that the balance of power is completely in [opposition] to Venezuela.

But we also know that there is a history of US intervention in the region, you know direct intervention, that they tried very hard to overcome. It’s not that they don’t intervene anymore, but they intervene through various means, through other means that are not as direct, not as open. But I think that if we are going to have a military intervention, the two countries that are going to play an important role, that will work as proxies to the US, are for sure Brazil and Colombia.

But then again we need to remember that Colombia, for example, has a huge paramilitary apparatus. It could go like that; they could send, I don’t know, those paramilitaries to do an aggression against Venezuela, and put Venezuela into an impossible position.

There are a variety of scenarios. But one thing’s for sure, one thing’s for sure, they are going to escalate the attacks against Venezuela. They are going to profit from this government now in Brazil. And they are going to do, they are going to go for the final campaign against Venezuela. They are desperate. They tried everything, the sanctions, years of blockade; they are trying to suffocate the country, and still we have a country that has difficulties, yes, true, but is thriving in some aspects.

They tried to prevent the country from importing food; that’s okay, we are going to start to produce our own food. They don’t want us to sell in dollars; we are going to use euros. They are trying to look for other ways. But Venezuela is now going to be at the center of this dispute.

BEN NORTON: Yeah let’s conclude there really quickly; I now you have to go. You live in Caracas; you teach at the Bolivarian University in Caracas. Can you talk about the situation there? You’ve said multiple times in this discussion that the so-called humanitarian crisis is a kind of manufactured crisis. And of course, the crisis that does exist is a product largely of the brutal sanctions that have been imposed, the attempt to strangle the Venezuelan economy.

But also I get the impression, from you, from the reporting of a friend of the show, Abby Martin, and from others, that the situation in Venezuela, although there are difficulties, the severity of it has been grossly exaggerated. So here in the US, the impression is that this is a failed state, that the people have no food and they don’t have access to toilet paper and all these issues.

Can you just talk about how, of the remaining leftist governments in the region — we have Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia — the situation is getting difficult for each of them. And we’ve seen Cuba under this strangling blockade that’s gone on for over six decades; and Venezuela is still surviving. Can you talk about what life is actually like and how there are so many myths spread about Venezuela?

ALINE PIVA: Yes, there are hardships. But one thing that gets very clear when you are there, is that you can see, you can feel throughout the streets, when you talk to people and everything, that the government is struggling to fight back, to kind of block the effects of those sanctions to the people.

So when you go to the supermarket, it’s not like a US supermarket where there are lots of things. But when you go for example for the ferias comunales, that is like street fairs, food fairs, you can buy anything that want you want, and produce, fresh, produced right outside of Caracas for example.

So what we are seeing in Venezuela is a transitional economy. We are going from the shopping-center economy, as I like to say, when you can go to one huge supermarket and buy everything, to go back to buying organic in the streets, to find different sources for food or for other things, and recreate the society and economy in other senses.

That is not to say that the sanctions are not affecting it; they are. They are pushing and giving a great trouble in medicines, to import medicine into the country. But the government is trying to go over it with other — trying to do different, not depending so much on the US or Brazil as they traditionally did for that.

Outro

(1:15:32)

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well I think that’s a good place to end, and a less ominous note to end on. Aline Piva, thanks so much for joining us from Sao Paulo. And we’ll hope to have you on again to discuss accelerating developments, and hopefully non-military related.

BEN NORTON: Thanks a lot, Aline.

ALINE PIVA: Thank you.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: You can support this show if you want to hear more discussions like this at patreon.com/moderaterebels.

I’m Max Blumenthal, with Ben Norton, and we’re out.