Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit + New Delhi Declaration

September 10, 2021

Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit + New Delhi Declaration

The theme of the summit is “BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus.”

The summit was attended by President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of China Xi Jinping, and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa.

The key agreements have been laid down in the New Delhi Declaration.

* * *

Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Prime Minister Modi, President Xi Jinping, President Ramaphosa, President Bolsonaro,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to join my colleagues who spoke before and thank Prime Minister Modi and all our Indian friends for the active work conducted by India as the BRICS chair this year.

Despite the special conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic, India as the chair has done everything it could to ensure the progressive development of strategic partnership of the BRICS countries without any setbacks.

I agree with my colleagues who expressed this opinion that the authority of our association is growing. Its role in international affairs is on the rise and it is substantial. This is a logical result of the BRICS ability to develop effective cooperation in the entire range of topical global and regional issues during 15 years of our joint activities.

Such close partnership of the BRICS countries is greatly in demand, considering that the global situation still remains very turbulent. The risks of the coronavirus pandemic are obvious to all of us, and my colleagues have just spoken about this. This threat has affected practically all aspects of our life, impeding the development of the global economy and exacerbating many social problems.

In addition to this, what is happening around the world remains very tense. Global security is subjected to serious trials and the system of strategic stability has noticeably deteriorated. Far from being settled, long-standing regional conflicts are flaring up with renewed force.

The withdrawal of the US and their allies from Afghanistan has led to a new crisis situation, and it remains unclear how it will affect regional and global security, so it is absolutely right that our countries pay special attention to this issue.

Understandably, just like its BRICS partners, Russia has consistently advocated the establishment of long-awaited peace and stability in Afghanistan, where the people have been fighting for many decades and have earned the right to independently determine what their state will be like.

At the same time, we are not interested in Afghanistan remaining a threat to neighbouring countries or having terrorism and illegal drug trafficking coming from the Afghan territory threaten us. We are interested in stopping the migration flow and we want the Afghans to be able to live a peaceful and dignified life in their own country.

I have mentioned many times that the current round of the crisis in Afghanistan is a direct consequence of irresponsible extraneous attempts to impose someone else’s values on the country and to build “democratic structures” using socio-political engineering techniques, ignoring the historical and national specifics of other nations and the traditions by which they live.

All of that leads to nothing but destabilisation and, ultimately, chaos, after which the masterminds behind these experiments hastily retreat leaving their charges behind. The entire international community then has to face the consequences.

I am convinced that peaceful progress in international relations can be guaranteed only through ensuring the existence of states with different political and social systems, their own national interests and spiritual and moral values, but with mandatory observance of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, including non-interference in internal affairs and respect for sovereignty.

It is likewise important to maintain and promote mutually respectful, constructive and meaningful interaction at the global level, to strengthen the emerging multipolar system which comprises independent centres of economic growth and political influence, of which BRICS is, of course, a part.

In this context, we consider very relevant the topic of our meeting and the topic of the entire year in BRICS that was chosen by our Indian partners and the Indian chairmanship which is promoting cooperation on the basis of continuity, consolidation and consensus. In fact, the entire international community is facing this challenge, and five BRICS countries are playing a significant and noticeable role in addressing it.

I hope our work today will be substantive and productive. I would like to emphasise once again that Russia stands ready to continue close interaction with the BRICS countries in all areas.

Thank you.

Empire warns Brazil: it’s our NATO way or Huawei

August 12, 2021

Empire warns Brazil: it’s our NATO way or Huawei

By Pepe Escobar and Quantum Bird – Special for The Saker Blog

The Empire of Chaos could never be accused of deploying Sun Tzu subtlety. Especially when it comes to dealing with the satrapies.

In the case of Brazil, former BRICS stalwart reduced to the status of a proto-neo-colony under an aspiring Soprano-style “captain”, the Men Who Run the Show applied standard procedure.

First they sent the Deep State, as in CIA’s William Burns. Then they sent National Security, as in advisor Jake Sullivan. Both visits delivered the same message: toe the line – or else.

Nuances do apply. The Deep State wants the current proto-neo-colony status of Brazil unchanged, and hopefully deepened – as it strikes the “B” in BRICS out of deeper cooperation with the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Sullivan for his part is just a cog in the Dem dementia wheel that previously conspired alongside the NSA to destroy Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, throw Lula in jail and place Bolsonaro in charge.

Lula is not the Dem’s horse for the 2022 Brazilian presidential election. But despite some woke-ish characters coming out of the closet, there’s no viable third way in the horizon acceptable for the Empire – at least not yet.

Still, the proverbial “offer you can’t refuse” had to be delivered to the people that matter: the men in uniform. Do what you gotta do, strike a deal with Lula, whatever. In the end, what we say, goes.

That poisoned carrot

The cover story for Sullivan’s trip was what amounts for all practical purposes to the Ukrainization of Central America/the Caribbean. Notorious vampire Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland, number 3 in the State Dept., had already been dispatched to assorted chihuahuas in the region to lay down the law.

Sullivan followed the script, banging on notorious anti-imperial recalcitrants such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua and extolling the platitude du jour: “The need to preserve and protect democracy in the hemisphere.” He met face to face with two of the military brass who are part of the deciding circle, Gen Augusto Heleno, who heads the all-powerful Institutional Security Cabinet, and Defense Minister Braga Netto, both under fire for corruption.

Unlike Burns, who stuck to “security” CIA interests, stressing that Brazil escaping from the Empire’s sphere of influence simply won’t be tolerated, Sullivan actually offered a carrot: drop Huawei out of the 5G auction later this year, and you may be accepted as a NATO partner.

This carrot bears similarities with the Empire offering BRICS member India to become a – lesser – member of the Quad, alongside US, Japan and Australia, to “contain” China.

So it’s always about the imperial sphere of influence: smashing BRICS from the inside, turning members into “partners”.

NATO’s “partnerships” are euphemisms for “we own you, bitch”. All “partners” have to strictly follow the parameters of the NATO 2030 agenda, which has been designed to promote a planetary Robocop patrolling/containing vast swathes of the Global South.

Even if Brazil seems to be, in fact, already a lowly NATO “partner”, as its Navy was invited to be part of the recent Sea Breeze exercise in the Black Sea, which was a major pro-Kiev, “containment of Russia” operation, it is not granted the carrot will be taken.

Indeed, an upgrade would only mean a little extra terminological glamour, as in “major non-NATO ally” or “global partner”.

The real question is who among the Brazilian men in uniform will approve this lethal blow to sovereignty. Significant dissent does exist. The Brazilian Navy, for example, will be against it – as it would be reduced to the role of patrolling the South Atlantic on behalf of the Empire, and even becoming a hostage were the Empire to turbo-charge the militarization of the South Atlantic.

If this “partnership” ever happened, the Navy’s concept of the “Blue Amazon” would be buried deep in the ocean. Not to mention that NATO does not even recognize the concept of a South Atlantic. Brazil’s own sphere of influence actually extends from the Andes to the western coast of Africa via the South Atlantic.

The “price” to be paid to accept such a Mafioso “offer you can’t refuse” is to bluntly antagonize China. Talk about the Brazilian military falling on their own tropical sword.

Brazil and China commercial affairs are intense – and multifaceted. Since the mid-1990s, the presence of Chinese commercial interests has been significant in the Brazilian economy, ranging from mining companies to huge infrastructure projects such as the bridge over the Baia de Todos os Santos.

China is also the top buyer of the huge native soy production, which is managed by the quite politically active agrobusiness Brazilian community, which is not going to stay idle while its interests are being eroded.

Brazil also boasts the largest telecommunication market in Latin America. Rebuilding and updating the Brazilian telephony and internet network, jeopardized by 1990s privatizations and 2000s business mistakes, is an opportunity Huawei simply can’t ignore.

That also configures a huge win for Brazil, able to profit from some hardware the NSA can’t easily spy on.

So basically to close the doors to Huawei would push Beijing to fiercely retaliate in myriad ways. The most painful consequence would be the end of Brazilian soy imports; that will drive agrobusiness honchos absolutely nuts, with unforeseen consequences.

In the end, Sullivan’s “offer you can’t refuse” actually smacks of desperation. As the Empire of Chaos is being slowly but surely expelled from Eurasia by the Russia-China strategic partnership, the imperial ace in the hole amounts to renewing control over the Monroe doctrine satrapies.

All bets are off on whether the tropical men in uniform really understand the high stakes in play.

Brazilians March to Demand Bolsonaro’s Impeachment

Today 25/07/21

Source: Al Mayadeen

Demonstrators in several Brazilian cities demand the impeachment of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for alleged corruption and Covid mismanagement.

Visual search query image
Protests sparked by Bolsonaro’s handling of Covid-19

Tens of thousands of Brazilian protestors took to the streets in several Brazilian cities on Saturday to demand Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s impeachment, as the pandemic exacts a disturbing toll, according to AFP.

It was the fourth weekend of anti-Bolsonaro protests organized by leftist political parties, labor unions, and social groups. Bolsonaro is being investigated in the senate, which is probing the possibility of corruption tied to the purchase of coronavirus vaccine.

In Rio de Janeiro, thousands of Brazilians dressed in red and wearing face masks marched with banners bearing slogans such as “No one can take any more” and “Get out corrupt criminal.”

Organizers called for nationwide protests “in defense of democracy and the lives of Brazilians and the removal of Bolsonaro” from power. 

In the afternoon, the local press reported that demonstrations took place in 20 out of 26 Brazilian states.

Furthermore, it is suspected that the Brazilian president ignored corruption suspicions raised by a Ministry of Health employee. When this employee testified before a Senate investigation committee, he stated that he was subjected to “extraordinary pressure” to approve the import of inflated doses of the Indian “Cofaxin” vaccine.

The Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office publicized the start of a preliminary investigation into the charges leveled against the president by three senators, who accused him of “breaching his duties” in this case.

Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, denied all allegations of government corruption and condemned the parliamentary investigation, calling it a political “movement” aimed at forcing him to resign.

The Brazilian President’s approval rating has fallen to 24%, and opinion polls suggest he will lose the presidential election in October to former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Labor Party, who supported Saturday’s protests.

On June 30, the opposition filed a complaint outlining 20 different charges for the president’s impeachment, but Bolsonaro still has enough support in Congress to prevent such moves.

Entranced Earth: the hegemonic dispute engulfs Brazil

July 13, 2021

Entranced Earth: the hegemonic dispute engulfs Brazil

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

Even if the rhetoric and the interim security strategy of the Joe Biden administration itself tries to give a multilateralist veneer to the idea that the benevolent hegemon would be back, the reality imposed by the increase in competitive pressure, which deepens after the outbreak of the pandemic, and acquires dramatic contours in the so-called “vaccine war”, reveals a challenging scenario for the coming years.

The gradual increase in competitive pressure, symptom of a phenomenon justified in the theory of the Expanding Universe, would have its origins after the September 11 attacks, when the “universal war on terrorism” unveils a world where the power of an omnipotent hegemon revealed itself in the need for the permanent expansion of power through the use of its military infrastructure.

Then arises the figure of the “terrorist enemy”, which could be any person or group, inside or outside the United States, a universal enemy that could be destroyed anywhere, even if that meant violating individual rights or the sovereignty of other states.

The unilateral power expansionism carried out by the Americans after September 11 would therefore have generated the seed of escalation in conflicts, leading to increased destabilization and consequently to a reactive movement of the other states in the world system.

As if in a movement of self-protection, former powers of the interstate system return to a game that seemed dead, but in practice was only sleeping: the old geopolitics of nations, where national interest and the resumption of sovereignty would return to play the cards against the dogmas of globalization and liberal order.

The return of Russia, which in 2015 intervened in the Syrian war – demonstrating a warlike power not seen for some time – represented a turning point, which apparently began with the reelection of Vladimir Putin himself in 2012, but also with the coming to power of the current Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013. From then on, the interstate dispute would have accelerated considerably with the rise of these two Eurasian giants.

The spread of international competition and instability would be, therefore, in line with the idea that for international political actors the effort for changes in the system would be preponderant for the achievement of their own interests.

The appearance of new emerging actors in the world system, even if considered a destabilizing factor of the system itself, on the other hand, would boost in the hegemonic state the expansionist impulse necessary for it to remain at the top of the system.

The global instability caused by the clash between the powers that would be benefiting from the instituted international order, and those states that would aim to climb the power ladder, would suggest the end, or at least an interruption of the minimum consensus necessary for harmonious coexistence within what Hedlley Bull would call a “society of states”.

From this perspective, the hypothesis of war would emerge as an almost inevitable expedient to resolve the tensions caused by power imbalances and global instability. It is from war, therefore, and especially from the so-called hegemonic war, that the state or coalition of states that would lead the new international order would emerge.

At the moment in which the crisis or the end of the so-called liberal order created in the 20th century and led by the United States of America is being discussed, what seems evident is the occurrence of an increasingly deeper questioning of the current international order by other nations.

In this sense, the global instability reflected in the increase of competitive pressure would be explicit in the context of a generalized conflictive ambience, or on the way to generalization.

To better conceptualize this idea, Robert Gilpin’s Theory of Hegemonic War would indicate that a generalized conflictive environment, even if not configured in an apparent hegemonic war, would already suggest such a situation if we think that what differs a hegemonic war from other categories of war would be precisely the systemic conception existing in the relations between individual states. This being so, and given that it is a systemic relationship, the whole structure itself would be affected by it.

What has been happening internally in a country like Brazil is a very peculiar and local-scale example of this global phenomenon that has spread throughout the interstate system.

Therefore, just as the pandemic accelerated and deepened the global systemic crisis, internally it had a devastating effect by fusing conflicts and contradictions within societies in many countries around the world.

At a time when the parliamentary commission investigating the pandemic crisis is exposing the viscera of corruption in the Bolsonaro administration, exposing the Armed Forces to a public embarrassment not seen for some time, the repudiation note of the three military commands in a clear threat to the National Congress confirms the thesis that the internal war within the institutions and oligarchic elites is something real and increasingly out of control.

The strange visit of the CIA director to Brasilia, and his meeting behind closed doors with Bolsonaro and the head of Brazilian espionage, General Augusto Heleno, sounded like an intimidating message to Brazilian civil society that the Biden administration would endorse a hypothetical regime closure in Brazil.

As it happened during the Jimmy Carter administration – when the military dictatorship was strongly pressured by the United States -, even if the pressure of American public opinion may lead the Biden administration to abandon the nefarious Bolsonaro administration, it is still very useful for the current American security strategy that a vassal government like the Brazilian one ensures the removal of the Eurasian presence in the “Western Hemisphere”, and even contributes to the destabilization of hostile countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba.

The erratic way in which the privatization of Eletrobrás is being carried out – which will lead to an unprecedented increase in costs – as well as the energy crisis that is looming, signal a growing distancing of powerful sectors of the business elites from a government that reveals an openly militarized, authoritarian face that is oblivious to reality.

The fraying, therefore, of social relations at the top of the Brazilian pyramid reveals a scenario that finds historical precedent only in that period that led to the so-called Revolution of 1930, when the dispute between the oligarchies of the time reached its peak.

Following the example of what is happening at this very moment in Cuba and South Africa, the escalation of systemic social conflicts seems to have no end, and even if for different reasons, it would be the result of the pandora’s box opened by the pandemic.

Even if at first glance it doesn’t seem relevant, certainly the deepening of tensions at a global level – within the universe of the great hegemonic dispute – will be decisive for the future of the much debilitated Brazilian democracy.

The classic “Entranced Earth”, by the great filmmaker Glauber Rocha, never came so handy for the Brazilian reality.


Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws (LL.B), MA student in International Relations at the University of Évora (Portugal), writer and geopolitical analyst. He currently maintains a column on international politics at the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

The Brazilian fracture between the Expanding Universe and the new imperialist competition in South America

The Brazilian fracture between the Expanding Universe and the new imperialist competition in South America
Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws (LL.B), MA student in International Relations at the University of Évora (Portugal), writer and geopolitical analyst. He currently maintains a column on international politics at the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

April 05, 2021

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

In an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine – one of the most prominent mouthpieces of US imperialism – , and signed by, among others, Marcus Hicks, former commander of the US Special Operations Command in Africa during the period 2017-2019, defends the idea that the increased competition between the great powers ignites a red alert that the United States should turn its attention to the African continent.

The main motivator of this concern would be the urgent need to limit the “malign influence” of the hegemon’s two major strategic rivals: Russia and China.

Citing the increased Sino-Russian presence on the African continent, in which Russia alone would have already established military agreements with at least 19 countries, and China, installed in 2017 its first international military base in Djibout.

It is worth noting, that although the Foreign Affairs article mentions that there was an ebb in the American presence during Donald Trump’s administration, in reality, and in a long-term look, since 2001 American foreign policy has turned more aggressively to Africa, and this posture has even been an incentive for a greater presence of other actors of the interstate system in that continent.

The American presence in Africa, justified by the excuse of fighting transnational terrorism, was therefore the trigger for an increase in the presence of other interstate actors, and consequently, of the imperialist competition that in this pandemic 2021 gains even more dramatic contours.

Although this article is specifically a defense of the American presence in Africa, it serves as a warning of how the American establishment is positioning itself in face of a phenomenon that has deepened considerably in recent years: the new imperialist race.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the role of South America in this complex power game.

Taking into consideration that the increase in competitive pressure in the world system has been accelerating considerably since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has gained imperial contours after September 11, and has unveiled itself as, in fact, in a scenario of almost war with the advent of the pandemic, it is possible to deduce that the recent events in certain parts of South America definitely place it as a battleground of the current powers’ wider dispute for global hegemony.

Symptoms of this competitive phenomenon could be seen recently in insinuations that the Chinese are carrying out naval maneuvers in Argentinean waters (when in fact it was the Americans who in fact carried out exercises near the Brazilian coast), as well as in the intensification of the diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Guyana.

There are many fracture points in South America, and perhaps the most visible and dangerous one lies over the Esequibo zone, a Guyanese territory of 159,000 square kilometers never recognized by Caracas.

In early March, Guyana accused Venezuela of having violated its airspace with the use of two Sukhoi SU 30 drones, of Russian origin. Caracas promptly refuted the accusations as false.

Repudiated by the Secretary of State for Falklands, Antarctica and the South Atlantic, Daniel Filmus, more recently, the publication of the new British defense plan – ratifying the decision to maintain a permanent military presence in the Falkland Islands – brought concerns to Buenos Aires.

The presence of foreign powers in South American territory is clear, and in light of the significant increase of competitive pressure in the world system – which has been gradually taking place since the disproportionate display of American military power against a defenseless Iraq in 1991 – the theory of the Expanding Universe is confirmed year after year, and in an increasingly dramatic way.

Contradicting the idea that a unipolar system, and therefore led and conducted by a single hegemon, would lead to Kant’s “perpetual peace,” the theory of the Expanding Universe supports the thesis that the global power game tends to reproduce itself ad infinitum as a continuously expanding, anarchic, and directionless universe.

Thus, it doesn’t matter whether the dispute is bipolar or multipolar: whoever is at the top of the system tends to expand his power even further – even if he is not necessarily being challenged at the moment, as is the case in the period right after the Soviet collapse, when the United States reigned absolute over the rest of the world.

The factual (and cruel) reality that comes to confirm the theory of the Expanding Universe could not fit into a more appropriate outfit than that of the present moment.

Just as 9/11 served as the perfect excuse for the expansion of the United States’ global power (in this specific case against an imaginary enemy – since the usual enemy, Russia, was temporarily out of the game), the Covid-19 pandemic serves today as a ladder for an unprecedented increase in competitive pressure in the interstate system.

Following this reasoning, and contrary to what Atlanticist analysts are saying, the pandemic crisis would be favoring only one country: the United States of America.

Not only because Silicon Valley technology companies have never profited as much as they do now, but the awakening of sovereigntist and militarist instincts brought about by the pandemic chaos has made possible the realization of the only fundamental and untouchable consensus of the currently divided US elites: the permanent and continuous reproduction and expansion of their military industrial complex. This expansion would be nothing more than the viability of the so-called Full Spectrum Dominance contained in the DOD Joint Vision 2020, published in the year 2000.

In this context, South America comes to play a new role in the global geopolitical chessboard, a role that the long period as a zone of peace under Anglo-Saxon influence would have softened.

With the increased competitive pressure caused by the pandemic event, which in other terms could be seen as the hegemon’s reaction to the entrance of new competitors in the system, came an increase or shock in the demand for energy resources.

In this scenario, we could exemplify the perspective of an expressive growth in the global demand for oil for the next 30 years, with China and India alone representing approximately 50% of all demand.

Considering that South America today can be considered the region with the largest oil (Venezuela) and Lithium (Bolivia) reserves on the planet – not to mention the Amazon forest and fresh water reserves (Brazil) – and in light of this global energy order in formation and dispute, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the new imperialist race between the great powers in the beginning of this century would be gradually turning to the region.

This situation is a wake-up call for a country in the region that is currently experiencing the greatest identity crisis in its entire history: Brazil.

Fractured internally since before the pandemic, the South American giant has never found itself so pressured and isolated internationally.

The systemic chaos that began with the Color Revolution of June 2013, and which has been deepening year after year until culminating in the election of Jair Bolsonaro (puppet president emerging from the white coup orchestrated by the consortium between the Armed Forces High Command and the U.S. government), finally goes into full short circuit after the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic.

Since then the growing discontent of sectors of the local economic elites with the disastrous management of the health crisis by the current government ruled by the military junta is visible.

Threatened by external sanctions from all sides, the country that has surpassed the mark of 300,000 deaths, is experiencing an internal fracture unprecedented in its history.

Something little remembered, but already in October 2019, Portuguese-speaking writers Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa, on a visit to Brazil, said they were impressed by the climate of local political animosity, comparing the South American giant to African countries like Mozambique and Angola during the pre-civil war period.

At the same time that military police officers in Rio de Janeiro organize marches dressed in suggestive black shirts in defense of President Jair Bolsonaro, military police officers in the state of Bahia are threatening to cause chaos with a riot against the local governor (Rui Costa, from the Workers’ Party, an opponent of Bolsonaro).

Amid escalating tensions, the arm-wrestling between government and parliament is intensifying, and in particular with regard to two issues of geopolitical relevance: 5G and the Sputnik V vaccine.

Even if it is not clear from the stories reported by the hegemonic Brazilian press, it is visible that the Bolsonaro government deliberately acts as a representative of US interests in Brazil.

The difficulties created for the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, and the constant threat of exclusion of the Chinese technology giant Huawei from the great 5G auction in the country, reflect the current role of Brazil as a battleground of the great expansionist dispute of the world system in this beginning of the century.

The social fracture, and the deepening divide within the local elites expose the serious risk of a country that could spiral out of control at any moment.

The news that the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) has sent a letter to Mr. Joe Biden, and to his Special Climate Secretary John Kerry, requesting a direct channel of communication – and away from the Brazilian government – to deal with issues related to the Amazon, opens a very serious alert about something that, for those who know history, would not be new.

Bearing in mind that geopolitical competition between the great powers is usually concentrated in fracture zones of the world system, history teaches us that fractured societies – and weakened states – tend to become the object of divisive games in the hands of the great powers.

With all due respect to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil – so mistreated and threatened by the current government – but the moment calls for a deep reflection on this.

Brazil’s Lula in a wilderness of mirrors

Brazil’s Lula in a wilderness of mirrors

March 17, 2021

Still in the legal woods and not daring to project as a revolutionary leader, Lula should nonetheless never be underestimated

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

A surprising Supreme Court decision that, while not definitive, restores Lula’s political rights has hit Brazil like a semiotic bomb and plunged the nation into a reality show being played in a wilderness of shattered mirrors.

At first, it looked like three key variables would remain immutable.

  • The Brazilian military run the show – and that would not change. They maintain total veto power over whether Lula may run for president for a third term in 2022 – or be neutralized, again, via whatever juridical maneuver might be deemed necessary, at the time of their choosing.
  • President Bolsonaro – whose popularity was hovering around 44% – would now have free rein to mobilize all strands of the right against Lula, fully supported by the Brazilian ruling class.
  • Pinochetist Economics Minister Paulo Guedes would continue to have free rein to completely destroy the Brazilian state, industry and society on behalf of the 0.001%.

But then, 48 hours later, came the Lula tour de force: a speech and press conference combo lasting a Proustian three hours – starting with a long thank you list on which, significantly, the first two names were Argentina President Alberto Fernandez and Pope Francis, implying a future Brazil-Argentina strategic axis.

During those three hours, Lula operated a masterful pre-emptive strike. Fully aware he’s still not out of the legal woods, far from it, he could not possibly project himself as a revolutionary leader. In the complex Brazilian matrix, only the evolution of social movements will in the distant future create the political conditions for some possibility of radical revolution.

So Lula opted for the next-best play: he completely changed the narrative by drawing a sharp contrast to the dreadful wasteland presided over by Bolsonaro He emphasized the welfare of Brazilian society; the necessary role of the state, as social provider and development organizer; and the imperative of creating jobs and raising people’s incomes.

“I want the Armed Forces taking care of the nation’s sovereignty,” he stressed. The political message to the Brazilian military – who hold all the cards in the current political charade – was unmistakable.

On the autonomy of the Brazilian Central Bank, he remarked that the only ones who profited from it comprised “the financial system.” And he made it quite clear the main circumstance in which “they should be afraid of me” will be if choice chunks of productive Brazil – as in national energy giant Petrobras – are sold for nothing. So he firmly positioned himself against the ongoing neoliberal privatization drive.

Obama-Biden

Even knowing that Obama-Biden were the (silent) overseers of the slow motion lawfare coup against President Dilma Rousseff from 2013 to 2016, Lula could not afford to be confrontational with Washington.

Refraining from throwing a fragmentation bomb he didn’t mention that then-Vice President Biden spent three days in Brazil in May 2013 and met Dilma – discussing, among other key issues, the fabulous pre-salt oil reserves. One week later, the first installment of a rolling Brazilian color revolution hit the streets.

Lula skirted another potential fragmentation bomb when he said, “I had the intention to build a strong currency with China and Russia so not to be dependent on the U.S. dollar. Obama knew about it.”

That’s correct: but Lula could have stressed that this was arguably the fundamental motivation for the coup – and for the destruction of an emergent Brazil, then 6th largest economy in the world and accumulating vast political capital across the Global South.

Lula is far from secure enough to take the risk of indicting the whole, elaborate Obama-Biden/FBI/Justice Department operation that created the conditions for the Car Wash investigation racket – now totally unmasked. The US deep sate is watching. Watching everything. In real time. And they won’t let their tropical neo-colony slip away without a fight.

Still, the Lula Show was an incantatory, hypnotic invitation to tens of millions of people glued to their smartphones, a society terminally exhausted, appalled and infuriated by a multi-pronged tragedy presided over by Bolsonaro.

Hence the inevitable, subsequent vortex.

What is to be done?

If confirmed as the ultimate comeback kid, Lula faces a Sisyphean task. The unemployment rate is 21.6% nationally, over 30% in the poorer northeastern regions.

It reaches nearly 50% among 18-24-year-olds. The emergency government help in times of pandemic was initially set at a little over $100 – to loud opposition protests. Now that it’s been scaled down to a paltry $64, the opposition is clinging to the previous $100 it rejected.

For 60% of the Brazilian working class monthly wages are less than what was the minimum wage in 2018, at the time valued around $300.

In contrast to relentless impoverishment, a hefty chunk of Brazilian industrialists would like to see the Guedes hardcore neoliberal orchestra keep playing unencumbered. That implies serial super-exploitation of the work force and indiscriminate sell-off of state assets. A large proportion of the pre-salt deposits – in terms of reserves already discovered – is not Brazilian-owned anymore.

The military de facto handed over the nation’s economy to transnational finance. Brazil virtually depends on mercenary agro-business to pay its bills. As soon as China reaches food security, with Russia as a major supplier, this arrangement will vanish – and foreign reserves will dwindle.

To talk about “de-industrialization” in Brazil – as the liberal left does – makes no sense whatsoever, as rapacious industrialists themselves support neoliberalism and rentism.

Add to it a narco-trafficking boom as a direct consequence of the nation’s industrial collapse, coupled with what could be defined as the incremental US-style evangelicalization of social life expressing the predominant anomie, and we have the most graphic case of disaster capitalism ravaging a major Global South economy in the 21st century.

So what is to be done?

No smoking gun

Of course there’s no smoking gun. But all the shadowplay points toward a deal. Now seemingly rallying around him are, with the exception of the military, the same actors who tried to destroy Lula – what is dubbed the “juristocracy,” powerful media interests, the goddess of the market.

After all, Bolsonaro – the incarnation of a military project rolled out since at least 2014 – is not only bad for business: his psychotic inconsequence is downright dangerous.

For instance, if Brasilia cuts off Huawei from 5G in Brazil, sooner rather than later agro-business mercenaries will be eating their own soya beans, as Chinese retaliation will be devastating. China is Brazil’s top trade partner.

Key plot twists remain unanswered. For instance, whether the Supreme Court decision – which may be reverted – was taken only to protect the Car Wash investigation, actually racket, and its crypto Elliott Ness-style superstar, now discredited provincial judge Sergio Moro.

Or whether a new judicial via crucis for Lula may be unleashed if their handlers so decide. After all, the Supreme Court is a cartel. Virtually every one of the 11 justices is compromised to one degree or another.

The paramount variable is what the imperial masters really want. No one inside the Beltway has a conclusive answer. The Pentagon wants a neo-colony – with minimum Russia-China influence, that is, a fractured BRICS. Wall Street wants maximum plunder. As it stands, both the Pentagon and Wall Street never had it so good.

Obama-Biden 3.0 want some continuity: the sophisticated early-to-mid 2010s project of shattering Brazil via Hybrid War developed under their patronage. But now that must proceed under “acceptable” management; for the Dem leadership Bolsonaro, on every level, is irredeemably linked to Trump.

So this is the crucial deal to watch in the long run: Lula/Obama-Biden 3.0.

Brasilia insiders close to the military are spinning that if the deep state/Wall Street consortium gets its new basket of goodies – China out of 5G, increased weapons sales, the privatization of Eletrobras, new Petrobras price policies – the military may discard Lula again anytime.

Always in negotiation mode, Lula had been in action even before the Supreme Court decision. In late 2020, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Development Investment Fund which financed the Sputnik V vaccine, took a meeting with Lula, after he identified the former president as one of the signatories of a petition by Nobel Economics prize Muhammad Yunus calling for Covid-19 vaccines to be a common good. The meeting was firmly encouraged by Russian President Putin.

This eventually led to tens of millions of doses of Sputnik V being available for a group of Brazilian northeastern states. Lula played a key part in the negotiation. The federal government, initially bowing to heavy American pressure to demonize Sputnik V, but then confronted with a vaccine disaster, was forced to jump on the bandwagon and now is even trying to take the credit for it.

As it stands, this enthralling telenovela political frenzy may be exhibiting all the hallmarks of a psyops crossover between MMA and WWE – starring a few good guys and an abundance of heels.

The (military) house would like to give the impression it is controlling all the bets. But Lula – as the consummate political practitioner of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – should never be underestimated.

As soon as the taming of Covid-19 allows it – to a great extent thanks to Sputnik V – Lula’s best bet will be to hit the road. Unleash the battered working masses in the streets, energize them, talk to them, listen to them. Internationalize the Brazilian drama while trying to bridge the gap between Washington and the BRICS.

And act like the true leader of the Global South he never ceased to be.

Lula’s lessons for Iran before Brazil’s populist showdown begins

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Source

Friday, 12 March 2021 7:57 PM  [ Last Update: Friday, 12 March 2021 9:37 PM ]

Lula’s lessons for Iran before Brazil’s populist showdown begins
(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.)

By Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV

Remember in 2010 when Brazil had “arrived”? That was Lula.

Back then, the United States and Europe were financially imploding, but Brazil — with a strong economy, fresh off the very first BRIC summit in 2009, and with the economic redistribution polices championed by Lula — was looking like a permanent and necessary geopolitical power. Their tourists were trotting the globe while Westerners were mired in bank bailouts and the undemocratic demand of austerity to pay for those bailouts.https://thesaker.is/lulas-lessons-for-iran-before-brazils-populist-showdown-begins/

Many of the reasons for Brazil’s economic demise since then are poorly understood, mainly because journalists prefer political intrigues to the simple math of the “dismal science.”

The imprisonment of  Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the impeachment of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, was not solely the result of a coup — although the former head of Brazil’s Armed Forces just admitted that it was a political-military coup — because that would ignore the aspect played by Western high finance in destabilizing the Brazilian economy enough to sway popular support against the Workers’ Party.

In effect, Lula and the Workers’ Party were deposed by bankers, who essentially went on strike in order to get them out of power. It worked.

As everyone should be well-aware of after all these years, Quantitative Easing (QE) in the West was never downloaded to the people — it took coronavirus to do that. QE was re-routed into stock buybacks, fancy real estate, Van Goghs, and other asset classes of the rich, but it was also downloaded as debt traps to developing nations. Foreign direct investment into Brazil went from $31 billion in 2009 to $102 billion in 2011, all thanks to Western QE, a difference that is the equivalent of Facebook’s yearly revenue, to put the huge jump into perspective.

Crucially, this meant that the profitability of Brazilian banks at this time did not have to depend on sound domestic investments and Brazil-building, but was artificially and temporarily boosted by foreign investment.

This influx of cash to their bottom lines thus gave Brazilian bankers the ability to demand unpopular austerity measures, labor code rollbacks, and deregulations in return for lending out money to (i.e. trying to make a reasonable profit from) their fellow Brazilian businesses and citizens.

This social rollback demanded by banks in order to resume lending, of course, proved incredibly unpopular, reducing the support for Brazil’s Workers Party. This coincided with other social disasters:

The year 2013 then saw a once-in-a-half-century drought in Brazil, which caused food price inflation. That led to strikes, which further worsened the economic situation and further eroded popular support for the Workers’ Party. The year 2014 saw the global commodities shock — sparked by the “endless austerity” demand of Western bankers for the Eurozone — and foreign loans suddenly became scarcer and more onerous. That year, Rousseff won re-election by the closest margin in decades — the Workers’ Party’s popularity had been gutted from its Lula highs. The 2015 Wikileaks confirmations that the US had indeed been spying on Brazil since Rousseff took over in 2011 were drowned out by the 2014-begun “Car Wash” corruption investigations.

And thus Jair Bolsonaro was easily elected in 2018: Brazilian private media unfairly stoked blame on the Workers’ Party, the West blamed Trump’s influence, and nobody was allowed to publicly blame the moneylenders.

The role of the Brazilian military, their media, and the CIA shouldn’t be discounted, but the desire to please foreign high finance is what got Lula, Rousseff, and the Workers’ Party in trouble. The CIA may be powerful, but they don’t have $70 billion to debt-trap Brazil with — that illustrates the power of economics.

Still so sure Iran needs more foreign investment?

The bottom line is that Brazil did not strictly regulate foreign capital flows, and thus were cut by that very double-edged sword: Western QE downloaded into Brazilian bank computers meant that Brazilian bankers didn’t have to earn a remotely honest buck — foreign money allowed them to let Brazil burn in order to oust and imprison the Workers’ Party. But QE policies just made the process easier and faster — the same debt traps were used by European bankers against North African beys two centuries ago.

Western bankers would love to loan money to Iran, one of the last “untapped” markets for the West, but the Iranian government knows better — foreign capital, especially on Western neoliberal terms, is a debt trap and Brazil is Exhibit A.

The failure to grasp this is to implicitly believe that these same foreign creditors, who so drastically altered Brazil’s domestic social and political balance, would be loaning to actually help Iran? No, their goal is the same: to squeeze Iran dry via usurious credit rates and schemes; to pull out their loans prematurely for any number of reasons, leaving Iranian debtors and their projects in the unfinished lurch, to take control of Iran’s social and political balance.

If this analysis sounds unusual, it’s because a skeptical analysis of foreign investment is never broached in the neoliberal West, where foreign investment is always, absolutely, 100%, totally a positive thing. An analysis like this will never be in The Economist, The New York Times, or a “blue check” Twitter feed. For them, Brazil’s economic problems are entirely due to domestic “mismanagement” or the “corruption” of Brazilians, not that of Western bankers. For myself, however, Brazil’s problems are mostly the result of what I call the “bankocracy” which has become the vanguard party of Western society post-2008.

People who clamor for Iran to “open up” economically and be flooded with foreign loans should closely examine how “unarrived” Brazil is now.

Re-enter Lula to ‘re-arrive’ Brazil?

Brazil’s Supreme Court has annulled the criminal convictions against Lula, and he’s sure to challenge Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election.

Lula’s image as a staunch leftist is rather overrated in the West.

He is not as economically leftist, as anti-Western capitalism and as anti-foreign finance as Iran’s politicians — just look at all the foreign investment he let in (and, crucially, allowed to be easily withdrawn), or just look up his vice-president.

We can fairly say that the Workers’ Party success ultimately came down to high commodity prices.

Had the Workers’ Party developed systemic institutional changes — like the Chavistas have done with just-enough success in Venezuela — then their party’s popularity would not have crumbled so easy in the face of such obvious Deep State & high finance meddling, no? The Workers’ Party handouts to the poor are necessary and good, but were only temporary guarantors of support. Indeed, the ability of the Chavistas to remain popular amid an ever-heightening Western sanctions onslaught should be quite telling about the deep ideological and systemic differences between Lula and Hugo Chavez.

Therefore, Brazil’s 2022 election is not a “left-right” matchup at all.

It is a matchup of “left populism” versus “right populism”. It will be the world’s first major example of an established semi-leftist politician taking on a “Trumpian” incumbent. (The 2020 US election does not apply here as Joe Biden is not semi-leftist in the slightest.)

Bolsonaro is no Michel Temer, Lula’s successor who hilariously had a 4% approval rating. Bolsonaro has rallied Brazil’s conservatives similarly to Donald Trump — by tapping into the totally justified domestic anger towards Western-led, failed, Brazil-destroying, neo-globalisation/bankocratic imperialism.

He has a solid 30% base which embraces his fascistic, ardently anti-socialist unifying of corporate and military power, as evidenced by his recent appointment of a military man to head Petrobras, the national oil conglomerate. Whom did he fire? One of Latin America’s detested “Chicago Boys”, a University of Chicago-educated economist. So, perhaps we shouldn’t complain too much, but such “one step forward, three (four?) steps back” is the dilemma posed by these 21st century, done-with-globalization, “Trumpian” conservatives.

Brazil in 2022 will thus provide the world with the most modern bellwether of the state of the mainstream and non-revolutionary political struggle — it will be modern Trumpian conservatism versus a leftism which is very far from revolutionary.

Places like China, Iran, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela and a few others should be interested, certainly, but perhaps not overly hopeful.

However, Brazil was the only one of the three major Latin American powers with major ties to China, adding a key geopolitical dynamic. Could Beijing provide the stability a re-elected Lula would need? Protecting mighty Brazil is a major project for anyone, including China.

China tapped Iran as the main node for their Belt and Road Initiative because these are two revolutionary cultures — Lula and the Workers Party, do they qualify? In the West many would answer “yes”, but a clear-eyed analysis says “not yet”. I highly doubt Beijing thinks conditions are favorable to hugely aid Brazil when they haven’t even done that for Venezuela – I think Brazilians are on their own for this one.

The US never did see the media-guaranteed street battles between their “right-populists” and center-right “liberals”, but Brazil isn’t so far to the right and so historically politically apathetic as they are in the United States. The arrival of jail-hardened Lula may lead to Venezuelan-style politics and a shift in Latin American — and thus human — history.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

May 22, 2020

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

By Fábio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog

When Admiral Cheng Ho ordered the retreat of his naval fleet around the year 1424, he left, in the words of the anthropologist Abu-Lughod, “a huge power vacuum”. The first great Chinese expansionist project, started during the Ming Dynasty, was prematurely interrupted there.

After impressive naval expeditions that reached territories as far away as the Indian Ocean and the coast of Africa, and in a decision not yet fully clarified by scholars of the subject, China would abruptly give up the first great expansionist project on a global scale.

It would take no more than 70 years for the Europeans to occupy the great void left by the Chinese and actually begin the adventure that gave rise to what we today call world system.

Six centuries later, China led by Xi Jinping finds itself in an unprecedented crisis in its recent successful history as the undisputed leader of the globalization process. The Covid-19 pandemic that abruptly hits the entire planet, for China in particular, was a hard blow that created an imbalance in its model of political and economic stability.

In the first three months of 2020, trade between China and the rest of the world fell by 6.4%, a figure unthinkable by Chinese standards. In particular, trade with the United States, the European Union and Japan declined 18.3%, 10.4% and 8.1% respectively.

Even with the strong decrease of contagion within Chinese territory, there is a great concern to accelerate the reopening of productive activities. The concern with increasing poverty and political destabilization are evident. In his recent visit to Shaanxi province, Xi Jinping made a point of underlining in his speech the importance of the fight against poverty.

In addition to incentives to businesses, investments in infrastructure and financial aid to the population, a series of structural reforms are planned to enable the country to overcome the terrible crisis triggered by Covid-19. An important annual session of the National People’s Congress is scheduled for May 22nd, and more details can be examined there.

Meanwhile, Brazil, one of the countries that in the recent past could be considered one of the most important allies of the Eurasian integration project outside Eurasia, is experiencing the greatest political-economic crisis in its entire history and is sinking deeper and deeper into an unprecedented internal war.

Something that is being discussed internally among the Chinese establishment is precisely the creation of mechanisms to contain the risk of instability that the social tensions arising from economic difficulties could trigger.

Brazil had already been experiencing cascading crises that had accumulated year after year since June 2013, when the country was the target of a destabilization process – or hybrid war – that triggered a series of other more or less orchestrated events (such as the lawfare against specific targets) that culminated in the weakening of institutions that had been strengthened since the enactment of the 1988 Constitution.

To make matters worse, and in contrast to the Chinese stance in seeking to contain internal instability, the country is astonished at the erratic attitudes of President Bolsonaro, under the consenting silence of his military orbits.

Having been chosen to occupy the highest position in the Republic, in all probability during the fateful visit of the then American secretary of defense, James Mattis “Mad Dog”, in August 2018 (two months before the presidential elections), when in a peculiar and closed meeting between the American and the High Command of the Armed Forces the password was given, and Bolsonaro was anointed to the mission to prevent the return of the left and realign Brazil to the satellite condition of the United States.

Everything leads us to believe that the crumbling of the Brazilian institutions has lit a warning signal within the Brazilian Armed Forces, which, in a mixture of sincere concern and sense of opportunity, took advantage of the power vacuum to move forward in the resumption of a protagonism that has been dormant for over 30 years.

Many forget, but the presence of the military – and especially the army – in the Brazilian political tradition dates back to the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, which opened the series of military coups that guided the entire Republican period to this day.

It is worth remembering that the occupation of strategic positions by the military became more visible when the current Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, strangely, was appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, to the position of special advisor.

Curiously, this has been happening in the month of September 2018 (between the visit of Secretary James Mattis and the election of Bolsonaro), where Dias Toffoli said he would have invited General Azevedo e Silva after requesting a nomination to the then commander of the army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas.

General Villas Bôas is the same man who, in April 2018, wrote on Twitter a veiled threat to the ministers of the Supreme Court if they found the habeas corpus request of former President Lula to be justified. The day after the constitutional remedy was judged, former President Lula would have his arrest ordered by then-judge Sergio Moro.

As a kind of Ayatollah, General Villas Bôas reproduces a classic character of Brazilian politics until the 1950s: the military chief.

At that time, personified by the figure of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, the military chief was a kind of “guardian of morals and good customs” of the nation and justified the political action of the military as holders of an unwritten “moderating power”. In this way, the military attributed themselves to the exercise of the “veto power” of the Republic. In the context of the Cold War, the power of veto was invoked to curb the communist threat.

After more than 60 years, and when many thought that the Brazilian Armed Forces would be totally professionalized and away from politics, we find ourselves led by an Executive Power integrated by no less than 3 thousand military personnel; not to mention the eight ministries occupied by men in uniform.

As in a trench battle, the military had been advancing day after day in the control and tutelage of state organs and institutions of the Republic, but if there was a well articulated strategy of occupation of power, with the arrival of Covid-19 the pieces definitely shuffled.

Today Brazil is moving forward to become the world epicenter of Covid-19, and as the pandemic seems to get out of control, the more the military tries to control the internal systemic chaos.

Moreover, if before Covid-19 there was some cohesion in the Brazilian establishment around the neoliberal reforms carried out by the Ministry of Economy, with the bursting of the health crisis, it is every day more evident the split between business sectors, the big media, the National Congress and the Judiciary, which are now frontally positioned in opposition to the government.

The recent meetings between the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, and the President of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, with the Minister “eminence parda” of the Palácio do Planalto, General Braga Netto, were a subtle attempt at intimidation and framing of two of the most important civil authorities of the Republic by the Bolsonaro government.

At the same time that the basements of the government’s disinformation machine slanders adversaries and agitates the low ranks of the Armed Forces and the military police of the states (its faithful allies), the country sinks in what is certainly the greatest existential crisis in its history.

As if all this were not enough, the rest of the world coexists with the prospect of incurring a public debt only seen, according to the British magazine The Economist, “amid the rubble of 1945”.

Beyond the health crisis itself, the economic consequences of the post-Pandemic will be devastating from the fiscal point of view, because the compulsory closure of industry, offices and various segments of the service sector will certainly bring about a fall in government revenues.

As many analysts have already noted, the world is experiencing the exact moment of transition between what no longer exists and what is yet to be born.

Even before the pandemic, the acceleration of interstate competition is noticeable, which denotes the phenomenon of deconcentration of power that throughout the history of the world system always occurs in periods of decline in the long cycles of international politics.

Something that the Brazilian elites, especially the military elites – psychologically trapped in imaginary enemies such as Chinese communists and “cultural Marxists” – have not yet realized, is the dimension of Brazil’s importance in the geopolitical context of this new century that is beginning.

With the shattering of Bretton Woods institutions and the liberal order hegemonized by the United States, the world draws – and we are all characters – a systemic configuration that has not yet been defined. In process.

As it had happened between about 1550 and 1640, when the world, still dominated by the powerful Spain, saw the movements of contestation to the empire that had built its power in the newly discovered America flourish.

Trapped by the wealth of gold and the medieval system of government that no longer corresponded to reality, the Habsburgs – in their alliance with the papacy – fought so that their hegemony would not disintegrate amid the rise of the newest actors in the system, namely, France, Holland, Sweden and England.

At that time, Europe was swallowed up by an unprecedented escalation of wars stemming from those new realities of power whose new actors, emerging in the northwest of the old continent, were unwilling to submit to Spanish power.

The translation of that scenario was the deepening of the systemic chaos that would be pacified only with the advent of the Treaty of Westphalia. Any resemblance to the present world moment is no mere coincidence, at least for geopolitical scholars.

Going back to the year 2020, it is very likely that some aspects will prove to be clearer and bolder in the post-Pandemic. Technological competition, more visible around 5G, tends to radicalize in many other areas. And the search for natural/energy resources is already a reality and places not only Africa, but South America itself as the target of the new imperialist race that should also deepen.

For now, the Brazilian establishment is a mere spectator of the rapid changes that the world system will see in the coming years.

China, even though it has been severely hit by the Covid-19 meteor, is reinventing itself in its policy of global humanitarian aid to effectively combat the virus and is focusing its action on strengthening the Eurasian integration project; in particular the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI.

Demonstrating impressive resilience, despite the strong retraction in exports to central countries, the Chinese saw an increase of 3.2% with the New Silk Road countries. Although not comparable to previous years, it shows that BRI’s infrastructure projects have not been so strongly affected by the adverse effects of the health crisis.

Nothing more appropriate to the thought and conduct of Confucian cosmology, based beyond mere rambling, in a concrete act, an action.

Thus, the Chinese follow their journey towards the central helm of the world system, consciously absorbing the pillars of Western modernity, but without ever losing the essence of Confucian thought, the Tao-to that always seeks effectiveness beyond mere thought.

Next June marks seven years of uninterrupted political-institutional instability in Latin America’s largest country. May the history of the oldest peoples and the winds of change teach us to guide the helm of our own destiny.


Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

Interstate competition swallows Bolsonaro´s Government

February 18, 2020

Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced on December 2 the taxation of Brazilian and Argentine steel, restoring the immediate effect of the “tariffs on all steel and aluminum sent to the United States by these countries,” the amateur members of Bolsonaro´s government were unable to hide their disbelief in their faces of disappointment.

Even with reality falling on their heads, the blindness of the upper echelons of the government regarding the current geopolitical moment is so great that the only character who has perhaps given any hint of understanding was Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, by drawing a parallel between what happened and what, according to his words, he would say about a “characteristic of this geopolitical tension that we are experiencing, which generates protectionism (and) is an anti-cyclical movement in relation to globalization.

Even if his words make sense, what seems to escape the understanding of the vice-president of the Republic and the members of the current government as a whole is the deepest reality of the multipolar world that has been gradually unveiling itself since the beginning of the new century and that, according to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro(UFRJ) professor José Luís Fiori, intensified between the years 2012 and 2013 with the election of Vladimir Putin and the arrival to power of Xi Jinping.

It should be noted, however, that this multipolar world misunderstood by the strategists of the current Brazilian government (if they exist…), is in no way accepted by the current hegemonic power.

The comfortable hegemony in a unipolar world, conquered by the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is now challenged by new actors that, as a consequence, tension and intensify interstate competition.

Demonstrating the total mismatch of the current Brazilian government with the reality of the international system at the beginning of the 21st century, the reaction of members of the team of the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, to Trump’s words is symptomatic.

In the words of one of Guedes’ assistants, “Trump has always been clear in saying that Brazil is very closed. You need something like: ‘Brazil has come up with a better plan for American companies, so I’m going to go back on the decision to raise the rates’”.

In the logic, at the very least, naive of Mr. Guedes’ team, it would therefore suffice to present the US authorities with a well-developed plan for trade opening, and then Trump would retreat.

The concrete fact is that the Brazilian government seems lost and without understanding the new configuration of the multipolar world order, not being aware of the depth of the fierce interstate competition between what, in the words of Professor Fiori, would be “the three great powers fighting for global power at the beginning of the 21st century.

The last meeting of Brics, held in Brasilia in November, was symptomatic of the unpreparedness of the Brazilian authorities in dealing with the current scenario of global dispute.

Symptomatic and worrying, because the events that permeated that summit and the reaction (or non-reaction) of guest presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin to those events demonstrated the subtlety and care with which Russia and China sought to place themselves in this “minefield” that is South America today. A territory so complex and essential to their expansionist interests.

Just three days before the Brics meeting began on Nov. 10, a coup d’état took place in Bolivia, one of the few countries in the region that still had a strategic relationship with the Eurasian axis, and especially Russia, which had planned with former ousted president Evo Morales the construction of a sophisticated nuclear plant in the Bolivian altiplano, as well as plans for lithium exploration and the development of local agriculture. The documents relating to the ambitious projects had been signed in July when Morales made a diplomatic visit to Moscow.

This could be mere coincidence, if the release of former President Lula had not occurred just two days earlier, on November 8.

In addition to being the biggest opponent of Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government, Lula is directly responsible for the creation and success of Brics and the strengthening of relations among South American nations.

In short, former President Lula, besides remaining very popular among the less favored classes in Brazil, which automatically turns him into a threat, was directly responsible for raising the country to the status of a global player beyond its region and at the same time for articulating, from Brics, a more consistent entry of the Eurasian powers in the South American scenario.

On 13 November, the official opening of the Brics summit took place in the presence of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa, who were received at the Itamaraty Palace by President Bolsonaro.

On the morning of that same day, November 13, the Venezuelan embassy in Brasilia would be invaded by a group linked to self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó. This would somehow overshadow the beginning of the Brics summit.

In Brazil, some more hasty analysts even suggested that that invasion would have the tentacles of fundamentalist sectors of Bolsonaro´s government installed in the Brazilian chancellery, headed by the unbelievable Minister Ernesto Araújo.

However, when connecting the dots, we could suppose that there would be some connection between the events that occurred during that hectic month of November, even if this connection does not necessarily follow a linear logic or if the absence of one of the events annulled the occurrence of another.

From the perspective of the dispute for global power between competing states – which often takes off from economic logic itself – the events of November would make sense if looked at in a systemic way.

The new national security strategy of the United States – announced on December 18, 2017 – would make official what had been happening in practice since the emerging Russia, China, India and even Lula’s Brazil began the expansionist onslaughts in Africa and Latin America, and intensified when Russia, in an unprecedented show of force, decided in 2015 to intervene in Syria, defining the course of the war. For the United States it was necessary to put a brake on that. Whatever the cost.

Therefore, both the “classic” and undisguised military coup in Bolivia, the invasion of the Venezuelan embassy and even Trump’s announcement of steel taxation would be a message and would have the same subliminal message: either you move away from our opponents and align yourselves with our strategy or you will suffer the consequences.

Brazil is now at a serious historical crossroads. One of the most delicate issues in the current scenario is the technological warfare (disguised as a trade war) involving the Chinese giant Huawei.

The most visible representation of the advancement of competition in what could be called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the dispute over 5G technology has become one of the spearheads of the expansive forces that clash as power and influence disputes in the world system intensify.

After having already missed the opportunity to participate in important markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan, which closed their doors due to restrictions imposed by the Americans, the auction for the introduction of 5G technology in Brazil, originally scheduled for the year 2020, would be a golden opportunity for the Chinese to put into practice, and in a large and important market, all their know-how for the construction of a vast network of fifth generation mobile Internet.

As the Chinese Ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming, rightly said last November: “I am confident in the sense of cooperation between China and Brazil in 5G technology. Brazil will take into account the interest in the country’s development”.

The Chinese rationality expressed in Ambassador Wanming’s words would fit perfectly if we were living in a period of normality in international relations; but we are not, and the technological war that has the 5G prominence race as its backdrop hides the challenging moment of transition between long cycles of international politics. This is a moment in which the world power, no longer fully capable of exercising leadership in the world political system, finds itself challenged by one or more emerging powers.

This has been the case since when, around 1560, the hegemonic power of the time, Portugal, was challenged by Spain, who then took the lead in the newborn world system, to be challenged by the Netherlands and so on until the present day.

In the midst of the tug-of-war between the Chinese and Americans, Brazil will have no choice but to invent a good technical excuse and postpone the 5G auction until, probably, 2021. The National Agency of Telecommunications (Anatel) has already been rehearsing the postponement by claiming that the 5G network would interfere with the signal of open TV in rural areas, because the transmission is made by satellite dish.

In the end, the pressure that the brazilian government is probably suffering behind the scenes from the Trump administration makes us feel that the announcement of the taxing of brazilian steel via Twitter would have a retaliatory bias with regard specifically to the 5G issue. This possibility is even admitted by the unsuspected brazilian economist linked to the financial market André Perfeito.

The fact is that the Brics meeting revealed a much more docile and receptive Bolsonaro to the presence of Eurasian powers than one could have imagined. Facing a serious recession, the brazilian government had no choice but to take advantage of that moment to seek investments from Brics’ partners.

As old and experienced players on the global board, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were able to position their pawns strategically from their arrival in Brasilia until the last minute on Brazilian soil.

Even with the not friendly invasion of the Venezuelan embassy (a strategic ally of Russia and China) on the day they would be received by Bolsonaro at the Itamaraty Palace, the not at all naive Eurasian heads of state skillfully did not comment on what had happened and tried to reconcile, throughout the summit, the convergent positions among all the partners.

The clear attempt to sabotage the meeting, in the end, only served to highlight the extreme care with which Xi and Putin sewed the treaties, trying to avoid displeasing Bolsonaro on delicate issues such as the Venezuelan issue – which he did until they accepted that the traditional parallel meeting with countries in the region would not occur.

This posture is in line with what Professor Alexander Zhebit of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) said about a fundamental characteristic of Brics since its creation. According to Zhebit, the elements of agreement would be essential for the maintenance of the internal harmony of the group. In this way, the differences would be smoothed out by the constant negotiation of common points.

Not by chance, in the final declaration of the meeting, besides the fact that the Venezuelan question was not touched, any mention of support for Iran (also a strategic Sino-Russian ally in the Eurasian context) was even avoided.

China and Russia are fully aware of the role of subservience to the United States that the Bolsonaro´s Government plays and, as good old players, have the wisdom to understand the relationship with Brazil as a long-term one.

Old countries know that diplomacy and patience live together, and in a way – as researcher Oliver Stuenkel rightly said – Xi and Putin, strategically, know that the more isolated Brazil is on the international scene, the more important they will be.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil

Latin America: New Old Hot Point On Geopolitical Battlefield

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

Latin America has long been regarded as the exclusive stomping ground of US economic interests, US military, and US intelligence services for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the point that the US public has grown to view meddling in its neighbors’ domestic politics as some sort of birthright which is still faintly rooted in the 19th century “white man’s burden” racialist policies. That the majority of Democratic Party presidential candidates supports the military coup in Bolivia, the escalating repressions in Chile, and the plundering of Brazil by the Bolsonaro regime is actually unremarkable in that regard. Such policies have long been the norm.

However, if one were to take a quick survey of recent developments in the “information battlefield” in the United States, one would be struck by the rapid elevation of Latin America to a place where direct US military action is needed. It is not just Trump who, in the aftermath of an apparently cartel-related murder of an American Mormon family in Mexico, “offered” Mexico the “help” of the US military in fighting the cartels. The latest boy-wonder of the US Establishment, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg likewise allowed that he is “open” to the idea of sending US troops to Mexico. Neither of these statements was seen as in any way controversial by the mainstream media—even though the US public is broadly anti-war and skeptical of additional international entanglements, the Washington Establishment views the sovereignty of other countries as nothing more than legal fiction.

These politicians’ statements do not stand in isolation. Hollywood has long been “joined at the hip” with the US national security establishment and can always be relied upon to propagate the latest set of Washington talking points. While Russian villains remain the staple of US movies and video games, Latin America is gradually reclaiming its role as a battlefield and source of threats to the United States – a status it had lost after 9/11. There are now at least two currently running US TV series which specifically focus on direct US interventions in Latin America. America’s favorite CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who, it should be noted, became President on the pages of Tom Clancy’s novels after the rest of the US government was conveniently eliminated by a Boeing 747 flown into the Capitol  by a suicide pilot) is now bravely thwarting Russian plots in Venezuela. Going considerably further, Last Ship’s current season actually posits the emergence of Gran Colombia, a veritable Latin American empire which launches a Pearl Harbor-style surprise air raid which destroys the just-rebuilt US Navy with the assistance of a cyber-strike. In retaliation, the United States employs the full range of its conventional capabilities, starting with CIA covert operatives working with some modern equivalent of the Nicaraguan Contras whose connections to the drug cartels are not even concealed, and ending with US Marines landing on the shores of Latin American countries in order to “liberate” them from their own governments.

There are other indications that the US establishment is bracing for a major deterioration of the political situation “south of the border”, up to and including a major refugee crisis comparable to that which Europe has experienced. While Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for his immigration policies, particularly the deportations of Latin American refugees, the construction of a major barrier on the US-Mexico border, and the efforts to transform Mexico into a holding tank for refugees seeking admission into the United States, no senior Democratic Party politician or candidate has promised to reverse these policies.

The rekindling of interest in Latin America is a logical consequences of the drift toward a global multi-polar system. It means, first, a retrenchment in the Middle East due to the demonstrated power of Russia and China which has proved sufficient to thwart not only covert US plots but also overt uses of economic and military capabilities. This power transition has meant that even long-standing US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adopting a multi-vector foreign policy no longer wholly centered on their relationship with the United States. It certainly does not help that the United States has proved of limited utility in resolving the many international conflicts and rivalries in that region, not only the obvious Iran-Saudi Arabia one, but also the lower-intensity Saudi Arabia—Turkey one. Since Russia is literally the only international power capable of credibly negotiating with each of these three regional rivals, its reputation as an honest broker backed up by non-trivial “hard power” has elevated its standing in the region to the detriment of the United States.

The second implication is an even closer binding of Latin American countries to the United States, with the remarkably compliant Organization of American States (OAS) which has never seen a military coup it did not like, serving as the overt instrument of control. Conversely, regional organizations which have proven resistant to US control such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Trade between Peoples (ALBA-TCP) and  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), both of which actually condemned the coup in Bolivia in strong terms, will find themselves the target of US pressure. Post-coup Bolivia’s announced departure from both of these organizations is unlikely to be an aberration, particularly since it follows on the heels of Lenin Moreno’s Ecuador’s departure from ALBA in 2018. The remaining ALBA states include Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela (in addition to several small island states), all of which are continuing targets of US regime change policies.

UNASUR also appears headed for extinction. As many as six countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, suspended their membership in 2018. Chile moreover launched PROSUR, an organization explicitly intended to target Venezuela, with the initial states invited to join the new organization being  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname, none of which can be described as pursuing policies contrary to US wishes.

The Trump Administration’s regional trade war that resulted in the launch of USMCA – a new trade pact by the US, Mexico and Canada intended to replace the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is indicative of the future course of US policy. It’s doubtful that many in the region failed to note the new trade pact’s abbreviation is exactly the same as that of the US Marine Corps which has a long and dark history of invasions and occupations of Latin American states. Consistent with the plot of “Last Ship”, the US, Mexico and Canada will find themselves once again the final arbiter of trade arrangements in Latin America in the #MAGA era, an era that will not end with Trump.

Economic developments in countries that have suffered right-wing regime shifts in the last few years show the direction in which Latin America will evolve. In Brazil, Boeing was allowed to acquire the commercial aircraft division of EMBRAER which hitherto was able to compete, as an independent actor, against both Boeing and Airbus even in their own home markets. The move strengthens Boeing by making it more competitive against Airbus in certain niches that it lacked, and strips Brazil of a major industrial asset. Bolsonaro also aims to privatize another of Brazil’s economic “crown jewels”, the Petrobras energy firm which is all but guaranteed to fall into the hands of Washington-favored energy companies.  US interest in the lithium reserves in Bolivia and neighboring countries has also been well documented. Preventing Morales’ Bolivia from entering into a development deal with China was one of the main motives behind the coup. Like Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Moreno’s Ecuador is pursuing plans to allow oil drilling in the Amazon region.

The famed Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara suffered a heroic death in Bolivia, attempting to mobilize an indigenous rebellion against the post-conquistador elite. The inevitable backlash to the ever more evident US efforts to ruthlessly exploit Latin America in order to compensate for the loss of influence and business elsewhere in the world means that the United States will find itself with several insurgencies and refugee crises not halfway around the world but in its own geopolitical backyard. Their intensity will eclipse the Cold War-era struggles.  Should the United States insist on pursuing its current course, it risks losing power and influence in Latin America in the same way  it did in the Middle East.

Related News

“IF YOU LIKED WHAT WE DID TO THE MIDDLE EAST, YOU’LL LOVE WHAT WE’RE ABOUT TO DO TO LATIN AMERICA”

“If You Liked What We Did To The Middle East, You’ll LOVE What We’re About To Do To Latin America”

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Latin America in the Crosshairs

Latin America has been regarded as the exclusive stomping ground of US economic interests, US military, and US intelligence services for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the point that the US public has grown to view meddling in its neighbors’ domestic politics as some sort of birthright which is still faintly rooted in the 19th century “white man’s burden” racialist policies. That the majority of Democratic Party presidential candidates supports the military coup in Bolivia, the escalating repressions in Chile, and the plundering of Brazil by the Bolsonaro regime is actually unremarkable in that regard. Such policies have long been the norm.

However, if one were to take a quick survey of recent developments in the “information battlefield” in the United States, one would be struck by the rapid elevation of Latin America as a place where direct US military action is needed. It is not just Trump who, in the aftermath of an apparently cartel-related murder of an American Mormon family in Mexico, “offered” Mexico the “help” of the US military in fighting the cartels. The latest boy-wonder of the US Establishment, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg likewise allowed he is “open” to the idea of sending US troops to Mexico. Neither of these statements was seen as in any way controversial by the mainstream media—even though the US public is broadly anti-war and skeptical of additional international entanglements, the Washington Establishment views the sovereignty of other countries as nothing more than legal fiction.

These politicians’ statements do not stand in isolation. Hollywood has long been “joined at the hip” with the US national security establishment and can be always relied upon to propagate the latest set of Washington talking points. While Russian villains remain the staple of US movies and video games, Latin America is gradually reclaiming its role as a battlefield and source of threats to the United States which it lost after 9/11. There are now at least two currently running US TV series which specifically focus on direct US interventions in Latin America. America’s favorite CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who, it should be noted, became President on the pages of Tom Clancy’s novels after the rest of the US government was conveniently eliminated by a Boeing 747 flown into the Capitol  by a suicide pilot) is now bravely thwarting Russian plots in Venezuela. Going considerably further, Last Ship’s current season actually posits the emergence of Gran Colombia, a veritable Latin American empire which launches a Pearl Harbor-style surprise air raid which destroys the just-rebuilt US Navy with the assistance of a cyber-strike. In retaliation, United States employs the full range of its conventional capabilities, starting with CIA covert operatives working with some modern equivalent of the Nicaraguan Contras whose connections to the drug cartels are not even concealed, and ending with US Marines landing on the shores of Latin American countries in order to “liberate” them from their own governments.

There are other indications US establishment is bracing for a major deterioration of the political situation “south of the border”, up to and including a major refugee crisis comparable to what Europe has experienced. While Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for his immigration policies, particularly the deportations of Latin American refugees, the construction of a major barrier on the US-Mexico border, and the efforts to transform Mexico into a holding tank for refugees seeking admission into the United States, no senior Democratic Party politician or candidate has promised to reverse these policies.

From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma?

The rekindling of interest in Latin America is a logical consequences of the drift toward a global multi-polar system. It means, first, a retrenchment in the Middle East due to the demonstrated power of Russia and China which has proved sufficient to thwart not only covert US plots but also overt uses of economic and military capabilities. This power transition has meant that even long-standing US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adopting a multi-vector foreign policy no longer wholly centered on their relationship with the United States. It certainly does not help that the United States has proved of limited utility in resolving the many international conflicts and rivalries in that region, not only the obvious Iran-Saudi Arabia one, but also the lower-intensity Saudi Arabia—Turkey one. Since Russia is literally the only international power capable to credibly negotiate with each of these three regional rivals, its reputation as an honest broker backed up by non-trivial “hard power” has elevated its standing in the region to the detriment of the United States.

The second implication is an even closer binding of Latin American states to the United States, with the remarkably compliant Organization of American States (OAS) which has never seen a military coup it did not like, serving as the overt instrument of control. Conversely, regional organizations which have proven resistant to US control such as Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Trade between Peoples (ALBA-TCP) and  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), both of which actually condemned the coup in Bolivia in strong terms, will find themselves the target of US pressure. Post-coup Bolivia’s announced departure from both of these organizations is unlikely to be an aberration, particularly since it follows on the heels of Lenin Moreno’s Ecuador’s departure from ALBA in 2018. The remaining ALBA states include Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela (in addition to several small island states), all of which are continuing targets of US regime change policies.

UNASUR also appears headed for extinction. As many as six countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, suspended their membership in 2018. Chile moreover launched PROSUR, an organization explicitly intended to target Venezuela, with the initial states invited to join the new organization being  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname, none of which can be described as pursuing policies contrary to US wishes.

Good-bye NAFTA, Hello USMC!

Trump Administration’s regional trade war that resulted in the launch of the US, Mexico, Canada (hence the “USMC” abbreviation) intended to replace the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is indicative of the future US policy course. It’s doubtful few in the region failed to note the new trade pact’s abbreviation is exactly the same as that of the US Marine Corps which has a long and dark history of invasions and occupations of Latin American states. Consistent with the plot of “Last Ship”, USMC will find itself once again the final arbiter of trade arrangements in Latin America in the #MAGA era that will not end with Trump.

Economic developments in countries that have suffered right-wing regime shifts in the last few years show the direction in which Latin America will evolve. In Brazil, Boeing was allowed to acquire the commercial aircraft division of EMBRAER which hitherto was able to compete, as an independent actor, against both Boeing and Airbus even in their own home markets. The more strengthens Boeing by making it more competitive against Airbus in certain niches it lacked, and strips Brazil of a major industrial asset. Bolsonaro also aims to privatize another of Brazil’s economic “crown jewels”, the Petrobras energy firm which is all but guaranteed to fall into the hands of Washington-favored energy firms.  US interest in the lithium reserves in Bolivia and neighboring countries has also been well documented. Preventing Morales’ Bolivia from entering into a development deal with China was one of the main motives behind the coup. Like Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Moreno’s Ecuador is pursuing plans to allow oil drilling in the Amazon region.

 The Ghost of Che

The famed Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara suffered a heroic death in Bolivia, attempting to mobilize an indigenous rebellion against the post-conquistador elite. The inevitable backlash to the ever more evident US efforts to ruthlessly exploit Latin America in order to compensate for the loss of influence and business elsewhere in the world means that the United States will find itself with several insurgencies and refugee crises not halfway around the world but in its own geopolitical backyard, whose intensity will eclipse the Cold War-era struggles.  Should United States insist on pursuing its current course, it risks losing power and influence in Latin America in the same way as it did in the Middle East.

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

On October 29th, the Cycle of Seminars on World Economy Analysis, organized by professors Monica Bruckmann and Franklin Trein, received in the Noble Hall of the IFCS-UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro, the illustrious presence of the former vice-president of the BRICS Development Bank, Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista.

In the midst of the peculiar moment of social upheavals that are spreading throughout the world, the New Silk Road was discussed, a major Chinese project of geo-economic integration of Eurasia through vast road networks, high-speed trains, gas pipelines, fiber optic cables and ports, and that will benefit millions of people (including Western Europe, and incidentally, the African continent and Latin America itself).

To this end, three institutions created in the orbit of this project would play a key role: the Silk Road Fund, the AIIB (Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank), and the NBD (BRICS Development Bank).

As the Brazilian State is a shareholder and founder of the NDB, many financing projects from this global institution could already have been approved and would be very welcome to the staggering Brazilian economy. However, despite the fact that in recent years, specifically from 2003 to June 2018, Chinese companies have invested almost 54 billion dollars in more than 100 projects, according to data from the Brazilian government itself, as of 2017, investments have fallen sharply.

According to a study by the Brazil-China Business Council (CBBC), Chinese investments in Brazil totaled 8.8 billion dollars in 2017 and no more than 3 billion dollars in 2018. A drop of 66%.

The deepening of the Brazilian framing of the US imperial orbit says a lot about this.

With the institutionalization of the New Defense Strategy of the United States, enacted on December 18, 2017, what had been happening in practice since mid-2012 was made official, with the acceleration of the interstate dispute and the escalation of global competition: the American repositioning in global geopolitical chess in an increasingly aggressive and unilateral manner.

Leaving aside the multilateralist rhetoric promoted over the last century, the Americans, faced with the strengthening of the “revisionist” powers Russia and China – questioners of the American centrality in the use of the rules and institutions created and managed unilaterally throughout the 20th century -, now seek to impose their will, without concessions, on the countries of the so-called Western Hemisphere. This is a region to which the United States rightfully attributes itself to the full exercise of sovereignty, for considering its zone of direct influence, thus inadmitting any contestation to its supremacy, not even any strategic alliance of countries that can create an alternative pole of power; much less in the Southern Cone of the continent.

Thus, the position of total alignment of the current Brazilian government with the interests of the Trump administration is very much related to this framing of the Western Hemisphere to the strategy of containing the expansionism of Eurasian actors.

If the deepening of the Eurasian project and the Sino-Russian strategic partnership – within Mackinder’s theory of heartland control – would already be inadmissible on its own, then the participation of a large Western Hemisphere country as a protagonist of an institution contesting old rules established and regulated by the hegemon would be too much: Brazil had to be separated from Russia and China at all costs, even if for this the country had to bear the price of seeing its institutions destroyed and involved in the labyrinth of a near military closure of the regime.

The last few months have been very hectic in many different parts of the world, particularly in South America.

Even if for not exactly similar reasons, especially in the specific cases of Peru and Bolivia, the popular protests that took place in Ecuador and Chile would have in common the characteristics of an almost natural reaction of self-protection of these societies to neoliberal restrictive policies.

As if it were an old irony of history, at the very moment when we are experiencing the shredding of interstate competition, there emerges a transmission belt spreading over several countries, as distant as they are disparate among themselves, the spark of social protests.

Curiously, this powerful and dangerous combination of social dissatisfaction and the escalation of conflicts between countries, in other periods of history, would end up being configured in that period of transition between the final cycles and of reconfiguration of the great board of the world system.

In view of this, it is important to highlight the risk of a characteristic in common that is gradually emerging in some South American countries: militarization.

With the escalation of global conflicts, the framing of South America to the North American strategy of containment of Eurasian adversaries and in the face of popular agitations to the deterioration of living standards, the lamentable option for the imposition of naked and crude order arises, bringing back to the political scenario of these countries the presence of the military as guarantors of institutional stability.

The region is moving towards a scenario in which elected governments, facing growing internal unrest, would depend on the military to survive.

The recent events in Peru, Ecuador and Chile do not allow us to lie. Apart from the fact that Brazil already lives under the shadow of a veiled military tutelage of its institutions.

The off-curve point of this story is Argentina and the impressive electoral victory of the Peronist opposition (at a time when the use of destabilizing tools has been frequent to interfere in electoral results, as in the case of the mass spread of fake news via Whatsapp in favor of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil).

Against all odds, in a region harassed by increasingly aggressive interference from the United States, Argentina is heading towards the resumption of a project of an autonomous and sovereign nation.

Faced with the successful destruction of the Brazil-Argentina strategic alliance, which had been strengthening since the re-democratization of the two nations in the mid-1980s, Argentina will face the complex challenge of seeking to expand its international insertion without its former Mercosur partner.

Something interesting said by Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista, in the Cycle of Seminars on Analysis of the World Economy, concerns the current Chinese position in the face of the aggressiveness and truculence of the Trump administration: paradoxically, such aggressiveness would be containing the Chinese expansionist impetus of recent years in South America, which, according to the professor, could open great opportunities for the countries of the region to bargain more favorable agreements for the Chinese. With the paralysis of Brazil and its blind alignment with the New Defense Strategy of the United States, Argentina has the opportunity not only to bargain for favorable trade agreements, but also to occupy the space left vacant by Brazil in the Eurasian integration project.

As Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista rightly said, the BRICS, and especially their development bank (NBD), would be heading toward a process of expansion of their participants.

In the new global geopolitical configuration, in which the intensification of the dispute increases the need of competing powers to guarantee their energy security, South America is already seen by many analysts as the new center of gravity of world oil production, replacing the Middle East. The Coup d’état in Bolivia is a very clear sign that the game will tend to be heavier from now on.

As Professor José Luís Fiori, Brazil’s leading expert on geopolitical issues, warned, “Oil is not the cause of all the conflicts in the international system. There is no doubt, however, that the great centralization of power that is underway in the interstate system is also transforming the permanent struggle for energy security of national states into a war between the great powers for the control of the new energy reserves that are being discovered in recent years. A war that is developing hand in hand, and in any corner of the world, be it in the tropical territory of Black Africa or in the icy lands of the Arctic Circle; be it in the turbulent waters of the mouth of the Amazon or in the inhospitable Kamchatka Peninsula”. https://jornalggn.com.br/geopolitica/geopolitica-e-fe-por-jose-luis-fiori/?fbclid=IwAR1IEPB6xbYL9BOpClmpyeUbonPPsIRPP-BQS7L_dqxZI0sr05jTHQ1Av64

Curiously, shortly before the violent classic coup d’état against President Evo Morales, the government of that country had announced plans to nationalize its production of Lithium.

Global demand for Lithium, essential in the production of cell phone batteries, laptops and electric cars, is expected to triple in the next 15 years.

Not coincidentally, Lithium’s world’s largest reserves are in Bolivia.

If this trend is confirmed, there is no other alternative for whale countries like Brazil and Argentina than to take over the South American strategic project at the risk of ending their days fragmented and swallowed up by the interests and disputes of powers outside the region.

For now, it is up to Argentina to walk alone and out of necessity, to expand economic and geopolitical ties with China and Russia because the tendency is for the country to become the target of the next destabilizing campaigns, “fourth generation” wars and economic suffocation caused by the hegemon.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor in law, writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

 

Released Lula in for greatest fight of his life

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

November 11, 2019

By Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

Better not mess with the former Brazilian president; Putin and Xi are his real top allies in the Global Left

He’s back. With a bang.

Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.

When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and myself interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.

His first speech to the nation after the prison saga – which is far from over – could never be solemn; in fact he promised a detailed address for the near future. What he did, in his trademark conversationalist style, was to immediately go on the offensive taking down a long list of every possible enemy in the book: those who have mired Brazil into an “anti-people agenda.” In terms of a fully improvised, passionate political address, this is already anthology material.

Lula detailed the current “terrible conditions” for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program – basically a monster sell-out – of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who’s applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.

He detailed how the Brazilian right wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo’s helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.

And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It’s no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick – all around the world.

So much for “Lula peace and love,” which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.

Lula’s prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience – turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse’s book). He’s free like he’s never been before – and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method – and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.

At least now the die is cast – and crystal clear: It’s social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for  equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as “the poster boy of the globalist Left” across the world.

This all goes way beyond Left Populism – as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, have been trying to conceptualize it. Lula, assuming he remains free, is now ready to be the supreme catalyst of an integrated, progressive, “pro-people” New Global Left.

‘Cocaine Evangelistan’

Now for the really nasty bits.

I saw Lula’s speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.

Yet snow leopards, crucially, are a species threatened with extinction.

After the speech I had serious conversations with two top interlocutors, Bern-based analyst Romulus Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, a crack authority on the Brazilian military. The picture they painted was realistically gloomy. Here it is, in a nutshell.

When I visited Brasilia last August, several informed sources confirmed that the majority of the Brazilian Supreme Court is bought and paid for. After all, they de facto legitimized all the absurdities that have been taking place in Brazil since 2014. The absurdities were part of a hyper-complex, slow-motion, rolling hybrid war coup that, under the cloak of a corruption investigation, led to the dismantling of industrial national champions such as Petrobras; the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on spurious charges; and the jailing of Lula, the work of judge, jury and executioner Sergio Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, who was completely unmasked by The Intercept’s revelations.

The Brazilian military are all over the Supreme Court. Remember, Lula’s liberation happened after a narrow 6 to 5 score. Legally, it was impossible to keep him in prison: the Supreme Court actually bothered to read the Brazilian Constitution.

But there are no structural changes whatsoever on the horizon. The project remains a Brazil sell-out – coupled with a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Brazil remains a lowly US colony. So Lula is out of jail essentially because this system allowed it.

The military abide by Bolsonaro’s abysmal incompetence because he cannot even go to the toilet without permission from General Heleno, the head of the GSI, the Brazilian version of the National Security Council. On Saturday, a scared Bolsonaro asked the top military brass for help after Lula’s release. And crucially, in a tweet, he defined Lula as a “scoundrel” who was “momentarily” free.

It’s this “momentarily” that gives away the game. Lula’s murky juridical situation is far from decided. In a harrowing but perfectly plausible short-term scenario, Lula could in fact be sent back to jail – but this time in isolation, in a maximum security federal prison, or even inside a military barracks; after all, he’s a former chief of the armed forces.

The full focus of Lula’s defense is now to have Moro disqualified. Anyone with a brain who’s been through The Intercept’s revelations can clearly identify Moro’s corruption. If that happens, and that’s a major “if,” Lula’s already existing convictions will be declared null and void. But there are others lawsuits, eight in total. This is total lawfare territory.

The military’s trump card is all about “terrorism” – associated with Lula and the Workers Party. If Lula, according to the harrowing scenario, is sent back to a federal prison, that could be in Brasilia, which not by accident holds the entire leadership of the PCC, or “First Command of the Capital”– the largest Brazilian criminal organization.

Maya and Leirner have shown how the PCC is allied with the military and the US Deep State, via their asset Moro, to establish not a Pax Brasilica but what they have described as a “Cocaine Evangelistan” – complete with terrorist false flags blamed on Lula’s command.

Leirner has exhaustively studied how the generals, for over a decade on their website, have been trying to associate the PCC with the Workers’ Party. And the association extends to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah and the Bolivians. Yes, this all comes straight from His Masters’ Voice’s playbook.

Lula, Putin and Xi

With the military betting on a strategy of chaos, augmented by Lula’s immense social base all over Brazil fuming about his return to prison and the financial bubble finally burst, rendering the middle classes even poorer, the stage would be set for the ultimate toxic cocktail: social “commotion” allied with “terrorism” associated with “organized crime.”

That’s all the military needs to launch an extensive operation to restore “order” and finally force Congress to approve the Brazilian version of the Patriot Act (five separate bills are already making their way in Congress).

This is no conspiracy theory. This is a measure of how incendiary Brazil is at the moment, and Western mainstream media will make no effort whatsoever to explain the nasty, convoluted plot for a global audience.

Leirner goes to the heart of the matter when he says the current system has no reason to retreat because its side is winning. They are not afraid of Brazil turning into Chile. And even if that ends up happening, they already have a culprit: Lula. Brazilian mainstream media are already releasing trial balloons – blaming Lula for the spike of the US dollar and the rise of inflation.

Lula and the Brazilian Left should invest in a full spectrum offensive.

The 9th BRICS summit takes place in Brazil this week. A master counter-coup would be to organize an off-the-record, extremely discreet, heavily securitized meeting among Lula, Putin and Xi Jinping, for instance in an embassy in Brasilia. Putin and Xi are Lula’s real top allies on the global stage. They have been literally waiting for Lula, as diplomats have confirmed to me over and over again.

If Lula follows a restricted script of merely reorganizing the Left, in Brazil, Latin America and even the Global South, the military system currently in place will swallow him whole all over again. The Left is infiltrated – everywhere. Now it’s total war. Assuming Lula remains free, he most certainly won’t be allowed to run again for the presidency in 2022. But that’s no problem. He’s got to be extra-bold – and he will be. Better not mess with the Steppenwolf.

BRICS Needs a Unified Front Against US Intervention in Venezuela

Image result for BRICS Needs a Unified Front Against US Intervention in Venezuela
Ramona Wadi
September 7, 2019

Venezuela’s destabilisation by the US is understood best by the countries that have faced imperialist interference. Cuba’s revolutionary process, for example, has produced consistent political solidarity with Venezuela and is actively urging countries to reconsider their stance as regards the US sanctions which are creating severe humanitarian consequences.

The recent executive order signed by US President Donald Trump encompasses all entities that do business with Venezuela, thus creating an embargo that will further isolate the nation, even as the US moves to open a “Venezuela Affairs Unit” unit in its embassy in Bogota, Colombia. The unit would engage in diplomacy with the US-backed Juan Guaido, who is recognised by the Trump administration and its allies as the purported interim Venezuelan president. Its aim, according to US Special Representative to Venezuela Elliot Abrams, is in anticipation of “the day this regime falls”.

In a report titled “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela”, it is estimated that 40,000 people have died as a result of the US-imposed sanctions from 2017 to 2018. According to the US, Venezuela poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to its national security – unfounded claims as Trump continues with overt attempts to bring down Maduro’s democratically-elected presidency.

Political pressure against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is instigated by the US, yet there is a backdrop of support from its allies in the region and, globally, from countries that spout the democracy line, even if there is nothing democratic about foreign interference.  While mostly in the background in comparison to the US, Canada has facilitated support for the Venezuelan opposition. In Europe, countries which have not explicitly backed Guaido have assumed an allegedly neutral stance which constitutes tacit agreement in terms of opposition support. The EU criticised US sanctions on Venezuela but has also threatened the country with similar punitive measures, as the European Parliament expressed its support for Guaido.

The international community is dominated by discourse that promotes foreign intervention according to the undemocratic agendas of the so-called democratic countries. Venezuela is urgently in need of a unified political strategy that stands in political solidarity against imperialist interests.

BRICS has positioned itself as one such alternative in terms of economic prospects, international security and stability. Russia and China have repeatedly affirmed their support for Maduro. South Africa and India have likewise followed suit. On the other hand, Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro is preventing BRICS from promoting a political discourse that fully repudiates US interference in Venezuela.

Contrary to the rest of the BRICS countries, Brazil recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and it has expressed support for the international community to pay heed to “Venezuela’s cries for freedom”. Brazil has also adopting measures in line with the Lima Group, as well as prohibited Maduro and other senior Venezuelan officials from entering Brazil.

At the G20 summit in Japan, BRICS stated it supported dialogue between Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition to reach a solution. Yet the call is marred by the political divide between Brazil and the other BRICS members. This lack of consensus, including the divergence in terms of recognition of who is Venezuela’s legitimate leader, weakens its political diplomacy in the international arena. As Brazil aligns with the US, although reportedly holding back from endorsing military intervention in Venezuela, It is moving away from one of the organisation’s main aims, which is to establish itself in opposition to capitalist and imperialist exploitation.

In a recent interview, former Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva expressed his disappointment at BRICS not moving further politically. “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defence, but to be an instrument of attack.” If this momentum is to be built, BRICS needs to find equilibrium in its politics, rather than allow itself to be swayed into a seemingly neutral position due to the US allegiances of Brazil under Bolsonaro. It is not enough to preach dialogue like the rest of the international community have done while weakening Venezuela’s autonomy. BRICS must evaluate its relevance, especially when it comes to one of its members demonstrating political opportunism that is contrary to the group’s aims.

BRICS was created as a tool of attack: Lula

August 30, 2019

by Pepe Escobar, Curitiba, Brazil – posted with permission

Former Brazilian leader wishes emerging economies were closer, recalls Obama ‘crashing’ Copenhagen climate meet

Former Brazilian leader Lula holds hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, at the BRICS summit in Brasilia on April 15, 2010. Lula wishes his country had a strategic partnership with Beijing. Photo: Dida Sampaio /Agencia Estado

In a wide-ranging, two-hour-plus, exclusive interview from a prison room in Curitiba in southern Brazil, former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva re-emerged for the first time, after more than 500 days in jail, and sent a clear message to the world.

Amid the 24/7 media frenzy of scripted sound bites and “fake news”, it’s virtually impossible to find a present or former head of state anywhere, in a conversation with journalists, willing to speak deep from his soul, to comment on all current political developments and relish telling stories about the corridors of power. And all that while still in prison.

The first part of this mini-series focused on the Amazon. Here, we will focus on Brazil’s relationship with BRICS and Beijing. BRICS is the grouping of major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – that formed in 2006 and then included South Africa in their annual meetings from 2010.

My first question to Lula was about BRICS and the current geopolitical chessboard, with the US facing a Russia-China strategic partnership. As president, from 2003 to 2010, Lula was instrumental in formatting and expanding the influence of BRICS – in sharp contrast with Brazil’s current President, Jair Bolsonaro, who appears to be convinced that China is a threat.

Lula stressed that Brazil should have been getting closer to China in a mirror process of what occurred between Russia and China: “When there was a BRICS summit here in Ceará state in Brazil, I told comrade Dilma [Rousseff, the former president] that we should organize a pact like the Russia-China pact. A huge pact giving the Chinese part of what they wanted, which was Brazil’s capacity to produce food and energy and also the capacity to have access to technological knowledge. Brazil needed a lot of infrastructure. We needed high-speed rail, many things. But in the end that did not happen.”

Lula defined his top priorities as he supported the creation of BRICS: economic autonomy, and uniting a group of nations capable of helping what the Washington consensus describes as LDCs – least developed countries.

He emphasized: “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defense, but to be an instrument of attack. So we could create our own currency to become independent from the US dollar in our trade relations; to create a development bank, which we did – but it is still too timid – to create something strong capable of helping the development of the poorest parts of the world.”

Former Brazilian leader Lula speaks from a room in a prison in southern Brazil. Photo: Editora Brasil 247

Lula made an explicit reference to the United States’ fears about a new currency:

“This was the logic behind BRICS, to do something different and not copy anybody. The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the US dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”

One can imagine how this went down in Washington.

Obama may have been trying to warn Lula that the US ‘Deep State’ would never allow BRICS to invest in a currency or basket of currencies to bypass the US dollar. Later on, Vladimir Putin and Erdogan would warn President Dilma – before she was impeached – that Brazil would be mercilessly targeted. In the end, the leadership of the Workers’ Party was caught totally unprepared by a conjunction of sophisticated hybrid-war techniques.

One of the largest economies in the world was taken over by hardcore neoliberals, practically without any struggle. Lula confirmed it in the interview, saying: “We should look at where we got it wrong.”

Lula also hit a note of personal disappointment. He expected much more from BRICS.

“I imagined a more aggressive BRICS, more proactive and more creative. ‘The Soviet empire has already fallen; let’s create a democratic empire.’ I think we made some advances, but we advanced slowly. BRICS should be much stronger by now.”

Lula, Obama and China

It’s easy to imagine how what has followed went down in Beijing. That explains to a great extent the immense respect Lula enjoys among the Chinese leadership. And it’s also relevant to the current global debate about what’s happening in the Amazon. Let just Lula tell the story in his own, inimitable, Garcia Marquez-tinged way.

“One thing that the Chinese must remember, a lot of people were angry in Brazil when I recognized China as a market economy. Many of my friends were against it. But I said, ‘No, I want the Chinese at the negotiating table, not outside. Is there any discord? Put them inside the WTO, let’s legalize everything.’ I know that [Chinese President] Hu Jintao was much pleased.

“Another thing we did with China was at the COP-15 [Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Copenhagen in 2009. Let me tell you something: I arrived at COP-15 and there was a list of people requesting audiences with me – Angela Markel, Sarkozy, Gordon Brown; Obama had already called twice – and I didn’t know why I was important. What did they all want? They all wanted us to agree, at COP-15, that China was the prime polluting evil on earth. Sarkozy came to talk to me with a cinematographic assembly line, there were 30 cameras, a real show: Lula accusing China. Then I had a series of meetings and I told them all, ‘Look, I know China is polluting. But who is going to pay for the historical pollution you perpetrated before China polluted? Where is the history commission to analyze English industrialization?’’

“Then something fantastic happened. An agreement was not in sight, I wanted Sarkozy to talk to Ahmadinejad – later I’ll tell you this thing about Iran [he did, later in the interview]. Ahmadinejad did not go to our dinner, so there was no meeting. But then, we were discussing, discussing, and I told Celso [Amorim, Brazil’s Foreign Minister], ‘Look,  Celso, there’s a problem, this meeting will end without an agreement, and they are going to blame Brazil, China, India, Russia. We need to find a solution.’ Then I proposed that Celso call the Chinese and set up a parallel meeting. That was between Brazil, China, India and perhaps South Africa. Russia, I think, was not there. And in this meeting, imagine our surprise when Hillary Clinton finds out about it and tries to get inside the meeting. The Chinese didn’t let her. All these Chinese, so nervous behind the door, and then comes Obama. Obama wanted to get in and the Chinese didn’t let him. China was being represented by Jiabao [Wen Jiabao, the prime minister].

Lula and US President Barack Obama, on left, attend a meeting with Chinese and other leaders in Copenhagen in December 2009 at the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. AFP / Jewel Samad

“Then we let Obama in, Obama said, ‘I’m gonna sit down beside my friend Lula so I won’t be attacked here.’ So he sat by my side and started to talk about the agreement, and we said there is no agreement. And then there was this Chinese, a negotiator, he was so angry at Obama, he was standing up, speaking in Mandarin, nobody understood anything, we asked for a translation, Jiabao did not allow it, but the impression, by his gesticulation, was that the Chinese was hurling all sorts of names at Obama, he talked aggressively, pointing his finger, and Obama said, ‘He is angry.’ The Brazilian ambassador, who said she understood a little bit of Mandarin – she said he used some pretty heavy words.

“The concrete fact is that in this meeting we amassed a great deal of credibility, because we refused to blame the Chinese. I remember a plenary session where Sarkozy, Obama and myself were scheduled to speak. I was the last speaker. When I arrived at the plenary there was nothing, not a thing written on a piece of paper. I told one of my aides, please go out, prepare a few talking points for me, and when he left the room they called me to speak; they had inverted the schedule. I was very nervous. But that day I made a good speech. It got a standing ovation. I don’t know what kind of nonsense I said [laughs]. Then Obama started speaking. He didn’t have anything to say. So there was this mounting rumor in the plenary: He ended up making a speech that no one noticed. And then with Sarkozy, the same thing.

“What I had spoken about was the role of Brazil in the environmental question. I’ll get someone from the Workers’ Party to find this speech for you. The new trend in Brazil is to try to compare policies between myself and Bolsonaro. You cannot accept his line that NGOs are setting fire to the Amazon. Those burning the Amazon are his voters, businessmen, people with very bad blood, people who want to kill indigenous tribes, people who want to kill the poor.”

 

Lula tells world he’s back in the game from jail

Meanwhile, fires rage in the Amazon and Brazilian President Bolsonaro has become a target of global indignation.

By Pepe Escobar from Brazil – posted with permission

Former president Lula speaks with reporters from a prison room in Curitiba in southern Brazil. Photo: Editora Brasil 247

Brazil has always been a land of superlatives. Yet nothing beats the current, perverse configuration: a world statesman lingers in jail while a clownish thug is in power, his antics now considered a threat to the whole planet.

In a wide-ranging, two-hour, world exclusive interview out of a prison room at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva not only made the case to global public opinion for his innocence in the whole Car Wash corruption saga, confirmed by the bombshell leaks revealed by The Intercept, but also repositioned himself to resume his status as a global leader. Arguably sooner rather than later – depending on a fateful, upcoming decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court, for which Justice is not exactly blind.

The request for the interview was entered five months ago. Lula talked to journalists Mauro Lopes, Paulo Moreira Leite and myself, representing in all three cases the website Brasil247 and in my case Asia Times. A rough cut, with only one camera focusing on Lula, was released this past Thursday, the day of the interview. A full, edited version, with English subtitles, targeting global public opinion, should be released by the end of the week.

Asia Times writer Pepe Escobar, front left with scarf, meets Lula in prison. Photo: Editora Brazil 247

Lula is a visible embodiment of Nietzsche’s maxim: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Fully fit (he hits the treadmill at least two hours a day), sharp, with plenty of time to read (his most recent was an essay on Alexander von Humboldt), he exhibited his trademark breadth, reach and command of multiple issues – sometimes rolled out as if part of a Garcia Marquez fantastic realism narrative.

The former president lives in a three-by-three-meter cell, with no bars, with the door open but always two Federal policemen outside, with no access to the internet or cable TV. One of his aides dutifully brings him a pen drive every day crammed with political news, and departs with myriad messages and letters.

The interview is even more astonishing when placed in the literally incendiary context of current Brazilian politics, actively flirting with a hybrid form of semi-dictatorship. While Lula talks essentials and is clearly recovering his voice, even in jail, President Jair Bolsonaro has framed himself as a target of global indignation, widely regarded as a threat to humanity that must be contained.

It’s all about the Day of Fire

Cut to the G7 in Biarritz: at best a sideshow, a talk-shop where the presumably liberal West basks in its lavish impotence to deal with serious global issues without the presence of leaders from the Global South.

And that brings us to the literally burning issue of Amazon forest fires. In our interview, Lula went straight to the point: by noting the absolute responsibility of Bolsonaro’s voter base.

The G7 did nothing but echo Lula’s words, with French President Emmanuel Macron stressing how NGOs and multiple judicial actors, for years, have been raising the question of defining an international statute for the Amazon – which Bolsonaro’s policies, single-handedly, have propelled to the top of the global agenda.

Yet the G7’s offer of an immediate $20 million aid package to help Amazon nations to fight wildfires and then launch a global initiative to protect the giant forest barely amounts to a raindrop.

[Brazil, after this article was written, rejected the proffered aid from G7 countries, with a top official telling France’s President Macron on Monday to take care of “his home and his colonies,” AFP reported. “Maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told the G1 news website. “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a World Heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?” He was referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame Cathedral. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said. -eds.]

A fire burns out of control after spreading onto a farm in Nova Santa Helena in northern Mato Grosso State, in the southern Amazon basin in Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Photo: Joao Laet / AFP

Significantly, US President Donald Trump did not even attend the G7 session that covered climate change, attacks on the biodiversity and oceans – and Amazon deforestation. No wonder Paris simply gave up issuing a joint statement at the end of the summit.

In our interview, Lula stressed his landmark role at the Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Not only that, he told the inside story of how the negotiations proceeded, and how he intervened to defend China from US accusations of being the world’s largest polluter.

At the time Lula said: “It’s not necessary to fell a single tree in the Amazon to grow soybeans or for cattle grazing. If anyone is doing it, that is a crime – and a crime against the Brazilian economy.”

COP-15 was supposed to advance the targets established by the Kyoto Protocol, which were expiring in 2010. But the summit failed after the US – and the EU – refused to raise their projections of CO2 reduction while blaming Global South actors.

In a sharp contrast with Lula, Bolsonaro’s project actually amounts to a non-creative destruction of Brazilian assets such as the Amazon for the interests he represents.

Now the Bolsonaro clan is blaming the government’s own Cabinet of Institutional Security (GSI, in Portuguese) – the equivalent of the National Security Council – led by General Augusto Heleno, for failing to evaluate the scope and gravity of the current Amazon forest fires.

Heleno, incidentally, is on record defending a life sentence for Lula.

A Brazilian protests in Curitiba on August 23, 2019, against the spate of forest fires in the Amazon, with images of the people he blames: US President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Photo: Henry Milleo / dpa

Still, that does not tell the whole story – even as Bolsonaro himself also kept blaming “NGOs” for the fires.

The real story confirms what Lula said in the interview. On August 10, a group of 70 wealthy farmers, all Bolsonaro voters, organized on WhatsApp a “Day of Fire” in the Altamira region in the vast state of Pará.

This happens to be the region with the highest number of wildfires in Brazil – infested with aggressive rural developers who are devoted to massive, hardcore deforestation; they’re invested in land occupation and a no-quarter war against landless peasants and small agricultural producers. “Day of Fire” was supposed to support Bolsonaro’s drive to finish off with official monitoring and erase fines over one of the “Bs” of the BBB lobby that elected him (Beef, Bullet, Bible).

Lula was evidently well informed: “You just need to look at the satellite photos, know who’s the landowner and go after him to know who’s burning. If the landowner did not complain, did not go to the police to tell them his land was burning, that’s because he’s responsible.”

On the road with the Pope

A vicious, post-truth, hybrid-war strategy may be at play in Brazil. Two days after the Lula interview, a fateful paella took place in Brasilia at the vice-presidential palace, with Bolsonaro meeting all the top generals including Vice President Hamilton Mourao. Independent analysts are seriously considering a working hypothesis of the sell-out of Brazil using global concern about the Amazon, the whole process veiled by fake nationalist rhetoric.

That would fit the recent pattern of selling the national aviation champion Embraer, privatizing large blocks of pre-salt reserves and leasing the Alcantara satellite-launching base to the United States. Brazilian sovereignty over the Amazon is definitely hanging in the balance.

Considering the wealth of information in Lula’s interview, not to mention his storytelling of how the corridors of power really work, Asia Times will publish further specific stories featuring Pope Francis, the BRICS, Bush and Obama, Iran, the UN and global governance. This was Lula’s first interview in jail where he has felt relaxed enough to relish telling stories about international relations.

What was clear is that Lula is Brazil’s only possible factor of stability. He’s ready, has an agenda not only for the nation but the world. He said that as soon as he leaves, he’ll hit the streets – and cash in frequent flyer miles: he wants to embark alongside Pope Francis on a global campaign against hunger, neoliberal destruction and the rise of neo-fascism.

Now compare a true statesman in jail with an incendiary thug roaming his own labyrinth.

Amazonia in Flames – Brazil’s Bolsonaro is a World Criminal – Encouraging Jungle Burning for Private Exploitation of Freed Land

August 25, 2019

Amazonia in Flames – Brazil’s Bolsonaro is a World Criminal – Encouraging Jungle Burning for Private Exploitation of Freed Land

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

On 28 October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil with 55.1% of the vote – and with a gigantic help from Cambridge Analytica.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2019 in Davos Switzerland, Bolsonaro made a sumptuous presentation, “We Are Building a New Brazil”. He outlined a program that put literally Brazil up for sale, and especially the Brazilian part of Amazonia. He was talking particularly about Brazil’s water resources, the world’s largest, and the rain forest – offering a huge potential for agricultural development and mining.

None of the world leaders present at the WEF, precisely those that regularly meet pretending to save the planet, reacted to Bolsonaro’s statement on the Amazon region. They all new who Bolsonaro was and is – they knew that the man had no scruples and would destroy – literally – the world’s lungs. They did nothing. They stayed silent in words and deeds, applauding the neonazi for his openness to international business and globalization.

Today, on the occasion of another similar world event, the meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France, French President Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying when he talked and pledged environmental consciousness after taking office, about protecting the Amazon area. Macron was joined by Germany in threatening Brazil with canceling the trade agreement with Mercosur, if he would not immediately undertake to stop the “wildfires”. They have most likely nothing to do with ‘wild’ – as they according to all circumstantial evidence were planted in a concerted effort to rid the rich Amazon territory of the life-sustaining jungle, so as to make the newly gained flame-deforested land accessible for private agri-business and mining.

Mind you, the G7 is another self-appointed totally illegal group of industrialized, rich countries (similar to the G20); illegal, because they have been approved by nobody, not by the UN or any international body. They became rich mostly on the back of poor developing nations that were and are still colonized for hundreds of years. The G7 count today about 10% of the world population and are controlling 40% of the globe’s GDP.

Despite the fact that nobody, other than themselves ratified their existence and their machinations, they believe they can call the shots of how the world should turn and function. They have no official backing by anybody, especially not the people across the globe, who, with a vast majority are fighting globalization. It’s a useless structure – RT refers to them as “The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7” – but their power lays in the rest of the world’s silence – their silent acceptance of the G7’s arrogant wielding of the scepter of power.

So, would Bolsonaro take them seriously, knowing that he is one of them and they are fully sharing his ideology of profit first, shoving environmental and social values down the muddy waters of the Amazon River? Hardly. He knows they are hypocrites. He knows that they make a bit of noise, because they have to. It makes for good public relation and propaganda – so people don’t go on the barricades. He knows that starting this coming Monday, 26 August, when the G7 summit will be history, that anything the Macrons of this world so impressively said, will fade away. The media will concentrate on other ‘news’ – and the forest fires will burn the life stream of Amazonia away – to make room for corporate profit making by the elite few.

Never mind the Constitutional protection of indigenous people and their land, Bolsonaro backed by evangelists and his military junta will rapidly dismantle any remaining protection for the ecosystem and native communities. His argument goes that the native people’s land is sitting on huge reserves of natural resources that belong to Brazil and may be concessioned to private corporations for mining, exploitation of agriculture and lumber.

The indigenous folks are people who have for thousands of years made a peaceful living in the Amazon. They are the gatekeepers of Amazonia; they are the people who may carry our genes from the present killer civilization to the next, hopefully less of a killer one, when mankind has finally managed to destroy itself. It will not destroy the planet. Never. The planet will just get rid of the nefarious elements of annihilation – mankind – and renew itself. As has happened many times in the past – a new civilization will eventually be born – and, yes, the world’s indigenous people, the likely only survivors, may carry on our DNA, possibly to the next attempt at humanity.

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The fires have so far in about 20 days since they were discovered, consumed at least 74,000 ha of tropical rain forest. The smoke is already trespassing the border to Argentina and affecting the provinces of Formosa, Jujuy, Corrientes, Catamarca, La Rioja, Santa Fe and may have already reached Buenos Aires. NASA reports that about 3.2 million square kilometers of South America are covered by smoke.

The flames are massive and are devastating the jungle at a rapid pace. Amazonia comprises one of the world’s largest rainforests, also known as Mother Earth’s lungs – without which humanity – and fauna and flora might not survive.

According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the fires increased by 83% – almost double – from what they were last year, and, not coincidentally, at least 68% of protected areas have been affected. The Brazilian Space Research spotted 72,000 fires, of which 9,000 last week alone. The Amazon is home to 34 million people, including over 350 indigenous groups.

At the onset of the G7 conference, Mr. Macron twittered: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

The destruction of the Amazon is indeed a crime of first degree. Accordingly, there are protests around the world against Bolsonaro’s “free for all” mining, lumbering, land and water grabbing policies. The eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion (XR) organize widespread protests, and in front of London’s Brazilian Embassy protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bolsonaro’s got to go!”.

While the Brazil fires catch world attention, there are jungle fires even larger than those in Amazonia burning down other parts of the world’s oxygen-generating lungs. Bloomberg cites NASA data, according to which last Thursday and Friday, 22 an 23 August – in two days alone – more than 6,900 fires were recorded in Angola and about 3,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 5 times as many as in the same two days in the Brazilian Amazon region. The destruction of the jungle in Africa progresses virtually unnoticed and is hardly reported in western media. Bloomberg is an exception. Whys is that?

Could it be that the same globalized corporations interested in Brazil’s natural resources underlaying the Amazon forests, are also interested in those enormous reserves of minerals and hydrocarbon resources of Central Africa? Have they – DRC, Angola and possibly others been encouraged tacitly or directly by Bolsonaro and his clan to let the jungle burn? There are plenty of Brazilian corporations which have a vivid interest in Angola, another former Portuguese colony.

Despite the G7 apparent concern to protect the world’s lungs in Amazonia, they seem to be oblivious about the Central African rain forest devastation. The massive African fires too advance rapidly and extinguish another part of the world’s lungs. But these fires are not on the G7 radar, or agenda for discussion, and nobody is threatened with sanctioning if the respective governments remain hapless onlookers.

In 2008, a so-called Amazon Fund, the first UN REDD+ initiative for the protection, preservation and monitoring of the Amazon region was created (UN REDD+ = reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

Germany and Norway – and others – have accused Brazil for not having properly invested their contribution into the Fund. Norway has recently blocked a payment of US$ 30 million destined for the Fund. Germany had blocked already in early August the equivalent of US$ 39 million for different Amazon protection programs to be financed by the Fund. But Bolsonaro, in a nonchalant manner dismissed the blocked payments, suggesting that Germany should use the funds for reforestation of Germany.

In the case of Brazil, the threats by the Macron-Merkel duo – and others – seem to have had at least at the outset the effect that Bolsonaro is mobilizing the military to help extinguish the fires. Will he succeed? – Does he want to succeed? – In any case will the media continue reporting on progress once the G7 have gone home? – Will the world’s outcry be loud enough to force a concerted effort, possibly UN led – to fight and extinguish these fires that are menacing not only to destroy a key oxygen generator for life on mother earth, but also a UNESCO protected world heritage?

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.  Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Macron screams ‘fire!’ on a crowded planet as burning Amazon serves as ultimate G7 smokescreen

Image result for Macron screams ‘fire!’ on a crowded planet as burning Amazon serves as ultimate G7 smokescreen

Robert Bridge
August 24, 2019

Any chance of the seven most industrialized eco-trashers preventing the Amazon from going up in smoke is a bit like hoping Hollywood executives will find a way to stop sex and violence from appearing on the big screen. It’s probably not going to happen. The G7 wants to keep filling the seats for a show called ‘Capitalism’ and come next week few will remember the French president’s fiery, self-serving outburst.

For those dozen or so people who still have not been shunned, shadow-banned or otherwise disappeared from Twitter, you may have heard about Emmanuel Macron’s latest Napoleon impersonation on the global soap box.

“Our house is burning. Literally,” the former Rothschild investment banker warned in a tweet that carried the disturbing photo of a lush chunk of rainforest being engulfed in an inferno. “The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!

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Once again, the French leader’s arrogance – he once told an unemployed man he could find work if he “crossed the street,” and referred to Paris protesters as “slackers” – is exceeded only by his stellar stupidity. By way of example, notice how his apocalyptic tweet didn’t begin with a diplomatic, ‘Dear Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, we really need to talk.’ Instead, Macron completely ignored the leader of the world’s fifth most-populated country, directing his ‘Brazil is burning’ meme to the G7 (Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US). And make no mistake about it, there is cause for concern.

Satellite data released by the National Institute for Space research (Inpe) shows an increase of 85 percent this year in fires across Brazil, the majority in the Amazon region, which is crucial for absorbing a hefty part of consumer society’s massive carbon footprint. Such information will not play well with a public already feeling the effects of climate change.

Unfortunately, however, Macron’s very undiplomatic approach to a very serious problem caused the horses to stumble right out of the gates. In keeping with the technological tendencies of the times, Bolsonaro immediately fired up his own Twitter account, responding to Macron in equally coarse fashion.

“I regret that President Macron seeks to instrumentalize an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,” the Brazilian leader wrote. “The sensationalist tone with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem.”

Bolsonaro even saw in Macron’s flatfooted remark a modern form of colonialism, which Brazil knows about firsthand.

“The French President’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century,” he wrote with some justification.

Macron, despite being infected with an elitist lack of self-awareness, probably knew what he was doing anyways.  By ignoring Brazil’s voice in a matter intimately connected to its own sovereignty, Macron managed to make a somewhat aggressive overture to BRICS, the economic powerhouse comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Presently, there is fierce competition between the G7 and BRICS for a shrinking slab of global pie that is not often discussed in polite society. Suffice it to mention the deepening trade war unfolding between China and the United States, as well as the reckless, politically motivated Western sanctions slapped on Russian companies.

At the same time, Emmanuel Macron, picking up where so many other French leaders before him have left off, is revisiting the dream of turning France into some sort of regional political power that somehow always looks more like a bed and breakfast boutique. Just this week, Macron hosted Vladimir Putin at Fort de Bregancon, the official residence of the French president, followed up with a meeting with newly elected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the question of Brexit. Now, with Macron set to play host to the G7 this week in Biarritz, he probably felt sufficiently empowered to jostle Brazil.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– Lamento que o presidente Macron busque instrumentalizar uma questão interna do Brasil e de outros países amazônicos p/ ganhos políticos pessoais. O tom sensacionalista com que se refere à Amazônia (apelando até p/ fotos falsas) não contribui em nada para a solução do problema.

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Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– Lamento que o presidente Macron busque instrumentalizar uma questão interna do Brasil e de outros países amazônicos p/ ganhos políticos pessoais. O tom sensacionalista com que se refere à Amazônia (apelando até p/ fotos falsas) não contribui em nada para a solução do problema.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– O Governo brasileiro segue aberto ao diálogo, com base em dados objetivos e no respeito mútuo. A sugestão do presidente francês, de que assuntos amazônicos sejam discutidos no G7 sem a participação dos países da região, evoca mentalidade colonialista descabida no século XXI.

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As such, Macron missed a golden opportunity – if he really sought one in the first place – to mediate on a global issue of truly significant import. After all, it is hard to underestimate the necessity of protecting the world’s largest tropical rainforest. In addition to serving as the ‘lungs of the planet,’ the Amazon, through its immense biodiversity, is the fountainhead of medical remedies, many of which remain undiscovered. Only a fool would be unmoved by the wanton destruction of this life-supporting ecosystem.

Macron could have achieved something truly historic – hammering out a global initiative for protecting the Amazon – by inviting Jair Bolsonaro to the G7 as guest of honor. The Brazilian leader, overwhelmed by the outpouring of international attention and respect, would have been much more likely to agree to some immediate plan of action, like an international assembly of firefighters. After all, Bolsonaro has already admitted that Brazil lacks the necessary resources to protect the Amazon, which exceeds Europe in sheer size.

Instead, Macron behaved once again with supreme arrogance, humiliating Bolsonaro instead of placating him, thereby creating a schism between the international community and Brasilia that will further complicate any future effort at saving the Amazon, and even the planet.

It is almost as if Emmanuel Macron, who has been hounded by endless weeks of demonstrations by Yellow Vest protesters, who plan to convene on Bairritz during the G7, used the Amazon fires as a convenient smokescreen to conceal more burning issues closer to home. In that sense, Macron’s effort to politicize Brazil’s raging rainforest fires when the world’s attention will be focused on France is understandable, yet no less deplorable.

China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

July 23, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

China is South America’s top trading partner. Together, China’s policy banks – the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China – are the top source of development finance for the whole of Latin America. 

Over the past few decades, the Brazilian government, leading national companies and multinational corporations have configured what Fernando Mires, already in 1990, defined as the “Amazon mode of production”: a terribly predatory, technological-intensive mode of production and destruction, including subjugation of indigenous populations in slave-based working conditions, with everything geared for export to global markets.

The Amazon is spread out over 6.5 million square kilometers covering two-fifths of Latin America – half of Peru, a third of Colombia, a great deal of Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname, and most of all, 3.5 million square kilometers in Brazil.

The original population diversity was staggering. Before the arrival of the Europeans in Brazil in 1500, there were no less than 1,400 tribes, 60% of them in the Amazon. Ethnologists marveled that nowhere else in the world compared to the linguistic diversity in tropical South America.

The Tupi-guarani tribe even constituted a sort of “empire”, occupying a huge territory from the Andes to the Pampas in southern Brazil. A sort of “proto-state” traded with the Andes and the Caribbean. This all laid to rest the Western-peddled myth of a “savage”, un-civilized Amazon.

Now let’s fast-forward to the current Western outcry over the Jair Bolsonaro government’s destruction of the Amazon.

Brazil, still under the second presidential term of Dilma Rousseff – later impeached under spurious charges – was a signatory of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. Article 5 of the agreement rules that parties “should take action” to preserve endangered forests. Brasilia pledged to protect the Amazon by restoring 12 million hectares of forests by 2030.   

And yet under Bolsonaro, “should take action” metastasized into “reverse previous action.” The new mantra is “Amazon development.” In fact, a turbo-charged and even more predatory 2.0 version of the “Amazon mode of production,” much to the horror of Western environmentalists, who fear an imminent transformation of the Amazon into a dry savanna, with dire consequences for the whole planet.

Staggering natural wealth

The Brazilian Army is fond of noting that the Amazon’s natural wealth has been evaluated at a staggering $23 trillion. This is a 2017 figure announced by General Eduardo Villas Boas, who added: “Brazil is a highly endowed individual imprisoned in the body of a teenager. The Amazon is practically abandoned, there’s no national project and density of thinking.”

In fact, there is a national (military) project to “develop” the Amazon at breakneck pace, while preventing, by all means, the “Balkanization of the Amazon” and the action of Western NGOs.

In April this year, one of Bolsonaro’s sons posted a video of Dad engaged in a “surprising” conversation with four indigenous people in Brasilia.

A deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle found in Para state, Brazil in 2014. Greenpeace said trucks carried illegally felled trees to sawmills at night, which were later exported. Photo: AFP / Raphael Alves

Top anthropologist Piero Leirner – a specialist on the Brazilian military and their activities in the Amazon – explains the context. The Bolsonaro government carefully picked four natives involved in the business of soybeans and mining. They spoke for themselves. Immediately after, an official indigenous people association released a letter disowning them. “That was classic Divide and Conquer,” Leirner argued. “Nobody paid attention to the letter. For most of Brazil, the case was closed in terms of ‘social communication’ – solidifying the government’s narrative of NGOs fighting for the internationalization of the Amazon.”

Mining giants in Brazil would rather have indigenous peoples as spokespersons instead of the military. In fact, it’s a maze of interlocking interests – as in captains and colonels in business with mining entrepreneurs acting in protected indigenous areas.

What happened during these past few years is that most indigenous peoples ended up figuring out they cannot win – whatever the scenario. As Leirner explained: “Belo Monte [the world’s third-largest dam] unveiled the real game: in the end, the dam practically works to the benefit of mining companies, and opened space for Belo Sun, which will excavate the whole of Xingu in search of gold.”

So that’s the perverse project inbuilt in the “development of the Amazon” – to turn indigenous peoples into a sub-proletarian workforce in mining operations.

And then there’s the crucial – for the industrialized West – niobium angle (a metal known for its hardness). Roughly 78% of Brazilian niobium reserves are located in the southeast, not in the Amazon, which accounts at best for 18%. The abundance of niobium in Brazil will last all the way to 2200 – even taking into consideration non-stop, exponential Chinese GDP growth. But the Amazon is not about niobium. It’s about gold – to be duly shipped to the West.

Rolling down the river

Bolsonaro is keen to bring roads, bridges and hydroelectric plants to the most remote areas of the Amazon. Under the “sovereignty” mantra, he has promised to impose the hand of the state in the strategic Triple-A area – Amazon, Andes, Atlantic Ocean – thus countering the alleged intent of Western NGOs of creating an independent strip for environmental preservation.

So, how does China fit into the Amazon puzzle? A recent report addresses some of the hard questions. 

Since last year, Beijing officially started to consider the whole of Latin America as a “natural extension” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as an “indispensable partner.” That was spelled out by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 2018 China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Ministerial Forum.

All of BRI’s guidelines now apply – and that includes the Amazon: policy cooperation, infrastructure development, investment and trade facilitation, financial integration, and cultural and social exchange.

China’s internal green drive – restricting coal production, supporting solar panel factories, remaking Hainan island into an eco-development zone – will have to be translated into its projects in the Amazon. That means Chinese companies will need to pay extremely close attention to local communities, especially indigenous people. And that also means that the Chinese will be under intense scrutiny by Western NGOs.

Brazil may have ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, which enshrines the rights of indigenous communities to be consulted by the state on decisions that directly affect them.

Yet with less than seven months of Bolsonaro in power, all that is in effect null and void.

Indigenous people call for demarcation of lands in Sao Paulo in January 2019. People around the world have voiced concern over the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: AFP / Cris Faga / NurPhoto

There’s slim hope that an exhaustive set of guidelines for large projects in the Amazon established by the Center of Sustainability Studies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, linked to the World Bank, may be respected by the government. But no one is holding their breath.

Key projects with Chinese involvement include the Amazon waterway in Peru, which featured prior consultations with over 400 indigenous villages, according to the government in Lima.

But most of all there’s the $2.8 billion, under construction 2,500 km-long Belo Monte Transmission Line, with an installed capacity of 11.2 gigawatts. China’s State Grid is part of the consortium, with financing coming from the Brazilian National Development Bank. The first and second transmission lines directly affect the Amazon ecosystem and run near 10 conservation areas and an array of ethnic groups.

The “China in the Amazon” report correctly notes that “Chinese companies are not well attuned to the importance of direct engagement with local non-governmental stakeholders, and have faced repeated costs, work stoppages, and delays as a result. Chinese deference to host-country policies should extend to the commitments by host countries to international treaties and law, such as ILO 169 and its standard of free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples. Indigenous organizations and civil society organizations in the Amazon region have a long and strong trajectory of actively participating in government decisions relating to the use of indigenous territories and natural resources.”

The report suggests establishing a “multidisciplinary working group comprised of NGOs, local indigenous groups, academics, and scientists to review existing principles and standards” for sustainable infrastructure projects.

The chances of this being adopted by the Bolsonaro administration and endorsed by the Brazilian military are less than zero. The Big Picture in Brazil under Bolsonaro spells out neocolonial dependence, over-exploitation of workers, not to mention indigenous peoples, and the complete expropriation of Brazilian natural wealth.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech at Davos in January. His policies are seen as a major threat to forests in the Amazon. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Only a pawn in their game

China may be Brazil’s top trade partner. But Beijing must tread carefully – and strictly enforce BRI guidelines when it comes to projects especially involving the Amazon.

There’s no way the UN Security Council, with climate change in mind, would ever sanction Brazil for the destruction of the Amazon. France and Britain would be for it. But Russia and China – both BRICS members – would certainly abstain, and the US under Trump would vote against it.

Brazil is now a privileged pawn in the most important geopolitical game of the 21st century: the clash between the US and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The last thing Beijing needs in terms of global public relations is to be branded as an accomplice in the destruction of the Amazon.

Russia-India-China share a room with a view

July 01, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

Russia-India-China share a room with a view

The most important trilateral at the G20 in Osaka was confined to a shoddy environment unworthy of Japan’s unrivaled aesthetic minimalism.

Japan excels in perfect planning and execution. So it’s hard to take this setup as an unfortunate “accident.” At least the – unofficial – Russia-India-China summit at the sidelines of the G20 transcended the fate of an interior decorator deserving to commit seppuku.

Leaders of these three countries met in virtual secrecy. The very few media representatives present in the shabby room were soon invited to leave. Presidents Putin, Xi and Modi were flanked by streamlined teams who barely found enough space to sit down. There were no leaks. Cynics would rather joke that the room may have been bugged anyway. After all, Xi is able to call Putin and Modi to Beijing anytime he wants to discuss serious business.

New Delhi is spinning that Modi took the initiative to meet in Osaka. That’s not exactly the case. Osaka is a culmination of a long process led by Xi and Putin to seduce Modi into a serious Eurasia integration triangular road map, consolidated at their previous meeting last month at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek.

Now Russia-India-China (RIC) is fully back in business; the next meeting is set for the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.

In their introductory remarks, Putin, Xi and Modi made it clear that RIC is all about configuring, in Putin’s words, an “indivisible security architecture” for Eurasia.

Modi – very much in a Macron vein – stressed the multilateral effort to fight climate change, and complained that the global economy is being ruled by a “one-sided” dictate, emphasizing the necessity of a reform of the World Trade Organization.

Putin went a step ahead, insisting, “our countries are in favor of preserving the system of international relations, whose core is the UN Charter and the rule of law. We uphold such important principles of interstate relations as respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs.”

Putin clearly underlined the geopolitical interconnection of the UN, BRICS, SCO and G20, plus “strengthening the authority of the WTO” and the International Monetary Fund as the “paragon of a modern and just multipolar world that denies sanctions as legitimate actions.”

The Russia-India-China contrast with the Trump administration could not be starker.

Those ‘tremendous assets’

BRICS, as it stands, is dead. There was an “official,” pro-forma BRICS meeting before the RIC. But it’s no secret both Putin and Xi completely distrust Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, regarded as a Trump neocolonial asset.

Ahead of his bilateral with Trump, Bolsonaro peddled Brazil’s mineral wealth, claiming the country may now export “niobium trinkets.”

Well, that’s certainly less controversial than the Brazilian military sherpa arrested in Spain for carrying industrial quantities of cocaine (36kg) in the presidential plane, definitely ruining the after-hours party time in Osaka.

Later on, Trump eagerly praised Brazil’s “tremendous assets,” now being fully privatized to the benefit of US companies.

Xi, as he addressed the BRICS meeting, denounced protectionism and called for a stronger WTO. BRICS nations, he said, should “increase our resilience and capability to cope with external risks.”

Putin went one up. Apart from denouncing protectionist tendencies in global trade, he called for bilateral trade in national currencies bypassing the US dollar – mirroring a commitment by the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Russia-China, via Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and head of the People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, have signed an agreement to switch to rubles and yuan in bilateral trade, starting with energy and agriculture, and increase cross-currency settlements by 50% in the next few years.

There will be a concerted effort to increasingly bypass SWIFT, using the Russian System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) and the Chinese Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payments System (CIPS).

Sooner or later Russia-China will entice India to join. Moscow has excellent bilateral relations with both Beijing and New Delhi, and is decisively playing the role of privileged messenger.

The mini-trade war against New Delhi launched by the Trump administration – including the loss of India’s special trade status and punishment for buying Russian S-400 missile systems – is quickening the pace of the process. India, by the way, will pay for the S-400s in euros.

There were no leaks whatsoever from Russia-India-China about Iran. But diplomats say that was a key theme of the discussion. Russia is already – covertly – helping Iran on myriad levels. India has an existential choice to make: keep buying Iranian oil or say goodbye to Iran’s strategic help, via the Chabahar port, to facilitate India’s mini-Silk Road to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

China sees Iran as a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. Russia sees Iran as essential for strategic stability in Southwest Asia – a key theme of the Putin-Trump bilateral, which also discussed Syria and Ukraine.

The leaders of RIC – Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

The leaders of RIC – Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

RIC or Belt and Road?

Whatever the psyops tactics employed by Trump, Russia-India-China is also directly implicated in the massive short and long-term ramifications of the Trump-Xi bilateral in Osaka. The Big Picture is not going to change; the Trump administration is betting on re-routing global supply chains out of China, while Beijing advances full speed ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative.

Trump is heavily distrusted across Europe – as Brussels knows the EU is the target of another imminent trade war. Meanwhile, with over 60 nations committed to myriad Belt and Road projects, and with the Eurasia Economic Union also interlinked with Belt and Road, Beijing knows it’s just a matter of time before the whole of the EU hits the BRI highway.

There’s no evidence that India may suddenly join Belt and Road projects. The geopolitical lure of “Indo-Pacific” – essentially just another strategy for containment of China – looms large. That’s good old imperial Divide and Rule – and all the major players know it.

Yet India, now on the record, is starting to spin that Indo-Pacific is not “against somebody.” India getting deeper into RIC does not imply getting closer to Belt and Road.

It’s time for Modi to rise to the occasion; ultimately, he will decide which way the geoeconomic pendulum swings.

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