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.

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.)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

www.presstv.tv

What Will Lula Do?

What Will Lula Do?

July 27, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – cross posted with Consortium News

A version of this article first appeared on The Asia Times.

Decades after the fact, a political earthquake that should be rocking Brazil is being met with thunderous silence.

What is now described as the Banestado leaks and CC5gate is straight out of vintage WikiLeaks: a list, published for the first time in full, naming names and detailing what is one of the biggest corruption and money laundering cases in the world for the past three decades.

This scandal allows for what Michel Foucault characterized as the archeology of knowledge. Without understanding these leaks, it’s impossible to place in the proper context the sophisticated Hybrid War unleashed by Washington on Brazil initially via NSA spying on President Dilma Roussef’s first term (2010-2014), all the way to the subsequent Car Wash corruption investigation that jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and opened the way for the election of neofascist patsy Jair Bolsonaro as president.

The scoop on this George-Orwell-does-Hybrid War plot belongs, once again, to independent media: the small website Duplo Expresso, led by a young, daring Bern-based international lawyer named Romulus Maya, which first published the list.

An epic, five-hour podcast brought together the three key protagonists who denounced the scandal in the first place, back in the late 1990s, and now are able to analyze it anew: then governor of Parana state, Roberto Requiao; federal prosecutor Celso Tres; and police superintendent, now retired, Jose Castilho Neto.

In an earlier podcast, Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, Brazil’s foremost analyst of Hybrid War, briefed me on the the myriad political intricacies of the leaks while we discussed geopolitics in the Global South.

The CC5 lists are herehere , and here . Let’s see what makes them so special.

The Mechanism

Brazil’s central bank in Brasilia. (Senado Federal, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Way back in 1969, the Brazilian Central Bank created what was described as a “CC5 account” to facilitate foreign companies and executives to legally wire assets overseas. For many years the cash flow in these accounts was not significant. Then everything changed in the 1990s – with the emergence of a massive, complex criminal racket centered on money laundering.

The original Banco do Estado do Parana (Banestado) investigation started in 1997. Federal prosecutor Celso Tres was stunned to find that from 1991 to 1996 no less than $124 billion in Brazilian currency was wired overseas. Between 1991 and 2002 that ballooned to a whopping $219 billion – placing Banestado as one of the largest money laundering schemes in history.

Tres’ report led to a federal investigation focused in Foz do Iguacu in southern Brazil, strategically located right at the Tri-Border Area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, where local banks were laundering vast amounts of funds through their CC5 accounts.

This is how it worked. U.S. dollar dealers in the black market, linked to bank and government employees, used a vast network of bank accounts under the name of unsuspecting ”smurfs” and phantom companies to launder illegal funds from public corruption, tax fraud and organized crime, mainly through the Banco do Estado do Parana branch in Foz do Iguacu. Hence it is called the Banestado case.

The federal investigation was going nowhere until 2001, when police superintendent Castilho ascertained that most of the funds were actually landing in accounts at the Banestado branch in New York. Castilho arrived in New York in January 2002 to turbo-charge the necessary international money tracking.

Through a court order, Castilho and his team reviewed 137 accounts at Banestado New York, tracking $14.9 billion. Though the CC5 accounts were meant only for foreigners to use, in quite a few cases, the beneficiaries had the same name of Brazilian politicians then serving in Congress, cabinet ministers and even former presidents.

After a month in New York, Castilho was back in Brazil carrying a hefty 400-page report. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence, he was dropped out of the investigation, which was then put on hold for at least a year. When the new Lula government took power in early 2003, Castilho was back in business.

In April 2003, Castilho identified a particularly interesting Chase Manhattan account named “Tucano” – the nickname of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) led by former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was in power before Lula and always kept very close ties to the Clinton and Blair political machines.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and wife Marisa Letícia, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and wife Ruth Cardoso, Jan. 1, 2003 at Lula’s inauguration. (Marcello Casal Jr., Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Castilho was instrumental in setting up a parliamentary inquiry commission over the Banestado case. But again, this commission led nowhere – not even a vote on a final report. Most companies involved negotiated a deal with the Brazilian Internal Revenue Service and thus ended any possibility of legal action in regard to tax evasion.

Banestado Meets Car Wash

In a nutshell, the two largest political parties – Cardoso’s neoliberal PSDB and Lula’s Workers’ Party (which never really faced down imperial machinations and the Brazilian rentier class) actively buried an in-depth investigation. Moreover Lula, coming right after Cardoso, and mindful of preserving a minimum of governability, made a strategic decision to not investigate PSDB, or “Tucano,” corruption, including a slew of dodgy privatizations.

New York prosecutors duly prepared a special Banestado list for Castilho of what really mattered for a criminal prosecution to proceed:  the full circle of the money laundering scheme, with

(i) funds first illegally remitted out of Brazil using the CC5 accounts,

(ii) passing through the New York branches of the Brazilian banks involved,

(iii) reaching offshore bank accounts and trusts in tax havens (e.g., Cayman, Jersey, Switzerland) and then finally

(iv) going back to Brazil as – fully laundered – “foreign investment,” for the actual use and enjoyment of the final beneficiaries who first got the unaccounted-for money out of the country using the CC5 accounts.

But Brazilian Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos, appointed by Lula, then nixed it. As superintendent Castilho metaphorically put it,  “This, deliberately, prevented me from going back to Brazil with the murdered body.”

While Castilho never got hold of the critical list, at least two Brazilian congressmen, two senators and two federal prosecutors, who would later rise to fame as Car Wash investigation “stars,” Vladimir Aras and Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima,  did get the list.

Why and how the list (let’s call it the “body bag”) never found its way into the criminal proceedings back in Brazil is an extra mystery wrapped up inside the enigma.

Meanwhile, there are “unconfirmed” reports (several sources would not go on record on this) that the list might have been used for outright extortion of the individuals, mostly billionaires, featured on it.

Extra sauce in the judicial sphere comes from the fact that the provincial judge in charge of burying the Banestado case was none other than Sergio Moro, the self-serving Elliot Ness figure who in the next decade would rise to superstar status as the capo di tutti i capi of the massive Car Wash investigation and subsequent justice minister under Bolsonaro. Moro ended up resigning and is now, de facto, already campaigning for president in 2022.

Sérgio Moro holding a press conference in September 2015. (Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado, Wikimedia Commons)

Here is where we find the toxic Banestado-Car Wash connection. Considering what is already public domain about Moro’s modus operandi on Car Wash, as he altered names in documents with the single-minded objective of sending Lula to jail, the challenge now would be to prove how Moro “sold” non-convictions related to Banestado.  He has a very convenient legal out: no “body” was found (or formally brought back to criminal proceedings in Brazil), so no one could be found guilty of murder.

As we plunge into excruciating details, Banestado increasingly looks and feels like the Ariadne’s thread that may lead to the beginning of the destruction of Brazil’s sovereignty. It is a tale full of lessons to be learned by the whole Global South.

The Black Market Dollar King

Castilho, in that epic podcast, rang alarm bells when he referred to $17 million that had transited the Banestado branch in New York and then was sent, of all places, to Pakistan. Castilho and his team discovered that a few months after 9/11. He told me his investigators would dig it all up again and that a report exists indicating the origin of these funds.

This is the first time such information has surfaced – and the ramifications may be explosive. We’re talking about dodgy funds, arguably from drugs and weapons operations, leaving the Triple Border Area – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay – which happens historically to be a top site for CIA and Mossad black ops.

Financing may have been provided by the so-called King of The Black Market Dollars, Dario Messer, via CC5 accounts. It’s no secret that black market operators at the Tri-Border Area are connected to cocaine trafficking via Paraguay – and also to evangelicals. That is the basis of what Maya, Leirner and I have already described as Cocaine Evangelistan.

View from the Argentine side of the Triple Border Area. (Wikimedia Commons)

Messer is an indispensable cog in the recycling mechanism inbuilt into drug trafficking. Money travels to fiscal paradises under imperial protection, is duly laundered, and gloriously resurrects on Wall Street and the City of London, with the extra bonus of the U.S. easing some of its current account deficit. Cue Wall Street’s “irrational exuberance.”

What really matters is free circulation of cocaine — hidden in the odd soya cargo, something that comes with the extra benefit of securing the well being of agro-business. That’s a mirror image of the CIA heroin ratline in Afghanistan I detailed here.

Most of all, politically, Messer is the notorious missing link to judge Moro. Even mainstream O Globo newspaper was forced to admit, last November, that Messer’s shadowy businesses were “monitored” nonstop for two decades by different U.S. agencies out of Asuncion and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Moro for his part is had very close relationships with the FBI, CIA and the Department of Justice.

Messer may be the joker in this convoluted plot. But then there’s the Maltese Falcon: There’s only one Maltese Falcon, as the John Huston classic immortalized it.  And it’s currently lying in a safe in Switzerland.

I’m referring to the original, official documents submitted by construction giant Odebrecht to the Car Wash investigation, which have been undisputedly “manipulated,” “allegedly” by the company itself, possibly in collusion with (then) Judge Moro and the prosecution team led by Deltan Dallagnol.

Roberto Requiao. (From his Twitter account)

This was done possibly for the purpose of incriminating Lula and persons close to him, but also – crucially – to delete individuals’ names who should never be brought to light, or justice.

The first serious political impact after the release of the Banestado leaks by Duplo Expresso is that Lula’s lawyers Cristiano and Valeska Zanin have finally requested Swiss authorities to hand over the originals.

Ex-Senator and former Governor Robert Requiao of Paraná state was the only Brazilian politician to publicly ask Lula, back in February, to go for the documents with the list in Switzerland. It is no surprise that Requiao was the first public figure in Brazil to now ask Lula to make all this content public once the former president gets hold of it.

The real, not adulterated Odebrecht list of people involved in corruption revealed by Duplo Expresso is crammed with big names – including the judiciary elite.

By comparing the two versions, Lula’s lawyers may finally be able to demonstrate the falsification of “evidence” that led to the jailing of Lula but also, among other developments, the exile of Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa; the imprisonment of Correa’s vice president, Jorge Glas; the imprisonment of Peru’s former President Ollanta Humala and wife and, most dramatically, the suicide of Peru’s former two-time President Alan Garcia.

Peru’s Alan García, at left, in 2010 with Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores from Perú, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Brazilian Patriot Act

The big political question now is not in fact to uncover the master manipulator who buried the Banestado scandal two decades ago.  Rather, as anthropologist Leirner details it, what matters most is that the leaked CC5 accounts focus on how the corrupted Brazilian bourgeoisie, with the help of their political and judicial partners, both national and foreign,  solidifies itself as a rentier class, while remaining submissive and kept in check by “secret,” imperial files.

The Banestado leaks and the CC5 accounts should be seen as a political opening for Lula to go for broke. This is all-out (Hybrid) War. Blinking is not an option. The geo-political and geo-economic project of destroying Brazilian sovereignty and turning it into an imperial sub-colony is winning – hands down.

A measure of the explosiveness of the Banestado leaks and CC5gate has been the reaction by assorted limited hangouts: a thundering silence that encompasses leftist parties and alternative, supposedly progressive media. Mainstream media, for whom judge Moro is a sacred cow, at best spins it as “old story,” “fake news” and even a “hoax.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Odebrecht_s%C3%A3o_paulo-281x500.jpg
Odebrecht headquarters in São Paulo.
(Luiz Gonzaga da Silva Filho,

It’s now clear that creditors of the Brazilian state were, originally, debtors. Comparing different accounts, it’s possible to square the circle on Brazil’s legendary “fiscal imbalance” – exactly as this plague is brought up, once again, with the intent of decimating the assets of the ailing Brazilian state. Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a neo-Pinochetist and Milton Friedman cheerleader, has already warned he’ll keep selling state companies like there’s no tomorrow.

Lula’s plan B would be to clinch some sort of deal that would bury the whole dossier — just like the original Banestado investigation was buried two decades ago — to preserve the leadership of the Workers’ Party as domesticated opposition, and without touching on the absolutely essential issue: how Finance Minister Guedes is selling out Brazil.

That would be the line favored by Fernando Haddad, who lost the presidential election to Bolsonaro in 2018: a sort of Brazilian Michelle Bachelet (Chile’s former president), an ashamed neoliberal sacrificing everything to have yet another shot at power possibly in 2026.

Were Plan B to happen it would galvanize the wrath of trade unions and social movements – the flesh and blood of Brazilian working classes that are on the verge of being totally decimated by neoliberalism on steroids with the toxic combination of the U.S.-inspired, Brazilian version of the Patriot Act, replete with military schemes to profit from “Cocaine Evangelistan”.

All this after Washington – successfully – nearly destroyed national champion Petrobras, an initial objective of the NSA spying. Zanin, Lula’s lawyer, also adds – maybe too late – that the “informal cooperation” between Washington and the Car Wash op was in fact illegal (according to decree number 3.810/2001).

What Will Lula Do?

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) sworn in as chief of staff by President Dilma Rousseff, March 17, 2016. (José Cruz, Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Included in the leaked list is Banestado “VIP list.” It includes the current president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, bankers, media tycoons and industrialists. Car Wash prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol is very close to Barroso, the neoliberal Supreme Court justice in question.

The VIP list should be read as a road map of the money laundering practices of the Brazilian 0.01 percent  – roughly estimated to be 20,000 families who own the close to $1 trillion of Brazilian internal debt. A great deal of those funds had been recycled back to Brazil as “foreign investment” through the CC5 scheme back in the 1990s. And that’s exactly how Brazil’s internal debt exploded.

Still no one knows where the Banestado-enabled torrent of dodgy money actually landed. The “body bag” was never formally acknowledged to have been brought back from New York and never made its way into the criminal proceedings. Yet money laundering is still in progress – and thus the statute of limitation does not apply – so somebody, anybody would have to be thrown in the slammer. It doesn’t seem that will be the case anytime soon, though.

Meanwhile, enabled by the U.S. Deep State, transnational finance and local comprador elites, some in uniform and some in robes, the slow motion Hybrid War coup against Brazil keeps rambling on. And day by day inching closer to full spectrum dominance.

The key question is: what will Lula do about it?

RESIGNATION OF BOLIVIA’S EVO MORALES WAS NO VICTORY FOR DEMOCRACY, BUT A US-SPONSORED COUP

EJEYFcrXYAEBTqu

Nov 11, 2019, RT.com
by Eva K Bartlett

Evo Morales, an indigenous leader who bucked the IMF and condemned US imperialism, has been pressured by the military to resign after winning an election. Yet Washington calls this blatant coup in Bolivia a victory for democracy?

Morales was re-elected as Bolivia’s president on October 20. The coup-backing Organization of American States (OAS) wasn’t pleased and went ahead interfering in a sovereign nation – as the US itself does so well – issuing a report that the vote result wasn’t satisfactory to their desires.The heavy funding from the US surely has no influence on OAS policies…

In any case, on November 10, President Morales first announced a new election. Later that day, he announced his resignation, naming as reason the recent brutality of Bolivia’s right-wing opposition, including “kidnapping and mistreating” families of indigenous leaders and burning down the homes of public officials.

I resign from my position as president so that (Carlos) Mesa and (Luis Fernando) Camacho do not continue to persecute socialist leaders.

Morales was clear that his move was solely due to the violence incited opposition leaders. However, it soon became clear that this was a coup, not a resignation.
Former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff tweeted her solidarity with the “legitimate president of Bolivia [Evo Morales] who was deposed by a military coup, had his house raided by the police and suffered an illegal arrest warrant. A very serious attack on democracy in Latin America and violence against the Bolivian people.”

Another Brazilian ex-president, Lula, likewise declared the “stepping down” a coup. And even before the events of November 10, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner foresaw there would be pressure to force Morales out of office, as did Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

art 3d last

As most readers know, this is not the first US-backed coup in Latin America. Washington’s history of meddling in sovereign nations stretching back many decades. But let’s look at how Bolivia changed under Morales’ leadership.
Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy all decreased significantly under Morales. In fact, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Bolivia’s was the “fastest-growing” economy in South America, having “basically been stagnant for a quarter century prior to Morales becoming president in 2006.” To do so, however, “the Bolivian government ended 20 years of IMF agreements in 2006,” the same CEPR report notes. Furthermore, expelling US military bases, threatening to close the US embassy in Bolivia, and nationalizing the oil and gas industries haven’t done much to put him in the good graces of ‘democracy-bringers’.

art 2nd last

After all, with America’s lust to ‘democratize’ the world and steal precious resources in the process, nationalizing a country’s goods really mucks up Washington’s dirty plans. It doesn’t help that Bolivia has $2.3 billion worth of contracts to develop its lithium deposits with China, not the US.

Who benefits from Bolivia losing Morales as president? Not the Bolivian people, that’s for certain. In fact, some predict Bolivia’s future could be very dire under the rule of a US puppet.

art last

“My sin is being a union leader, indigenous. We are giving up so that my brothers do not continue to be kicked,” Morales said, when submitting his forced resignation.

This statement poignantly demonstrates the racism and utter lack of concern by the US for the people of Bolivia. Concerned citizens around the world are holding rallies in solidarity with Bolivia’s elected President and against yet another US-backed coup of a sovereign nation.

“He is now in hiding with his Indigenous Nation, and the death squads have issued an arrest warrant for him,” analyst Laith Marouf noted.

“Know now that if they kill him claiming he resisted arrest, or that he committed suicide; that it was an assassination in the land that saw the assassination of Che Guevara.”

As events unfold in Bolivia, it’s important to keep in mind the possible frightening outcomes. Anything is possible when US imperial interests are at stake.

%d bloggers like this: