Boaventura de Sousa Santos – The Guardian, 06/28/2013
With the election of President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil decided to pick up the pace in its effort to become a global power. Although quite a few steps in this direction had been initiated before, they were then given a renewed impetus: see the United Nations conference on environment and development and Rio+20, both in 2012; the Fifa World Cup in 2014; the 2016 Olympic Games; the ongoing quest for a permanent seat on the UN security council; the active role in the growing prominence of the “emerging economies” (Brics – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); José Graziano da Silva’s 2012 appointment as director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, and, as of 2013, Roberto Azevêdo’s appointment as director general of the World Trade Organisation; an aggressive policy for the exploration of natural resources both in Brazil and in Africa, particularly in Mozambique; and the favouring of large-scale industrial agriculture, namely with respect to livestock and soy production as well as agro-fuels.
Boasting a positive international image earned by President Lula da Silva’s social inclusion policies, this developmentalist Brazil has come across in the eyes of the world as a novel, benevolent, inclusive type of power. Thus the international community couldn’t be more surprised when, over the last week, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of the country’s major cities in order to demonstrate. While Turkey’s recent demonstrations were promptly explained away in terms of the “two Turkeys” interpretation, it has proved more difficult to recognise the coexistence of “two Brazils”. Nevertheless, there it is before our own eyes.
The difficulty in recognising the latter phenomenon lies in the very nature of the “other Brazil”, which tends to defy simplistic analyses. It is made up of three narratives and temporalities. The first is the narrative of social exclusion (in one of the world’s most unequal countries), of the landowning oligarchies, of violent bossism (“caciquismo”) and of small, racist political elites. It goes back to colonial times and has replicated itself in ever-changing shapes to this day.