March 21, 2023

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By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook

Less than 24 hours after the results of the Brazilian election and presidential runoffs were announced, protests erupted and spread like wildfire in the streets and highways of cities nationwide. Is Brazil on the verge of revolution or mayhem? 

Videos of massive gatherings of people covered in national flags swarming the streets of major cities and unending rows of trucks blocking roadways and avenues went viral this week. Those following news on social or mainstream media might think Brazil went on a tailspin of social unrest.

But no, there’s no revolution, much less civil war on the horizon. 

These have been tense days, with continued protests, calls for general strikes, and frenzied political articulation. Since the rallies have been nonviolent for the most part, I went out into the streets to see, hear, and feel what is happening and where we’re going from here. 

I can attest the sentiments of apprehension, frustration, and revolt are legit, and there are grounds for concern.

Here’s an account of what really happened in the Brazilian election.

After a highly tense, divisive, and contentious campaign, incumbent right-wing Jair Bolsonaro lost the presidential runoffs on Sunday, Oct. 30, to former leftist president Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva by a razor-thin margin (1.8%). 

Brazilian protests
Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil’s voting process is entirely electronic, and the results were announced in the afternoon, hours after the election ended. Almost immediately, truck drivers shut down motorways – more than 200 all over the country. On Tuesday, right-wing activists swarmed the streets of all 27 states’ major and minor cities. 

The movement started spontaneously and appeared to have no clear, organized leadership or backing. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case: there are no power vacuums nor innocents in politics. 

Although there is no official count, estimates talk about hundreds of thousands in larger centers and millions across the entire nation. The images are impressive indeed, showing huge and agitated crowds. Peace prevailed, though, with only isolated incidents of violence and shortages, thankfully nothing serious or long-lasting. 

I’m glad to report that things are normal right now, or as normal as they can be in 2022.

The mayhem and apocalypse are only taking place in the news and on social media. Everything “real” is up and running: supermarkets, parks, stadiums, colleges, offices, gyms, farms, and factories. People are working, studying, dining out, and jogging (and preparing for the World Cup, which begins in a few days. After all, Brazil is the “nation of soccer.”)

In other words, it hasn’t hit the fan.

But the situation is far from normal. Despite attempts by some official sectors with the collaboration of MSM to stifle dissent and keep the general public in the dark about the ongoing demonstrations, tension and discontent are palpable. 

It took Bolsonaro nearly 48 hours after the results were announced to deliver his address, which did little to appease his supporters and the 58 million who voted for him. While not openly conceding, he never put up a fight or even came close to calling a coup, as his critics had predicted he would in case Lula won. 

He was contained and circumspect to avoid fanning the flames of his supporters, deeming the protests “democratic and legit” but calling for the blockades to end at the same time. Bolsonaro reaffirmed his respect for the Constitution, stating many times he would play by the rules. Finally, he kickstarted the transition process.

It wasn’t a resounding victory for Lula.

Far from it, actually, and here’s why: voting is compulsory for eligible citizens living in Brazil or abroad, which means a universe of 156 million voters. Lula’s 60 million mean only 38% of the voting population actually supports him. That’s significant – and there’s no second place in politics – but still uncomfortably low for a newly elected president.

It spells significant opposition and a very short honeymoon for Lula and his allies going into 2023 and beyond, especially if the economy worsens (which has a very high probability of happening, as we all know).

Bolsonaro doesn’t have much going for him, either, having conquered only about 36% of valid ballots by the same calculations. In other words, when taking into account those who either abstained or canceled their vote, it becomes evident that neither candidate had significant support among the electorate and general population.

The logical conclusion? If Bolsonaro had taken the presidency on Sunday, we’d be witnessing the other part of the population protesting in the streets instead. 

That means people are weary, uninspired, and unsatisfied with the feeble, mediocre, dishonest, and inept leadership – from both sides. Which explains in good part the political polarization, extremism, and division. 

Objectively, Bolsonaro has some positive economic statistics and achievements to show for him, but few were paying attention or felt moved by these. He wasn’t able to connect his accomplishments to his controversial figure and conquer support beyond his core constituency, to the point where voters chose to reinstall a known populist ex-convict with hanging charges instead of giving the incumbent a second term.

We can protest in droves against the lack of transparency while shouting at the top of our lungs about fraud and manipulation. Whether A or B wins, whether turnout is 100% or 10% – no outcome will be satisfactory because people no longer have faith in the system or the leadership. And these don’t give two craps for the wants and needs of the population, either. 

This is an institutional as well as a political crisis, and it’s global. I have no crystal ball, but I’m willing to bet on a similar outcome for the US midterm elections (which should be over by the time this post goes live). There will be no massive red or blue wave; rather, a ripple and yet another letdown for radicals on both sides. Nobody will be assured or satisfied with anything. The same is occurring in all democracies. Tough times.

Back to the demonstrations, participants are protesting against censorship and requesting transparency from the bodies in charge of overseeing and administering the elections, more than directly endorsing Bolsonaro. 

Even before the election, there was controversy about the Brazilian electoral system. In a true democracy, asking questions and demanding openness are legitimate demands. Yet, the Electoral Court (or TSE, an offshoot of the Supreme Court) is doing more to repress opposition and stifle open discussion than to offer satisfactory explanations and allow oversight that could placate a sizable portion of society. 

These are precisely those whose responsibility is to uphold and defend the letter of the law and the Constitution to restore peace and foster unity among the population and other institutions whenever a contentious issue is at stake are doing the opposite of that. 

Merely debating or questioning the process is now treated as a “coup plot” by these authorities and can get one criminally charged, persecuted, and censored. Like the voting system is some inviolable, infallible, incorruptible technology. 

Yeah, maybe in some advanced alien civilization from another galaxy. Certainly not on a planet that imperfect humans inhabit. In a country like Brazil, then, that assumption is a joke. 

“Something smells rotten in the state of Brazil.”

The protesters are also objecting to being once again governed by Lula and his clique. The charismatic and populist politician is still seen by a large percentage of the population, and even by many who voted for him, as a corrupt, cynical, and inept leader. 

Lula governed Brazil between 2003 and 2011. In 2018, he was convicted of taking bribes from big contractors and sent to jail. He spent 580 days behind bars before the Supreme Court decided he may appeal his case without spending any time. He wasn’t acquitted, as he boasted during the campaign. His convictions were annulled based on a technicality. Many of the charges still stand. 

Brazilian protests
Lula da Silva on the right.

But the fact is that Lula – the man who Obama referred to as “the guy” during a G20 conference in 2009 – was literally taken from prison and had his political rights reinstated just last year by the same Supreme Court justices who now preside over the TSE and were responsible for overseeing the electoral process.

Straight-up banana republic stuff. So yes, Horatio, if you see some suspicious connections in this muddle, you’re starting to understand what’s driving the protests. 

A test for democracy. 

The Supreme and Electoral Court justices label the protests as “anti-democratic.” They view certain actions taken by right-wing organizations and those who support them (politicians, businesses, and public figures) as an “attack on authorities” and a “danger to democracy.” 

The magistrates have overreacted by harshly cracking down on resistance and dispersing the manifestations. The Brazilian MSM – not exactly a bastion of impartial journalistic integrity – is discrediting Bolsonaro and his conservative allies and keeping the general public in the dark and gaslighted. That has been the establishment’s treatment even before the campaign and throughout the election. 

Just days before the runoffs, the TSE justices passed a resolution giving them “special powers” to “combat fake news” in the name of “saving democracy.” No wonder a sizeable portion of the populace is now skeptical of the status quo and doubts the ability of the officials to uphold fairness, equality, and transparency. As for democracy, it must be really at risk these days, judging from how this nonsense is being repeated everywhere.

Of course, that’s BS, an inversion. Censorship, oppression, and lack of transparency are the real threats to democracy. 

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Latin America Spring: is there a wave forming?

Brazil did its homework and had some positive numbers and achievements in the economy and social markers to show. Things aren’t perfect (they never are), but my country is holding its own even with the issues caused by the plandemic countermeasures and the Ukraine war

Now, much of that is up in the air again. There’s reason for concern.

Less than a year after electing left-leaning governments. Chile and Colombia are already struggling economically and socially. In Peru, thousands are taking to the streets of Lima to demand the resignation of president Pedro Castillo, another leftist accused of corruption. 

Pedro Castillo

“I come for my children, for my grandchildren, because this government is becoming hell,” said Maria del Pilar Blancas. “They want us to become one more Venezuela,” she said. [SOURCE

“They want us to become another Venezuela. It’s no coincidence I heard that exact same phrase uttered a thousand times during the protests here. Comparing Brazil to Colombia or Peru may not be accurate or conclusive for various reasons. But the sentiment is unmistakable, and the fear is genuine. 

“They want us to become another Venezuela.” The underlying issues and the feelings of discontent won’t go away, that’s for sure.

More (and serious) red flags.

In a country that just thirty years ago was putting up a fight to regain democracy, the fact that several protests occurred in front of regional commands with large crowds of protesters demanding the military to intervene and interfere is alarming, to say the least. 

But it has an explanation: every communist and socialist dictatorship in Latin America is a close ally of Lula and his Labor Party. That includes Nicarágua’s Daniel Ortega, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Miguel Diáz-Canel of Cuba, and Argentina’s Alberto Fernández, who were the first to call and congratulate him on his victory (Joe Biden also hurried to call Lula. So, my fellow Americans, make of that what you will). 

Brazilian protests
Daniel Ortega on the right.

These countries, despite being at various phases and different levels, are all experiencing social unrest, soaring inflation, and growing poverty as a result of disastrous (i.e., unconventional and populist) economic and social policies. 

So is Brazil – and that’s precisely why these kinds of policies that Lula and his cohorts are currently mulling raise so much concern, even among some of his supporters. Proposals like creating ten additional ministry cabinets, raising the debt and budget ceilings, printing more money, and many others which have been tried in the past and have failed spectacularly.

And lastly, it’s not exactly good advertising for anyone, much less a president over whom a number of suspicions and legal accusations hang like a heavy sword, to see ample footage of criminals and inmates celebrating Lula’s victory in penitentiaries and drug dens across the nation. 

Not that a cynical sociopath like him gives a damn about any of that, particularly now that he’s back in charge. But to most other honest citizens and me, this is just another worrying indication. 

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I’ve never been into doomsday porn or negativism, not even at the height of my obsession with preparation. Who knows, maybe it’s my temperament – or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born during a military dictatorship, lived in a developing country, and am still alive. I’ve been consciously attempting to steer clear of apocalyptic discourse. I strongly encourage you to do, too. 

I mean, no doubt profound changes are coming, and things will get much harder. But I choose to remain positive. This isn’t the end of times, just another crisis. 

Even pivotal occurrences like elections and government changes are not always only negative or positive. The majority of the time, real life continues to be fairly normal outside the echo chambers of social and mainstream media. Depending on where you are, it can be harder or easier, but there won’t be mayhem. Not yet. It is as it is. 

However, I won’t quit being realistic. The authoritarian forces that control politics and the mood/mentality of the populace in every other western country are also at work in Brazil. While I have no influence over that, I can continue to prepare, but I choose to do so without giving in to anxiety, fear, or political sway. 

If something happens, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, stay safe everyone.

What are your thoughts?

There seems to be a trend in elections lately. The situation in Brazil seems to mirror the situation in the United States. The “sides” are so diametrically opposite that it’s difficult to imagine them being able to come together.

Is there something brewing in Brazil? Is there something greater than simply an election in America and Brazil that both seemed questionable? Is there some kind of global change happening? Are people finally waking up to the blatant corruption?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor