[Marxism] Bullet Caucus’ in Brazil Signals Political Shift to the Right

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jan 15 16:06:25 MST 2015


NY Times, Jan. 15 2015
Bullet Caucus’ in Brazil Signals Political Shift to the Right
By SIMON ROMERO

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Paulo Telhada rolls his eyes, denouncing Brazil’s 
support for the leftist government of Venezuela. He frowns, grumbling 
about gun control measures.

But when the subject turns to how many people he killed as a police 
officer on São Paulo’s streets, he gives a broad smile.

“More than 30,” said Mr. Telhada, 53, a rising star in Brazilian 
right-wing political circles, having recently won a seat in São Paulo’s 
state legislature in a landslide.

“I feel no pity for thugs,” he added, emphasizing that he did not enjoy 
working in a fancy office. “But I know my future lies in politics now.”

Across Brazil, politicians like Mr. Telhada, with backgrounds in law 
enforcement or the armed forces, have been winning elections. In 
Congress, about 21 legislators now form what is called the bancada da 
bala, a “bullet caucus” seeking to bolster gun ownership and repeal laws 
keeping teenagers from being tried and sentenced as adults, among other 
conservative measures.

Their rising influence points to a major shift in Latin America’s 
largest democracy. While Brazil is governed by President Dilma Rousseff 
— a former leftist guerrilla who promotes the sway of state-owned 
companies, affirmative action and social welfare projects to reduce 
inequality — the insurgents of Brazilian politics now largely come from 
the right.

The movement is national in scope, with figures like Moroni Torgan, a 
high-ranking leader of the Mormon Church in Brazil and a former police 
investigator. He received more votes in October’s elections than any of 
the other candidates who won seats in the lower house of Congress for 
the northeast state of Ceará, campaigning on a platform of cracking down 
on drug trafficking.

Others in the congressional bullet caucus, like Waldir Soares, a police 
investigator in the central state of Goiás, are vowing to overhaul laws 
allowing criminals to avoid long prison sentences. Some are also 
fighting their own legal battles, including Éder Mauro, a police 
official under investigation for torture in Pará, the vast state in 
Brazil’s Amazon.

Political analysts attribute the rise of these conservative figures to a 
society fed up with violent crime. Drug gangs have expanded their reach 
across the country, and Brazil now ranks as the world’s second-largest 
cocaine-consuming country after the United States. According to the 
United Nations, Brazil has more homicides than any other country, with 
50,108 in 2012, though the per capita homicide rate remains below those 
in countries like Honduras and Venezuela.

Some in the bullet caucus are making their presence felt at protests, 
like the ones in November along São Paulo’s leading thoroughfare, 
calling for the impeachment of Ms. Rousseff, who narrowly won 
re-election in October. Such demonstrations are still relatively small, 
but they point to a broader ideological shift with which Ms. Rousseff 
and her leftist Workers Party are grappling.

Conservative caucuses, including powerful blocs of legislators promoting 
the interests of evangelical Christian and agribusiness groups, now 
account for more than half the seats in Brazil’s lower house of 
Congress, the Chamber of Deputies. Just a third of the ministers in Ms. 
Rousseff’s 39-member cabinet now come from the Workers Party, reflecting 
the president’s need to forge coalitions with some conservatives from 
other parties.

Some opponents of Ms. Rousseff, however, are growing bolder, delivering 
outbursts of criticism against the leftist establishment that have 
shocked many Brazilians.

In a debate in December on the rights abuses committed during Brazil’s 
military dictatorship, which included the rape of female opponents of 
the government, one former military officer from Rio de Janeiro and 
ultraconservative fixture in Congress, Jair Bolsonaro, insulted a fellow 
legislator from the podium of the lower house.

“I would not rape you,” Mr. Bolsonaro, sometimes considered a pioneering 
member of the bullet caucus, told Maria do Rosário Nunes, a Workers 
Party legislator, after she called the dictatorship an “absolute shame.”

“You don’t merit that,” he continued, implying that she was not worthy 
of being raped by him.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, an official with the Federal 
Police, rode his father’s popularity in some circles by winning a seat 
in October elections as a congressman for São Paulo. As one of the 
bullet caucus’s newest members, he told reporters that his father would 
have “gunned down” Ms. Rousseff in a presidential contest if he had been 
her opponent.

The belligerent language of the bullet caucus, whether in Brasília or 
legislatures at the municipal and state levels, is worrying rights 
advocates who fear that the lawmakers will shield police officers from 
accountability for abuses, including extrajudicial killings. Brazil’s 
police kill an estimated 2,000 people a year, but it remains rare for 
officers to be convicted of wrongdoing in such cases.

With Brazilian gun manufacturers financing the campaigns of many bullet 
caucus members, concerns are also growing about efforts to repeal gun 
control measures that have restricted people from purchasing firearms 
since 2003. Brazil remains a major manufacturer of firearms, with many 
guns exported to neighboring countries and smuggled back into Brazil.

“Brazil’s disarmament legislation has saved many lives,” said Marcos 
Fuchs, the adjunct director of Conectas, a leading Brazilian human 
rights group. “Repealing it would be a disastrous reversal for the nation.”

But with fatigue persisting over huge corruption scandals in the 
administrations of Ms. Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da 
Silva, the growing popularity of political figures like Mr. Telhada, the 
retired São Paulo police officer, shows how attitudes in Brazil may be 
shifting.

Mr. Telhada expressed dismay over immigrants from African countries, 
neighboring nations in Latin America, and Haiti who are flowing into São 
Paulo’s old center. He disparagingly called the area where they are 
settling “Africalandia,” arguing that the Workers Party sees them as a 
new pillar of support.

To crack down on undocumented immigrants and drug trafficking, he said 
that he supported transferring troops away from cities like São Paulo to 
patrol borders in the Amazon.

Condemning gun control legislation, Mr. Telhada spoke glowingly of 
revolts like the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, an uprising in 
São Paulo against the central government.

“If the Brazilian population were armed properly today, this government 
would be at serious risk,” he said, while adding that he supported 
change at the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun.

The momentum of Mr. Telhada and other right-wing candidates has gained 
national attention. After serving on the City Council here since 2012, 
Mr. Telhada won a seat in São Paulo’s state legislature in October 
elections, obtaining more than 254,000 votes, the second-highest tally 
of any candidate in the race.

Next, Mr. Telhada said he was setting his sights on Brasília, where he 
potentially sees himself in a federal post overseeing security policies.

“Or maybe senator,” he said. “Senator Telhada, that has a nice ring to it.”



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