Brazil and US practice dark politics: Act locally to reclaim democracy


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Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was impeached on Aug. 31.

Beatriz Verneaux, Staff Writer

As an immigrant from Brazil, I juggle both American and Brazilian politics, which generally leaves me drained and hopeless. Brazil and the United States share some dark similarities. Both countries were colonies, and both countries possess a terrifying history of slavery and systematic racism that perpetuates in the justice system and the wider society. There are positive common denominators as well, though, and one of those is democracy.

Lately, my political worries have intensified. Donald Trump’s rise to power is, at the very least, a threat to the freedom of my Latino and Muslim brothers and sisters. It’s also a reminder that racism is alive and well — and strong enough that bigotry is not afraid to claim someone as its spokesperson. Hillary Clinton doesn’t make me any less scared. Her history of supporting wars and lack of honesty are cringeworthy.

While Clinton has the possibility of becoming the U.S.’s first female president, Brazil elected its first female president, Dilma Rousseff, in 2011. But just 1.5 years after being re-elected with 51 percent of the popular vote, the Brazilian Congress removed Rousseff from power. She has never been formally accused or convicted of corruption. Merely the suggestion of scandal without concrete proof was enough to cause Rousseff’s impeachment. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of politicians sitting in the Brazilian congress were accused of corruption. Acting President Michel Temer, a centrist and free market supporter, has been convicted of violating election laws and can’t officially run for office (which Rousseff still can do). It all sounds fishy to many, and there is talk on the streets of a coup d’état.

Although Rousseff’s government was leftist and known for social progress, it was also violent, brutal and repressed protests. Ironically, the same people who often raised their voices against her now call for her return in the name of democracy. People who elected her have the right to keep her in power.

The darker side of politics—coups, the rise of fascism, corruption – are a direct reflection of the smaller scope of our world view. The less people care about their immediate surroundings, the less they will be able to care globally. This worrisome trend leads us to question just how democratic our democracy really is these days.

I cannot change Brazilian politics. I cannot force Bernie Sanders into power. But I can keep my eye on student government, in their weekly meetings open to the public. I can attend local assembly meetings. I can contact groups and coalitions and join causes with collectives that are worried about the same issues I am worried about.  Our college has many students organizing and working on some incredible causes.

As students, we have the opportunity to inform ourselves and others, connect with county supervisor candidates and collectively ignite change where we live. We can check candidates’ agendas for the election. We can press for a change in regards to the homeless crisis. This is a critical moment, both for Sonoma County and the nation as a whole, and it’s up to us to become involved with our community and build a different future. We must reclaim democracy starting from right here.