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Article by Portuguese MEP Francisco Assis, published in the Portuguese daily 'Público' to which Ana Gomes totally subscribes

Article by Francisco Assis, MEP to which I totally subscribe.



Francisco Assis, MEP, for the Portuguese newspaper Público

1. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra was one of the, if not the, most important torturer during the military dictatorship that was in force in Brazil from 1964 to 1985. In 2008 he was the first officer convicted of kidnapping and torture. He was proven to have physically and psychologically abused hundreds of people and even forced children to witness the excruciating spectacle of their parents' being beaten. He never acknowledged his crimes nor expressed the slightest remorse for his inhuman acts. He was a villain. He died in 2015, in Brasilia, in a hospital bed.

It was precisely this squalid torturer that (then Congressman) Jair Bolsonaro paid homage to when casting his vote in favor of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. On that occasion, Bolsonaro made a declaration that thoroughly defines him: he dedicated his vote to the "memory of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, Dilma Rousseff's nightmare." In that connection, it is impossible to imagine a statement more vile, behavior more unworthy or an attitude more revolting. Bolsonaro showed himself as he really is: an outright scoundrel.

What is an outright scoundrel? It is someone who violates any kind of moral criterion and places himself at a level of conduct that is pre- or anti-civilizational. Anyone who praises the torturer of an absolutely defenceless young woman assigns themselves practically subhuman status. Bolsonaro belongs to that line, that list of people that raises the question of what humanity there is left in a man who literally dehumanizes himself . Theodore Adorno took this question to the limit of the thinkable, when he formulated his celebrated statement: "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today." And yet poetry survived. Man resists the dehumanizing things he writes into history - which is no reason to refrain from denouncing barbarism.

Barbarism has many faces: it is stupid, gross, intolerant, sectarian, fanatical, simplistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, classist, irredeemably prejudiced and inevitably primary. Jair Bolsonaro is one of the perfect expressions of this barbarism in its current version. Everything about him points to smallness: he is an intellectually mediocre, ethically appalling, politically vulgar creature. He shows a prodigious absence of greatness of any kind and a frightening presence of everything that would make any citizen unfit to perform even the humblest public function. For this very reason, he is extraordinarily dangerous: he is the almost
perfect expression of the man with no qualities suddenly raised to leadership.

Bolsonaro is not Hitler, nor Mussolini, not even Franco. Strictly speaking, if we were to limit ourselves to an intellectual, academic discussion, he is not even really the representation of fascism. However, to the mediocre extent that his poor personality permits, he does embody everything that historically the fascist tradition has fed on: anti-enlightenment, the summary exaltation of national uniqueness, the apology of violence, the irrational cult of the leader. Bolsonaro is little more than an ideological illiterate with all the dangers that this entails. He and his following of foolish youths represent the greatest danger facing the Western world today.

2. Some political analysts, some out of ignorance, some out of bad faith, are trying to convince us that, in these presidential elections, Brazilians will have to choose between cholera and the plague. This does not correspond to the truth in the least. To equate Haddad to Bolsonaro is morally and politically unspeakable. Whoever does so becomes an accomplice of Bolsonaro, of his giddy proto-fascism, of his fondness for the cult of violence. That is why there can be no hesitating at this point in the history of Brazil and, in a way, in the history of Humanity itself. Haddad is a sophisticated intellectual, a democrat who respects the fundamental principles of open and pluralistic societies, a man of recognized civic and moral integrity. Did the Workers Party (PT) make mistakes in the years that it ruled Brazil? Yes, it certainly did, just like all other parties that have been in government for a long time anywhere in the world. There is, however, one thing that must be emphatically stated at this particularly dramatic hour: neither Lula nor Dilma Rousseff ever questioned the rule of law in Brazil. Both fought for a fairer Brazil and contributed strongly to expanding to millions of Brazilians the conditions necessary for them to enjoy and assert their individual freedom, when destiny
appeared to allow them no other life than poverty, suffering and absolute social exclusion. In doing so, faced with the hostility of globally unfavorable media and the ferocious attacks of vast economic oligopolies, they always respected the rules of liberal democracy. It is often hard, from a European perspective, to understand what this means. But those who have traveled dozens of times to Latin America, as I have done in recent years, are well aware of how this translates on that long-suffering continent. There, to be poor corresponds to being much poorer than on our old European continent; there, to be a woman, to be homosexual, to be indigenous, to be unemployed or to be a single mother entails a burden that does not correspond to what happens in the world we inhabit.

A victory by Bolsonaro would mean a setback for civilization in Brazil and worldwide. We are, therefore, not speaking of a normal political and ideological confrontation. We face a real confrontation between civilization, however tenuous it may be, and barbarism. Haddad is more than Haddad, he is more than the PT, more even than Brazil. Haddad represents the struggle of critical reason against the imposition of ignorance, of freedom against despotism, of egalitarian aspirations against the worship of biologically- or sociallybased hierarchies. This is why this struggle challenges us all. We are facing a moment of clear division between what in Humankind appeals to reason, to freedom, to solidarity, and what, in that same man, is a basic drive to authoritarianism, to serfdom and to the denial of critical intelligence. There are times in history when everything comes down to a simple dichotomy that is itself the opposite of a simplistic reduction. Let us be clear, in Brazil today, the choice is clear: Haddad means civilization, Bolsonaro represents barbarity.

3. Former president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has the absolute obligation to speak out at this decisive moment in the life of his country. This is the time when he will truly be judged for his role in history. Up to now, the image that has prevailed is the brilliant intellectual, the effective finance minister, the naturally contentious but admittedly superior President of the Republic. His past holds him especially responsible in the present historical circumstances. Fernando Henrique Cardoso has a moral obligation to support Haddad. Not to do so will be to belittle himself in the eyes of his contemporaries and especially in the eyes of
future historians of Brazil.



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