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Author Michael Fox discusses the Koch’s motivations and how the Workers’ Party is attempting to regain its footing

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. You may remember that back in August Brazilians took to the streets of cities and towns across the country for anti-government protests, trying to oust Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. This came on the heels of a corruption scandal that has embroiled politician from her workers party, as well as a weakening currency and rising inflation in Brazil. The forces behind those protests were mostly portrayed to be populist, but our guest today did some digging and found that if you look behind the curtain there’s a more complex story to be told. Now joining us to share that story is Michael Fox. He’s the co-author of the book Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions, and he joins us now from Quito, Ecuador. Thanks for joining us, Michael. MICHAEL FOX: Thanks so much for having me. DESVARIEUX: So Michael, let’s get right into it. Who’s behind these anti-Dilma marches in Brazil, and will you please just cite specific evidence proving that we can make these sort of links? FOX: I mean, the most important thing here is what we’re basically talking about, and the folks that were on the ground in August, are essentially the Brazilian Tea Party. There’s several different groups. There’s the Free Brazil movement, which is a group of youth, student, kind of neoliberal activists that really champion Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ideology. There’s Students for Liberty [and Come] to the Streets, which also have kind of funding from different sources, from the Koch brothers. And even the head of Come to the Streets I think is the former–he receives financing from the [sturdy] foundation, and is also the head of AmBev. So it’s a major corporation we’re talking about here. There’s Revolted Online, which is another–these are all kind of online Tea Party groups. Revolted Online is a former evangelical, and that’s actually a huge connection between the United States and Brazil, the evangelical movement. And they’ve actually been calling for the overthrow of Dilma. And as of even recently were calling for military intervention, if she wasn’t going to step down. DESVARIEUX: Just quickly let our viewers know, what’s their motivation? Why do this? FOX: You know, obviously things in Brazil aren’t good right now. The economy is kind of faltering, the real compared to the dollar is increasing, it’s inflating. But really what we’re talking about are twelve years of Workers’ Party poverty alleviation programs. And this is the flip side of what they actually want. So they’re really out against the PT, they’re out against the President Dilma. What’s interesting however is that when these marches happened in August they were actually much smaller than the marches that happened in March. DESVARIEUX: Okay. But just give us a sense of what’s motivating–like the Koch brothers, for example. Why do they want Dilma out? FOX: I mean, it’s the same things that were happening in the United States, right. We’re looking at what are the, you know, they’re trying to push free market policies. They’re trying to push, we don’t want the big government. It’s the same thing that we’re talking about in the U.S., that folks are really talking about Brazil, these are some of the connections that are really, really strong. And on the flip side what you had after these marches were taking place, just four or five days later, you had nearly a million people out in the streets in pro-government marches that were obviously there in support of the Dilma government, in support of the democratic process. Because the thing about these opposition marches which is really kind of amazing, and amazing for a public in say, the United States, is folks were out there with signs calling for military intervention now, or saying that literally they should have killed Dilma when she, years ago when she was a student activist back in the 1960s. These are really radical groups that we’re talking about. And they’re only a very small sector of the population. So Dilma’s approval rating might be less than say, 10 percent. But these groups, you can see kind of their support kind of waning. DESVARIEUX: All right. Let’s talk about Dilma and the Workers’ Party. Considering we have this corruption scandal, you just mentioned her approval ratings being quite low. What is the Workers’ Party now trying to do? What sort of strategy do they have in hand to try to regain the trust of the Brazilian people? FOX: So obviously the Workers’ Party, just to go into a little bit this corruption scandal, it’s been happening for about a year and a half. There’s been several different people that have been tagged into that. Around 50 individuals that are involved in this corruption scandal which had to do with Petrobras, which is the state-owned oil company. So obviously the government has, they’ve got investigations going on against these things. They’ve taken several steps within the company to create checks and balances and suspend some contracts with other companies, because this was basically a money laundering or–not vote buying, but contract-getting corruption scandal. So there’s been several steps taken on that front. What is interesting, however, is the fact that the Workers’ Party is one of several different parties that are actually involved in this scandal. And if you look at it it’s only about a fifth of the members of the, a fifth of those people that have been tagged for their involvement in this corruption scandal are members of the Workers’ Party. There’s also about the same amount in the PMDB, which is the more conservative sector, and then there’s also the more conservative Progressive Party, that has the majority of the people that are actually being tagged for their involvement in this. But in the media really what you see is everyone’s talking about the Workers’ Party, they’re really trying to link Dilma, President Dilma, who hasn’t been linked yet, or the former President Lula into the scandal. DESVARIEUX: All right. But this scandal, at the end of the day, did happen. And Dilma and her party, they’re suffering, their credibility’s suffering. But do you see, just as someone who’s observing all of this, do you see what Dilma is putting in place in these investigations that are happening really getting to the heart of the matter, that these types of scandals won’t be happening again in Brazil? Essentially, what structural changes need to take place in order for there to be a real policy shift in Brazil so that it’s representing the interests of everyday people? FOX: I think this is actually a really important question. Because we need to look at historically corruption in Brazil. The Workers’ Party came in saying, we want to eliminate–and this is well before even they won on the national level. But corruption is endemic within Brazilian society. And you know, obviously some of the mistakes that were made is coming in and then it was kind of business as usual, and they kind of joined along with that. At the same time this is the way it’s been done for a long time. Many people are talking about the need for political reform. They’re talking about the need for electoral reform. And several of the reforms–. This is really, really deep. I mean, even the head–the main presidential figure in the last round of elections with Dilma, Aécio Neves in the PSDB Party, which is the more conservative party, he was tagged for his own corruption scandal. The head of the lower house, which was Eduardo Cunha who’s with the PMDB, and he is within the ruling coalition, he was the one who was actually leading the impeachment charges against Dilma. And then he himself was then tagged for his role also in the scandal. So all of this stuff is happening within the political system. Now, what’s interesting is the fact that again, as I mentioned briefly, the media is focusing just on the PT. The idea is, we need to take the Workers’ Party out of power, and we need to get the Conservatives in after 12 years. And they’re particularly trying to take down Lula. There was an article in the [bagia] which is one of the mainstream right-wing magazines as well as Globo, but [bagia] actually had a picture of Lula, saying now it’s his turn, and a very sad picture on the cover. This came out just a week or two before the marches in August. It really didn’t have any information. It was talking about somebody who was going to come out with information. And this was the way that media’s being used to kind of manipulate what’s being talked about and try and really manipulate public opinion. This is happening within the leadup–Lula’s just said a couple of weeks ago that he might be willing to run in 2018, and that’s huge because he’s so charismatic and he really has a huge following in Brazil. DESVARIEUX: All right. Michael Fox, joining us from Quito, Ecuador. Thank you so much for being with us. FOX: Thanks for having me. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Jessica Desvarieux is a multimedia journalist who serves as the Capitol Hill correspondent for the Real News Network. Most recently, Jessica worked as a producer for the ABC Sunday morning program, This Week with Christianne Amanpour. Before moving to Washington DC, Jessica served as the Haiti corespondent for TIME Magazine and Previously, she was as an on-air reporter for New York tri-state cable outlet Regional News Network, where she worked before the 2010 earthquake struck her native country of Haiti. From March 2008 - September 2009, she lived in Egypt, where her work appeared in various media outlets like the Associated Press, Voice of America, and the International Herald Tribune - Daily News Egypt. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism with a Master of Science degree in journalism. She is proficient in French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and has a working knowledge of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Follow her @Jessica_Reports.