Pedro Magalhães (Brazil) discusses with Boaventura Monjane (Mozambique), Sabrina Fernandes (Brazil), and Saker El Nour (Egypt) from the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter-Strategies (IRGAC) on food systems, environmental activism and climate denialism in the Global South.
More than 6,400 families have been evicted from their homes and another 19,000 remain threatened with eviction in Brazil since March 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak started in the country. In the state of São Paulo, 1,681 evictions were carried out and up to 5,000 families can be evicted from their homes at any one time. This startling data relates to informal settlements—evictions for non-payment of rent are not included—and numbers may be even higher, as this reflects only the cases identified by popular movements and the organizations participating in the “Zero Eviction” campaign.
Many influential voices have pointed out, with different degrees of optimism, that the COVID-19 pandemic might finally have ushered in the final days of neoliberalism. However, if we understand neoliberalism as a set of practices and institutional mechanisms that shield market relations from popular deliberation, we reach a different conclusion. In these terms, neoliberalism is not dying. If emergency measures are aimed more at safeguarding the profits of banks and large corporations than securing wages and welfare programmes, then this crisis is in fact an opportunity to increase wealth inequality, and not to address it as a problem.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president, is known internationally for his far-right stances. He supports loosening gun control and frequently rants against human rights and “political correctness”. His motto of “God above all” pleases the more fundamentalist sectors of his evangelical base and he promotes a particular idea of the “good citizen”, often represented by a white middle-class Christian family man. His government employs a neoliberal economic agenda and is completely dismissive of environmental concerns. He was elected on a “tough on crime” platform full of false promises on how to solve the crime and violence problem in Brazil. His racist and sexist positions are well-known and add to the conservative positions of his government.
For the past few years, platform capitalist companies such as Rappi, Uber, 99taxi, Loggi, Ifood, and James have been gradually infecting Brazil’s largest cities. By connecting consumers, workers, and products through digital apps, these companies have been responsible for further entrenching the Brazilian neoliberal restructuring of labour that has been going on since the 1990s.
Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has struggled to keep his administration under control in recent months, destabilized by the government’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19, confusion among his supporters, and now, potentially, an impeachment trial initiated by former supporters.