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Fighting hunger with vaccine mandate? Realities of Left resurgence in Brazil

By Dr Gautam Das* 

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He is popularly known as Lula. His political future was hanging in balance in the last run-off presidential election held just three months ago. He bagged 50.9% of total vote while his closet rival Jair Bolsonaro got 49.1%. Millions of people took to the street alleging unfair means of counting. These people were voicing their unhappiness and discontent over the election results. The Corporate media as well as the leftist commentators summarily dismissed them as right wing supporters of Bolsonaro. [1] [2] [3] [4] [27]
Curiously, Joe Biden as the head of the most powerful state expressed unflinching faith in Lula. He congratulated him saying that Lula won in a free, fair and credible election and both the countries shared the experience of surviving right wing attack on democracy. [5] ‘The leftist former president’s win marks an extra-ordinary comeback……cementing Latin America’s shift to the left’, said the Wall Street Journal. [6] Time magazine went one step ahead by depicting Lula’s victory as a win for the planet. [7] Keeping aside the lofty praises showered by Indian left and liberal commentators, the reaction of Indian corporate media is worth mentioning. ‘Lula wins Brazil Election in political Resurrection for leftist’ screamed the headline of The Economic Times. [8] ‘Biden insisted through the CIA, state department, and defense department that support for a coup would not be forthcoming.’ said The Guardian. [9] Most pedagogical and bizarre observation was made by a mouthpiece of an Indian ultra-left parliamentary party. They said, ‘The imperialist countries have also welcomed the result of election. This does not reflect any shift in their policies though, it is just an attempt to bring some socio-political stability to Brazil which was on the verge of chaos during Bolsonaro government.’ [10]
Beginning his journey spanning over last 50 years as a mass leader and metal factory worker of Sao-Palo, he underwent many rises and falls and finally came back to presidential post for third time. After the latest victory, he flung his clenched fist towards the sky, saying ‘Brazil is back,’ ….(we will)work tirelessly for a Brazil where love prevails over hate, truth over lies, and hope is bigger than fear.’ Once this 77 years old veteran leader mesmerized the millions of his country with his passionate and fiery speech. In the early eighties, he led mass movements in order to overthrow the US-backed military junta. The irony of history is that the head of the country that had propped up the “right wing fascist regime” is now eulogizing Lula’s latest electoral win as a victory of democracy over right wing hooliganism. During his on-going US tour, his smooth talking has won the hearts of US administration and big corporate media so much so that they are celebrating Lula’s remark and finding them enchanting more than ever before. He will have conversation with radical lefts. So has been reported in main stream media. He is scheduled to have great talk with Biden and Barnie Sanders on Amazon Fund.
Is it a reality that big Corporate Capital, Democracy and Equality are aligning to ensure a more democratic and greener world? Is there more to this optics and theatrics than meets the eye? Or is it just another illusory thought that has eluded us decades after decades?
Lula is now a more mature and shrewd leader. He appears to have no ideological illusion. Had it been so, it could have never been possible for him to achieve his political resurrection. He is well aware of what the billionaire magnets of Wall Street loves to hear. [11]
In the electoral campaign, the main allegation Lula levelled against his arch rival was that president Bolsonaro had got Brazil isolated from rest of the world. He ostensibly meant to say that the incumbent discouraged the foreign capitalists to come to Brazil. So he gave subtle indications that if he comes to power, international finance capital will have unfettered access and. the state-run oil agency Petrobus and Employees provident Fund will join biggest bankers in Amazon Mining Project. Immediatly after Lula’s win, Financial Times wrote, ‘Lula’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election will unlock a flood of money from international investors who shunned the country under Jair Bolsonaro because of his terrible environmental record. [12]
The environmentalists often called Mr. Bolsonaro the jungle eater. He was aiding and abetting the crime of local miners, wood mafias, loogers, agriculturists and pastoralists who have encroached the Amazon forest and were causing deforestation by exploiting the resources, undertaking expansive cultivation and ranching. That was the main plank of Lula’s election campaign. The corporate media in sync with US administration has largely endorsed Lula’s accusation and mostly echoed his rants. Lula promised that he would reach zero deforestation goal by 2030 and hunt down the illegal encroachers by launching a military style campaign. After his comeback with a hair thin margin, he has indeed started the belligerent campaign. [13] The most uncomfortable and stark truth on which Lula has cleverly remained silent is the fact that the eight major mining companies that have been causing enormous destruction in Amazon forest by mining explorations include Vale, Anglo-American, Belo-sun, Rio-Tinto & Anglo-Gold- to name a few who have atrocious records of human rights violation. US based international financers e.g, Capital group, Black Rock and Vanguard invested 54 billion in these mining companies. Needless to say that these powerful corporations are the main players of Wall street and constitute a formidable force behind World Economic Forum because they invest the money of all super rich billionaires of the world. Among the other investors are Banco da Brasil, Credit Agricole of France, Germany’s Commerzbank, Citigroup and Bank of America and SMBC of Japan. [14] All these facts were brought to the fore by Amazon Watch and AIPB, the organization of Indigenous people living in Amazon area. AIPB has generously lent their support to Lula in his electoral fight and they demanded that a separate ministry for indigenous people be formed. [15] After initial prevarication Lula has conceded to form the ministry under the leadership of firebrand leader Sonia Guajajara. It remains to be seen whether Ms Guajajara’s avowed stance against the mining giants and their powerful financiers will reach logical conclusion or end up with shady corporate social responsibilities.
Lula is now holding meeting with Biden and Bernie Sanders on how America can pour more money in Amazon Fund. 1.4 billion US$ worth Amazon fund was created ostensibly to fight deforestation and green house gas emission from degradation. The covert goal is to strengthen the network of information and surveillance technology all over the Amazon area and drive out the local mafias, miners, loogers, indigenous agriculturists and cattle ranchers to turn this world’s largest rain forest into a sanctuary of infamous mining giants. Their real intent is evident from their own observation that “Expansive, low-productivity cattle-raising is the main cause of Amazon deforestation. Data provided by TerraClass Project showed that in 2008 around 62% 6 of the deforested areas in Brazilian Amazon were occupied with pasture.” [16]
Apart from Amazon issue, the second biggest bet Mr. Lula played in his election campaign was his promise to make vaccine mandatory for direct cash transfer govt. scheme called Bolso Familia. The Guardian quoted him saying, ‘Vaccines aren’t about whether you have the money or not,’…They’re about whether you love life or love death.’ [17]
The position taken by Bolsonaro was poles apart. He was sceptical of Covid and vaccine against it. He said that he would be the last person to get Covid vaccine. When asked why he had not taken vaccine, he said in an interview with Jovem Pan radio, ‘I've decided not to get vaccinated. I'm looking at new studies, I already have the highest immunization, why would I get vaccinated?’ [18]
He was decidedly against making vaccine mandatory for any govt sponsored programme. He said, ‘For me, freedom comes before everything else. If a citizen doesn't want to get vaccinated, that's his right and that's the end of it’[ [18]
Brazilian media reported that Pfizer had sent 53 e-mails seeking response to their offer for 70 million doses of Covid vaccines at half price. The health minister of Bolsonaro govt termed the gesture of Pfizer as a aggressive one. Thus at least for six months Bolsonaro could delay the purchase of Pfizer vaccine that did cost 44 Brazilian Dollar.[19]
The media trumpeting the life saving potential of vaccine launched scathing attack on Bolsonaro and ascribed his decision to “dismiss the vaccine offer from various pharma companies” to the “surging deaths in Brazil”. [20]
Though such high hopes on covid vaccines later proved to be further from the truth and all cause deaths actually surged all over the world following vaccine roll out, the deafening pitch for vaccine had led Lula to make it a big election issue and Bolosonaro’s denial of Covid and resistance against vaccine became a shot in the arms of Lula.
After three months of his comeback as president, Lula has brought back Bolso Familia, the flagship welfare scheme introduced by his previous govt. in 2003. As a matter of fact, it was a World Bank aided programme.[21]
The other social welfare programmes such as Bolso Escola and Bolso Alimentac~ea were clubbed under this direct cash transfer scheme. The people living below poverty line ( those whose monthly income is below 28US$), are the targeted beneficiary. The leading woman of the family is entitled to get this meager money on the condition that her children must go to the school and participate in vaccination. If the child is below 16 years, the mother will get a monthly allowance of 13 US$ per child. If the age of child is between 16 to 17, the mother will get 15US$ per child. [22]
World Bank has claimed that this conditional cash transfer programme has changed the lives of Brazilian and reduced their poverty. The Economist praised it as a creator of “”happy family” . [23] The reality is far from it. A study conducted by The Federal University of Pernambuco, using sophisticated statistical methods, inferred that 87% of the money is used, by families living in rural areas, to buy food. [22]
The targeted family may loose the entitlement if the child fails to comply with the required percentage of presence in the school. The entire details of compliance and the amount of cash transferred is monitored and controlled by a system enabled by satellites and the internet via radio waves, which allows the exchange of data with the Municipalities of more remote locations, even in that there is no electricity or telephone.[22]
However, cash is not given directly to the beneficiary. A citizenship card in the form of a debit card is given and the entire transaction is conducted through the second largest state run Bank.
Therefore, it is no wonder that BMGF is greatly amused by this elaborate control on the lives of almost one third of population of Brazil. They described it as a innovative way of ensuring women’s empowerment over the vast swathes of poorest countries. [24]
In tandem with his electoral promise, Lula has recently publicly declared ‘The Bolsa Família is coming back, and it is coming back with something important; it is coming back with conditions. The children have to be in school. If they are not in school, the mother loses the benefit,’
He went on to say, “The children have to be vaccinated. Suppose they don’t have a vaccination certificate. In that case, the mother will lose the benefit," [25]
On Feb7, 2023, The Rio Times, the polpular Brazilian English news portal published a big news with headline, “Lula says that parents will be forced to vaccinate their children to keep government aid flowing” [26]
Lula also said that the program would again require prenatal care for pregnant women when they are beneficiaries of the aid. Health Minister Nísia Trindade also spoke but did not say which vaccines would be required.
“Vaccination is a child’s right,” Nísia declared about the requirement of proof of vaccination to receive Bolsa Família, said the report. [26]
Pharmaceutical companies and corporate magnets are obviously upbeat with such big measures taken by their “comeback kid” [28]. But the question remains- will the destitute millions of Brazil ever be obliged to Lula’s benevolence and meekly subservient to the grand corporate strategy of turning their country into a land of cheapest human guniepigs? Will the poor mothers be happy with meager allowance after submitting their children for forced vaccination? Will they keep saying Viva Lula!
Nuremberg Code upheld the right to informed consent as the bed rock principle for any kind of medical intervention. Giving vaccines is a medical intervention and when it is made a pre-condition for availing a means of survival, moreover, when the poor parents are forced to get their children jabbed to keep the basic allowance coming, it tantamounts to a grave crime against humanity.
Article 6.1 of UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bio-ethics and Human Rights says, ‘Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be 1. carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice’[29]
Lula’s comeback has been hailed by corporate media and left commentators as the left resurgence in Latin America. They are now required to clarify whether this new kind of Lulite leftism is all set to annihilate the fundamental right to one’s own body or not.

References:

1. https://frontline.thehindu.com/world-affairs/right-wing-rampage-in-brazil-as-bolsonaro-supporters-storm-government-buildings/article66397311.ece
2. https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/brazil-s-right-wing-movement-persists-without-ex-president-bolsonaro-123012100838_1.html
3. https://monthlyreview.org/2020/06/01/the-brazilian-crisis-and-the-new-authoritarianism/
4. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-global/bolsonaro-trump-and-the-rise-of-right-wing-populists-8370865/
5. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/10/30/statement-by-president-joe-biden-congratulating-luiz-inacio-lula-da-silva-as-president-of-brazil/
6. https://www.wsj.com/articles/brazils-jair-bolsonaro-luiz-inacio-lula-da-silva-face-off-in-tense-presidential-runoff-11667065780
7. https://time.com/6226932/lula-win-amazon-climate-change-brazil/
8. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/lula-wins-brazil-election-in-political-resurrection-for-leftist/articleshow/95214864.cms
9. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/03/us-brazil-relations-americas-lula-election-victory
10. https://mail.liberation.org.in/index.php/liberation-2022-december/lulas-victory-brazil-and-path-ahead
11. https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-and-da-silva-aim-to-rekindle-u-s-brazil-relations-3213cc23
12. https://www.ft.com/content/96eac94a-908b-4d87-b09a-c7adc0f002d6
13. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/brazils-lula-government-launches-1st-anti-deforestation-raids-to-protect-amazon-3711449
14. https://amazonwatch.org/news/2022/0222-complicity-in-destruction-iv
15. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/lulas-promise-ministry-indigenous-people-doubt-2022-12-05/
16. https://www.amazonfund.gov.br/en/amazon-fund/
17. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/10/brazil-lula-comeback-speech-bolsonaro-covid-response
18. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/brazilian-president-jair-bolsonaro-decided-not-to-get-vaccinated-have-highest-immunization-2574819
19. https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2021/06/08/bolsonaro-refused-to-buy-pfizer-s-vaccine-at-half-the-price-paid-by-other-countries
20. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/29/brazil-coronavirus-deaths-jair-bolsonaro
21. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2010/05/27/br-bolsa-familia
22. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsa_Fam%C3%ADlia
23. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2008/02/07/happy-families
24. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/equal-is-greater/case-study/brazil/
25. https://original.newsbreak.com/@eden-reports-1601258/2922241716518-brazil-makes-mandatory-childhood-vaccinations-a-condition-for-receiving-government-aid-for-poor-families
26. https://www.riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/modern-day-censorship/lula-says-that-parents-will-be-forced-to-vaccinate-their-children-to-keep-the-bolsa-familia-program/
27. https://www.newsclick.in/bazil-lula-remergees-very-different-political-world
28. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-10-31/brazil-elections-lula-s-challenge-begins-now-his-comeback-is-complete
29. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000212116
---
*Kolkata based, Indian practicing physician who have been extensively speaking and writing against dominating Covid narrative and vaccine mandate. His articles were published in Counterview.in and UHO website

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