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The Coups of 1964 and 2016: coups by the same class


The coups of 1964 and 2016 share a common structural nature. Both were class coups, by the holders of money and power: the first used the military, the second used the parliament. The means were different, but the results were the same: a coup that destroys democracy and violates popular sovereignty.

Let’s examine the 1964 coup, that toppled Joao Goulart. In his monumental thesis at the University of Glasglow: “1964: the conquest of the State, political action, power and class coup”, (“1964: la conquista del Estado, acción política, poder y golpe de clase”, Vozes 1981) –an 814 pages book, 326 of which are original documents– René Armand Dreifuss clearly said that: «what happened in Brazil was not a military coup, but a class coup with the use of military force» (p. 397).

The assault on the power of the State was plotted by General Golbery de Couto y Silva using four institutions that propagated the idea of the coup: the Institute of Research and Social Studies, (IPES), the Brazilian Institute of Democratic Action, (IBAD), the Group of Analysis of the Situation, (GLC) and the Superior School of War, (ESG). The manifest objective was: «to re-adapt and re-formulate the State» to conform it to the interests of national and transnational capital. Here is the class character of the coup.

The assault on the State happened in 1964 and hardened in 1968, with repression, torture and murder. The National Security Regime became the Capitalist Security Regime.

For the 2016 coup we have a thorough investigation by Jesse Souza, sociologist, and former President of the IPEA, “Radiography of the Coup” (“La radiografia del golpe”, Leya 2016). Like the 1964 coup, Jesse Souza unveils the mechanisms that allowed the moneyed elites to organize the coup, which was carried out in their name by Parliament.

Consequently, it is about a class and parliamentary coup.

Besides this, Jesse emphasizes «that all the coups, including the present one, are a fraud well perpetrated by the owners of money, who in fact are the true “owners of power”». Who makes up that elite? «The moneyed elite is before anything the financial elite, that directs the great banks and investment funds and leads other moneyed sectors such as agribusiness, industry (FIESP) and commerce, supported by the means of mass communication that systematically twist and falsify the social reality as if it were a “devastated land and bankrupt country” (this is an exaggeration), hiding the corporate interests behind the fraudulent coup».

The engine of the whole process, Jesse Souza states again, is the greed of the moneyed elite, who easily appropriate the collective wealth, with other partners such as the ultraconservative means of communication, the juridical-police complex of the State, and a portion of the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), (think of Gilmar Mendes).

The process of impeachment went to the Senate. The Senate moved to impeach the President for the crime of fiscal responsibility. Principal jurists and economists, besides notable testimonies during the hearings and in the official reports of several institutions, roundly denied the existence of responsibility. The majority of Senators did not even bother to attend the meetings with the highly qualified specialists, because they had already made the decision to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.

The audio of the conversation between Romero Juca, minister of planning and the former director of Transpetro, Sergio Machado, reveals the plot: “to put Michel in a great national agreement with the Supreme and with all, everything stops there… and it ends the bleeding of the Lava Jato”. One of the motives behind the coup was also to put beyond the reach of Justice the 49 senators (out of 81) indicted or implicated in corruption. In this way, with the exception of the courageous defenders of President Dilma Rousseff, that type of politicians without morals, decided to remove an honest and innocent woman.

To condemn someone where there is no crime is a coup. A class and parliamentary coup. To stage a coup means to violate the Constitution and betray popular sovereignty, the strength of which elected President Dilma Rousseff with 54 millions votes.

Back in 1964, and now in 2016, be it through the military or through Parliament, the same logic functions: the economic-financial elites and the conservative political caste undertook the theft of a great part of the national treasure (Jesse counts 71,440 people, only 0.05% of the population), undermining the lives and well being of the large majority of the people, reduced to poverty. A large part of Congress is complicit in this coup. In this Congress the same structural intent of guaranteeing the status quo that favors their privileges and earnings prevails.

The PMDB’s project, “A Bridge to the Future”, a liberalism so shameless as to make you blush, reveals the purpose of the coup: to minimize the State, reduce salaries, liquidate the policy of revalorization of salaries, slash monies for social programs, privatize state enterprises, especially Pre-Sal, exclude obligatory expenses of health and education, reduce to a minimum everything that relates to culture, human rights, women and minorities. The ministry is made up of Whites, and a great part of its members are accused of corruption. There are no women, Blacks, or representatives of the minorities.

We are in the midst of a terrifying retrogressive political-social movement, that worsens inequality, our perverse social wound, and erases the social conquests of the 13 years of the Lula-Dilma governments.

There is massive resistance and opposition in the streets, by strong social groups and intellectuals who do not accept a conspiring president without credibility. The solution would be general elections, and through popular sovereignty, a new President would be chosen who truly would represent the country.
Leonardo Boff Theologian-Philosophe, Earthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,

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