Article published in Economic value, on August 10th, carries the call: “In Minas, state succession is out of step with the national one”. This “disengagement”, in my opinion, is largely favorable to Romeu Zema, who in a “denationalized” election has everything to be reelected governor.
Kalil, on the other hand, to become a competitive candidacy and win the election, will have to link himself to the national dispute for Lula’s candidacy or, at least, in the first round, “open” the platform for Democratic Front candidates and, in the second round, support Bolsonaro’s opponent.
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See below a panel with the status of the two candidacies for the government of Minas Gerais.
Alexandre Kalil is a very strong candidacy, but if he remains “neutral” in the presidential race, he will lose the election to Romeu Zema. Alexandre Kalil’s candidacy for the state government is very strong and the first polls released confirm this; the mayor appears at the front in polls in the Greater Belo Horizonte and loses in the countryside, not because he has a greater rejection than Romeu Zema, but because of lack of knowledge.
Who is better at fighting the pandemic?
The entire confrontation between Alexandre Kalil and Romeu Zema has been, in the last period, around who is more competent in managing the coronavirus pandemic in Minas. It turns out that the second wave of covid-19 showed the limitations of Kalil’s municipalist strategy.
In fact, Mayor Kalil played a prominent role in containing the first wave in Minas, with firm attitudes of social isolation, he helped to save many lives, but the mayor’s “municipalist” strategy was exhausted. This is because the virus is not “municipalist”, it has no borders, which violently hit Belo Horizonte, which is a city with a large movement of people.
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BH anchors the public and private health system in Minas, which overloaded the capital’s hospitals with patients from other cities; and without more expressive emergency aid and support to companies, BH could not sustain the “closure of the city” for any longer.
Take a look: if the dispute is about performance in combating covid-19, the results are unfavorable to Kalil (numbers from 17/8): a) the rate of cases in Belo Horizonte is 10,553/per 100,000 residents against rate de Minas of 9,567/per 100 thousand; b) the mortality rate in BH is 254/per 100 thousand against a rate in Minas of 244/per 100 thousand; c) BH leads the number of deaths in cities in Minas Gerais in absolute numbers, with 6,407 deaths and it is difficult to explain that these are “absolute numbers” and not “relative numbers”.
In addition, Romeu Zema promises to invest heavily in Kalil’s main electoral stronghold, Grande BH, with gigantic works such as the Rodoanel and the works at Ferrugem and Arrudas, in Contagem and Belo Horizonte. As can be seen, a dispute for a denationalized governor favors the candidacy of Romeu Zema.
Democratic front or neutrality
Kalil’s definitive position on Bolsonaro’s candidacy is not yet known; whether it will remain neutral or whether it will integrate an anti-Bolsonarist democratic front. So far, Kalil’s call has been neutral, as he recently declared: “Despite these meetings, the mayor of Belo Horizonte is even considering not taking a stand in the dispute. “I even give myself the right to remain neutral. Who came to help me in my re-election? Have you heard from Bolsonaro or Lula here? Why am I obliged not to fold my arms and not say ‘vote for whoever I want’? The two tried to pull my foot here,” complained Kalil.”
In another declaration Kalil demarcates with Bolsonaro, but rejects the adhesion to Lula: “the tendency is not to stay with Bolsonaro, but not to jump in the lap of the other”. With this speech, Kalil should displease the anti-Bolsonarist electorate, which is a vast majority in Minas, and does not win the Bolsonarist voter, who will tend to vote for Romeu Zema.
Another path that Kalil could adopt is to integrate a democratic front against Bolsonaro, even though he opens his “platform” to more than one presidential candidacy of parties linked to his coalition (for example, Lula and Ciro), as Marcelo Freixo is trying to articulate in the Rio de Janeiro, and support the candidate from the democratic field that goes to the second round.
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Personally, I am in favor of bringing the PT closer to Alexandre Kalil, which should become clear with Lula’s presence in Minas in the second half of September.
We have an election with a huge challenge. There is almost despair in the democratic and progressive segments of Brazilian society: no one can think of anything else but defeating Bolsonaro and ending the dark time we are living in Brazil.
It is a difficult strategy to build: the defense of a broad front to defeat Bolsonaro, probably in the second round, and, at the same time, win the election and make a government more to the left than Lula did in his two terms, with the strengthening of the State and a strong fight against the enormous inequalities present in Brazilian society.
An alliance with Kalil favors, in my opinion, the construction of a more left-wing government in Minas and Brazil. See the case of Rio de Janeiro. There, the broad front is being built with segments of the PSD more to the right, represented by the leaders of Eduardo Paes and Rodrigo Maia, very committed to the economic and social project of a neoliberal cut. Kalil, in the PSD, represents a center more to the left.
Kalil was elected as an outsider, but he demonstrated political content that places him very close to center-left positions: he has social sensitivity, kept progressive people in the social area and courageously adopted as PBH’s slogan “City Hall for those who need it most”; adopted advanced positions in culture and customs, kept people on the left in these areas and with bold statements as it did at the LGBTQIA+ Parade; adopts a developmental stance on the economy and is critical of the privatization of state-owned companies proposed by the Romeu Zema government; he has been a critic of the “denialism” of the Pocket Society, he has done a great job of fighting the pandemic, with strong attitudes of social isolation and vaccination; Kalil is a critic of Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism.
In my opinion we should be with Kalil in the first or second round.
Zema, ally of denial
Romeu Zema has been an ally of the “denialism” of the Pocket Society; he was elected in the “anti-PT wave” and could be run over by the “anti-Bolsonarist wave”. To understand Romeu Zema’s alliance with Bolsonaro’s “denialism” it is necessary to understand his project of State and society.
The governor defends a privatism equal to or even more radical than that of Paulo Guedes. In his government program, he defends the minimal state and the privatization of everything, including health and education: “we believe that the guarantee of freedom is the only and true function of the state, and that, therefore, it must be minimal , because the individual must own himself”.
I did a study on Romeu Zema’s privatizations; I used the alphabet to enumerate them; he gave the complete alphabet: from A to Z. The governor is not anti-science like Bolsonaro: he defends the use of masks, alcohol gel and vaccination. But, as an ultraliberal, Romeu Zema defends, as we have seen, that “the guarantee of freedom is the only and true function of the state”. Romeu Zema then “privatized” the virus. See the governor’s full reasoning when he stated that the virus had to “travel”:
“These are measures that the mayor decided to adopt, and we have observed that in many regions, in many cities, existing cases, or even the absence of cases, do not justify the total closure of trade, because in this crisis we need the virus travel a little. If we stop it completely, it ends up leaving some regions uninfected, and tomorrow we’re going to have a tidal wave in that region. So ideally it propagates, but slowly, and the total absence of propagation is bad” (UOL, 1/4/2020).
Instead of the government acting to expand social isolation with restrictions on the functioning of economic activities to prevent the disease, for Romeu Zema the State should guarantee the “controlled spread of the virus”; it is called “herd immunity”, where the virus should infect the majority of the population and whoever survived “would be immunized”. Unbelievable and inhuman!
With the overwhelming advance of the second wave of the pandemic in Minas Gerais, the governor, against his will, had to oppose his ultra-liberal ideology, and create the “Purple Wave” of compulsory application throughout Minas Gerais, closing all non-essential activities in the State. In the interview in which he announced the “closure of Mines” the governor’s nervousness and discomfort was visible, who aggressively called the people who gathered “criminals”.
And the State government and the “news”, visibly, showed enormous discomfort with the closure of Mines and showed enormous anxiety in getting rid of the “Purple Wave”, not least because sustaining closures for longer periods implies reopening the ” war budget” in Brazil, to increase emergency aid and support for companies, a policy that the Partido Novo is radically opposed to.
Zema candidacy axes
Everything indicates that Romeu Zema’s candidacy will have as axes showing the “advances” in the State of Minas Gerais: the timely payment of civil servants; the transfers made to the municipalities regarding taxes withheld during the Fernando Pimentel government, including those on health; the renegotiation of the payment of R$7 billion in court orders in 72 installments; the vaccination campaign; the investments promised in the state, in particular with Vale’s R$27 billion agreement and the transfer to municipalities of part of Vale’s money.
Is this enough to re-elect Romeo Zema? Minas is well in the ranking of vaccination, but the second wave made a devastation of deaths in the state, occupying the state in third place nationally (52,002 on 8/17) and the state rose 10 positions in the mortality rate per 1 million inhabitants from 26th to 16th position in the national ranking of States; a result of this there is no way to put Zema with a good pandemic management.
The investments in the Vale agreement are expressive, but they are future promises that will only be delivered after many years.
Romeu Zema was elected in the “anti-PT wave” and in alliance with the Pocketnarism, he now runs a serious risk, by remaining linked to the president, apparently ashamedly, of being run over by the “anti-Bolsonarist wave” that is forming in the Northeast and also in the Southeast. In the recent IPEC survey (EX-IBOPE) Lula wins in the Southeast by a good margin (47% to 24%) and this difference is expected to increase in Minas Gerais, where the PT and allies won four presidential elections (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 ).
Kalil needs to stand out in defense of democracy
Kalil needs to stand out with Romeu Zema in health, economy and defense of democracy.
As you can see, it is possible to defeat Romeu Zema in Minas Gerais and the best name for this task is Alexandre Kalil. But it depends on the political strategy to be adopted by the mayor.
Kalil will be victorious if he confronts the governor on three fronts:
a) in the policy to fight the pandemic, linking Romeu Zema to Bolsonaro’s denial, responsible for more than 600 thousand deaths by covid-19 in Brazil;
b) fighting the privatism of Romeu Zema, who proposes to privatize everything, including health and education; XP/IPESPE research shows that the people are against this privatism; asked what the “best way to recover the economy after the coronavirus”, the population responded: 65%, change the economic policy with more government investments for Brazil to return to growth; 25%, maintain the current economic policy with reforms, and greater participation of private companies to resume growth; 10% don’t know / didn’t answer;
c) Kalil needs to demarcate with Romeu Zema also on the democratic issue; the governor is an ally of Bolsonaro in attacks on democracy and does not participate in any articulation of governors in defense of democracy, as happened recently in a note criticizing Bolsonaro’s attacks on the STF; it is worth mentioning that Romeu Zema is on the right of the Partido Novo, which defends the impeachment of Bolsonaro.
*José Prata Araújo is an economist, specialist in social rights and a columnist for Brasil de Fato.
** This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil in fact.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida