March 24, 2016 | by Rodrigo Constantino Print

Protesters outside the National Congress of Brazil in Brasília denounce government corruption and call for the departure of President Dilma Rousseff. Photo credit: Agência Brasil Fotografias (license: CC BY 2.0)

Brazil is currently going through an interesting moment, with ongoing presidential scandals that have made the government’s intrinsic corruption obvious to the general public and triggered widespread protests. It’s a dangerous time, but also one that holds great opportunity for libertarians and conservatives. After more than a decade of a terrible leftist government, hundreds of corruption scandals, and the worst depression ever, people woke up. They are angry, and tired of socialism.

The Brazilian Labour Party has reacted to this new popular resistance by intensifying its authoritarianism and declaring war against our laws, the Constitution, and the millions of people protesting on the streets. It’s clear now that the left’s rhetoric doesn’t work anymore, and the real coup has come from the government itself — not some “powerful elite.” The ruling government officials are this powerful elite trying to destroy our democracy.

We now have a better view of the big picture. At one side, we have the majority fighting for justice, for democracy, for freedom. At the other side, we have a minority, but a very organized and loud one, with deep pockets funded by our taxes. This minority is fighting just to survive, to stay in power, and to keep its money — that it steals from workers.

Everything is clear now. That brings new kinds of risk, as well as the best chance for freedom we have ever had. The risk is that at the end of the day they will win, buy or intimidate all Congress and judges, and condemn Brazil to becoming just like Venezuela. The chance for freedom is that we may be able to get rid of them, improving our republican institutions and the rule of law. The jury is out, and we don’t have the answer yet.

I hope — and expect — that Brazil will be more resilient than Venezuela, that our democracy is stronger. We see many young people talking about freedom, about classic liberal thinkers, thanks to their participation in social networks and with help from think tanks. The mainstream media is losing influence, and the artists and “intellectuals” are in trouble because they have found themselves in the position of having to support the indefensible. Their hypocrisy is obvious.

We have a real opportunity here to change our culture and improve our institutions. It’s up to us, although it won’t be at all easy. We are fighting against a deep-rooted mentality that believes in the state as some kind of God, and distrusts capitalism, free markets, and the profit motive. It’s going to take a while, but I’m an optimist.

Rodrigo Constantino portrait
Rodrigo Constantino is chairman of Instituto Liberal and a founding member of the Instituto Millenium, both of which are Atlas Network partners based in Brazil. Learn More about Rodrigo Constantino >