Emblematic left-wing figure in Brazil, José Dirceu plans his comeback to the Congress

In an Interview for Brasil de Fato, Lula's former major allly talks about politics and military threat in the country

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP) |
"I was impeached for political reasons and convicted for political reasons," says Dirceu - Agência Brasil

Impressive twists and turns mark José Dirceu's story. From fleeing Brazil during the dictatorship, returning to the country with a new identity and plastic surgery to escape the military, to becoming one of the leading figures in national politics and a possible successor to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the presidency of the Republic.  

However, his political career suffered a blow in 2005 when his mandate as a federal deputy was revoked. Despite two stints in prison in the past decade, Dirceu made a remarkable return to the National Congress as a speaker at a legislative session celebrating Brazilian democracy 19 years after losing his mandate.  

Recently, Dirceu took part in the Brasil de Fato Interview program, where he discussed essential moments and analyzed international geopolitics. During his time as Chief of Staff (2002-2005), he was one of the main targets of the mensalão investigations, when politicians from the Workers' Party (PT) were accused of diverting advertising money to pay federal deputies in exchange for favorable votes on government issues in Congress. However, Dirceu says he has no regrets about the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which was responsible for removing his mandate. 

As he contemplates his future role, speculation has emerged about a potential run for the legislature in 2026. However, Dirceu refrains from confirming such speculation, explaining that he is not currently considering a candidacy. He leaves the future open: "I'm going to analyze what role I can play because I'm already going to be 80 years old like our president Lula."  

Dirceu still faces legal challenges, with two convictions pending in the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) and requests for annulment and prescription in the Supreme Court. However, he sees the possibility of a return to Congress as a form of justice for his history and his struggle. In Dirceu's words, "Since they hunted me down without any proof of anything, it was a political cassation to remove me from the institutional life of the country and to remove me from the government and the PT, I think I have, out of justice, the right to return to the Chamber." 

Check out excerpts from the interview below: 

How do you view the federal government's decision not to hold an event to remember the 60th anniversary of the coup?    

That was the decision of the President of the Republic. He must have had reasons of state, rather than government, for making it. I assume it's because of relations with the Armed Forces, turning the page on the attempted coup of January 8, 2023. In my speech, I expressed my opinion. Furthermore, I think the Armed Forces need to be reformed. This issue should have been debated with the country.   

The National Congress has a national defense policy, a strategy, and the White Paper [an official document published by a government to provide information or guidance on a problem and how to deal with it]. This is the time to discuss the Armed Forces, not in order not to have Armed Forces, and not against them. On the contrary, I also said that Brazil is a power, and in today's world, it is clear that each country has to take care of its food, energy, and technological sovereignty. Brazil still has to rebuild this technological sovereignty.   

And the country needs the Armed Forces. But they need to be democratized. Because in the transition from dictatorship to democracy, article 142 remained [the article in Brazil's 1988 Federal Constitution defines that the Armed Forces, made up of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, are permanent and regular national institutions, organized based on hierarchy and discipline, under the supreme authority of the President of the Republic], and the Armed Forces became, in a way, a state within the state. The only gateway is the Agulhas Negras school. A sergeant corporal can no longer light when he becomes a captain.   

There are problems with education, the curriculum, the Ministry of Defense's promotions, and several other issues that need to be debated without prejudice or an attitude of denying the Armed Forces.    

What about the coup attempt that took place in 2022?    

I think that the issue of the coups, the attempted coup in 1955 - because they said that Getúlio [Vargas] should have had a majority vote, and it wasn't in the Constitution, it was a simple majority - that [Marshal] Lott gave a counter-coup, that of 1961 and 1964, which left them in power for 21 years, and both in the parliamentary legal coup, which was the impeachment [of 2016] and in the election of [Jair] Bolsonaro and on January 8, you can tell that the problem has returned so much so that they are being judged. So much so that the Supreme Court devised an inquiry to investigate and convict several officers.  

A bet on President Lula's re-election in 2026: I wonder if it's a unanimous decision within the Workers' Party... For those looking from the outside, it also seems very logical. Do you think this is the right path?  

I think so. I've been talking about 12 years of government because of the changes we need to make in Brazil; the reforms and administrative continuity are required. They must be done in stages because we don't have a majority in the House and Senate. You must seek agreements.    

The ministers' work to approve bills in the House and Senate is a double job. Let's put it that way: we must form a majority with allies who often have different economic programs than ours. They have the same basis for defending democracy, the same basis, often on environmental or social issues, but not on specific topics.   

We must consider Lula's re-election to give continuity to the reforms we are initiating. We have reforming income tax, profits, and dividends, which is very important. Brazil has a tax structure that expropriates workers' income and, in a way, levies little tax on the 1% who have almost a quarter of the country's income or the 10% who have 100%.    

You have extensive knowledge of Latin America's new left and have closely followed its growth on the continent. It is left political with dissonant views. For example, Gabriel Boric has restrictions on Venezuela. What kind of left is that? Is it just progressivism?  

It's just that everyone is stuck where they are, on their soil. Chile, since it went through a dictatorship and had a democratic process almost 40 years ago, has its internal correlation; it reacts to another country's problems according to its internal situation and the vision of the party or government on international issues. This issue of democracy is very dear to us because we suffered an attempted coup and suffered the coup. And Chile had a dictatorship. Colombia had a civil war for almost 100 years, so you must take that into account as well.    

The critical thing in Venezuela is that there is an election, and the international community sees it as an election that follows the rites of the Venezuelan situation. Wanting someone who tried to carry out a coup, who supported external intervention, who supported an illegitimate government, which was that of the so-called President [Juan] Guaidó, to be a candidate when he has already been prosecuted and convicted is not possible.  

Let's hope that everything goes well because the sanctions that the Americans imposed on Venezuela are responsible for the departure of 2 million, 4 million, or 6 million people - everyone says a figure, but there were - and the economic crisis in Venezuela, which was exporting 3, 4 million barrels of oil, with the population it has, it's a middle-income country.   

And [Hugo] Chaves made a social revolution in education, health, housing, and income. But a country with US$57 billion in revenue, falling to US$600, US$700 million... We must understand what it means to wake up and find that the country is outside the world's financial system and can't export its main wealth, oil. And to have its reserves hijacked, as if they were to hijack Brazil's reserves of US$340 billion and take Brazil out of the financial system. It would be chaos in Brazil.   

So, the international community has to discuss and debate this issue of sanctions. A country can apply sanctions, but we don't have the United Nations or a world government, so that's a problem. And the sanctions were very harsh, as they have been for Iran. There's also the question of Russia, which the sanctions didn't help at all because Russia is a continental country with a wealthy rearguard; it has India and China as markets in other currencies. 

Edited by: Lucas Estanislau