Secret Alliances and Corruption Scandals: How the Socialist Workers’ Party Maintained Power in Brazil

By Fernando de Castro, Special to The Epoch Times
October 27, 2019 Updated: October 31, 2019

News Analysis

This article is the first in a multi-part series about the rise of socialism in Brazil and South America.

RECIFE, Brazil—The election of conservative President Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 brought an end to the left-wing government of the Workers’ Party, which first rose to power in Brazil’s 2002 general election.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and was succeeded by Dilma Rousseff, who was reelected in 2014. Her mandate was interrupted in 2016 after her party had been in power for 13 years.

Rousseff was impeached for allegedly manipulating budget accounts. Vice President Michel Temer of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party assumed power, remaining in office until 2018. Lula has been imprisoned since April 2018 for corruption and money laundering.

The Workers’ Party was the source of various corruption scandals during the time that Lula and Rousseff were in office, even though the party gained fame in the 1990s for fighting against corruption and for a policy of more transparency and honesty with the public.

The Workers’ Party also formed many links with Latin American communist dictatorships and through the São Paulo Forum, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), known internationally for their terrorist and drug trafficking activities. The organization denies any formal ties with the FARC, yet interviews and records of leaders with the organization have shown the FARC taking part in its events.

Created by Lula and Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro in 1990, the São Paulo Forum is an international entity composed of about 200 socialist and communist parties from Latin America.

In 1995, a law was passed in Brazil that requires the cancellation of the registration of political parties that were subordinated to foreign entities or governments. But nothing was done to cancel the registration of the Workers’ Party or other leftist parties that are demonstrably part of the São Paulo Forum.

Held Hostage by a Criminal Group

According to Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian philosopher and specialist in Marxism, the Workers’ Party’s fight against corruption in 1990 was intended to divert people’s attention away from the alliances being formed with the São Paulo Forum.

Olavo de Carvalho
Olavo de Carvalho, philosopher. (Josias Teófilo)

Carvalho has studied Marxism for over 50 years and is considered one of the most prominent thinkers in Brazil. He is the author of 28 books and teaches an online course in philosophy.

In the 1990s, Carvalho was a columnist for various newspapers, but when he reported on documents that he said showed the links between Workers’ Party and communist and terrorist groups, he lost his jobs in the media and was accused of having created a conspiracy theory.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Carvalho said that the São Paulo Forum is the biggest political group that has ever existed in the Americas, and its aim is to implement socialist dictatorships in Latin American countries by partnering with questionable organizations.

“The problem was not only the corruption of the forum, but its purpose, which sought to … strengthen the disarmament of the population, and create even more aggressive communism in Latin America,” Carvalho said.


The official line from São Paulo Forum is that the FARC isn’t formally a member of the organization, and it has been prevented from attending some meetings. However, on previous occasions, the terrorist organization has attended Forum activities, as cited by then-FARC spokesperson Raul Reyes in an interview in 2003, published in a Brazilian publication.

Reyes said that he met Brazil’s Lula at a São Paulo Forum event in 1996, and also met the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez there.

The São Paulo Forum also officially claims to be an organization that allows debates between leftist parties. However, Lula said in 2005 that the organization enables him to get involved in politics in other countries without it looking like political interference.

The organization’s meetings typically conclude with the adoption of a series of guidelines, dubbed “Final Declaration,” with the expectation that member states adopt those points of mutual agreement.

Hidden From Public

The Brazilian press, according to Carvalho, has actively tried to prevent the actions of the forum from being disclosed to the public.

“Brazilian newspapers have always hidden the existence of the São Paulo Forum so that the population would not know about the true face of the Workers’ Party, which has always sought to ally with drug traffickers [referring to FARC] and dictators to gain power,” Carvalho said.

When the Workers’ Party was in government, he said, its goal was to prevent the Latin American communist regimes from being extinguished.

“The communist dictatorships were all broke, and Lula provided financial support to them to prevent communism from ending. It was because of this that in 2007 the FARC sent a letter to the then Brazilian president, congratulating him for saving Latin American communism,” Carvalho said.

According to historian and Social Liberal Party state deputy Ana Caroline Campagnolo, the Bolsonaro government has sought to combat socialists by ending funding for leftist NGOs and introducing new public policies.

“Bolsonaro is bringing new ideas to his government and is seeking to confront the socialists to prevent them from sabotaging his government, and in that sense, conservatives need to occupy the spaces in the public debate to prevent leftists from coming back into power,” she said.

As a way of presenting an alternative to socialist discourse, several conservative groups are emerging in Brazil, offering studies by conservative authors and providing political support to President Bolsonaro.