“Ousar Lutar, Ousar Vencer”: Influences of the 1959 Cuban Revolution on Armed Resistance Against Dictatorship in Brazil

“Ousar Lutar, Ousar Vencer”: Influences of the 1959 Cuban Revolution on Armed Resistance Against Dictatorship in Brazil

Luiz Felipe Falcao (Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, Brazil), Caroline Jaques Cubas (Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, Brazil) and Nashla Dahas (Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5205-6.ch003

Abstract

The 1959 Cuban Revolution had intense and long-lasting repercussions in Brazil. To highlight this, it is worth mentioning two recent events that occurred exactly 60 years after that revolutionary triumph: first, the release of the movie Marighella, directed by Wagner Moura, based on the life of the writer and former congressman of the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro, PCB) Carlos Marighella (1911-1969); second, the speech delivered by President Jair Messias Bolsonaro at the opening of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, with abundant distribution of insults to the Cuban government.
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Introduction

The 1959 Cuban Revolution had intense and long-lasting repercussions in Brazil. To highlight this, it is worth mentioning 2 recent events that occurred exactly 60 years after that revolutionary triumph: first, the release of the movie Marighella, directed by Wagner Moura, based on the life of the writer and former congressman of the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro [PCB]) Carlos Marighella (1911-1969). Second, the speech delivered by President Jair Messias Bolsonaro at the opening of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, with abundant distribution of insults to the Cuban government.

Marighella, a party member since the 1930s and its leader in the late 1940s, led one of the main groups to take up arms against the civil-military dictatorship established in the country in 1964. In open dissent with the PCB, he participated in August 1967 in the First Conference of the Organization for Latin American Solidarity (OLAS) in Havana, Cuba, which brought together Latin American revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements (as well as assistants from Africa, Asia, and Europe)1. As a result, he was expelled from the party, founding the following year the National Liberation Action (Ação Libertadora Nacional [ALN]), which became famous for actions such as the kidnapping of U.S. Ambassador Charles Elbrick, in support of the October 8 Revolutionary Movement (Movimento Revolucionário 8 de Outubro [MR-8])2. The hardening of the regime in December 1968, by suppressing parliamentary powers and several guarantees and rights, through Institutional Act No. 5, made him a prime target for repression, culminating in a deadly ambush that killed him in November 19693.

The movie, which is an adaptation of the book Marighella: o guerrilheiro que incendiou o mundo [Marighella: the guerrilla man who set the world afire], by Mário Magalhães, has been facing major difficulties to be released in Brazil. It depicts the character as a passionate revolutionary man deeply committed to a social transformation capable of overcoming the huge (economic, political, cultural) inequalities that large portions of the Brazilian population undergo. According to critics of the genre, director’s intent to reach a standard audience is clear, especially young people, thanks to an accessible language, an agile camera to capture shooting scenes and police chases, and a soundtrack that resorts to Brazilian rap songs. Thanks to this, Marighella would tend to be regarded sympathetically, as a fearless, visionary man who challenged the existing status quo, be it political repression or social exclusion.

In turn, President Jair Bolsonaro’s mentions to Cuba at the opening of the UN General Assembly were targeted primarily at the Brazilian More Doctors Program [Programa Mais Médicos], launched by former President Dilma Rousseff, in 2013, under the supervision and mediation of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which had the Cuban government as its most decisive partner. In order to meet the needs of poor and/or remote areas in Brazil, this program aimed to keep physicians working in the public health network in the outskirts of big cities or in poorer and more remote municipalities. It reached, in its heyday, over 18,000 professionals, but it was replaced by the Doctors for Brazil Program [Programa Médicos pelo Brasil], created by the Bolsonaro administration on August 1, 2019.

Despite offering a scholarship worth R$ 10,000.00 paid by the Brazilian Ministry of Health (Ministério da Saúde [MS]), in addition to a living allowance for housing and food provided by the municipalities on the other hand, the Brazilian More Doctors Program was slow to attract Brazilian practitioners (who, by the way, never represented half of our total number of doctors). However, this program aroused the interest of the Cuban government, which identified an opportunity to allocate thousands of practitioners and also to receive a portion of the scholarships available for them. This, particularly, among other reasons (such as the fact that Cuban doctors, usually, attend 4-year courses focused on medical clinic and family health, therefore, they are not specialists, something which is common among Brazilians), served as an excuse for harsh criticism and even hostility from medical entities and opposition politicians. According to these positions, Bolsonaro, in his UN speech, referred to the program as a promoter of ‘slave labor,’ arguing, without providing any evidence, that “Cuban agents” might have been sent to various countries “to collaborate in the implementation of dictatorships” through similar initiatives.

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