The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the MST ends with Salles' defeat and exposes 'failure of the far right'

Although dealing with the front line of Bolsonarism, the movement emerges victorious

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP) |
Ricardo Salles was the commission's rapporteur. - Vinicius Loures/Câmara dos Deputados

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On Wednesday (27), the conclusion of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (also known as CPI) that investigated the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST, in Portuguese) confirmed the total flop of the pro-Bolsonaro far-right in the Chamber of Deputies, particularly the participation of the federal deputy Ricardo Salles (Liberal Party), the commission’s rapporteur. 

Salles is the former minister of the environment of the Bolsonaro government (Liberal Party). He used the commission as an extension of his office at the ministry. Throughout 130 days, the commission presented data from when Salles was a minister and insisted on criminalizing the MST, a movement with which Salles has antagonized since long ago. 

This commission – the fifth CPI on the MST – became the big bet of Bolsonarism for the first year of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's (Workers’ Party) third time at the presidency. The far-right front line became part of the commission. For the presidency and rapporteur, respectively, Luciano Lorenzini Zucco (Republicans Party) and Salles. Among the members, Zé Trovão (Liberal Party), Evair de Mello (Progressive Party), Colonel Chrisóstomo (Liberal Party), Police Chief Éder Mauro (Liberal Party), Caroline de Toni (Liberal Party), among others.

It was a perfect stage for Ricardo Salles to advance his main pro-Bolsonaro goal: make his candidacy for mayor of São Paulo feasible. The former minister is dealing with the skepticism of his own party about the possibility of his victory in the 2024 elections and the intentions of the former president to get closer to São Paulo’s current mayor, Ricardo Nunes (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party).  

In sum, his plan backfired. “For sure, Salles tried to use the CPI on the MST to boost his candidacy by being on media more frequently and making his name known, attracting politicians and businesspeople. But it didn’t work, not just because his candidacy made no progress, but also because the CPI was obfuscated” said Camila Rocha, a political scientist and researcher at the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (Cebrap).

For political scientist Rudá Ricci, Salles' candidacy may have fallen by the wayside, due to the general public's lack of interest in the commission. "Every CPI is a stage. It turns out that with the failure of the far right, the CPI was confining itself as a topic of the progressive bubble. Even the mainstream press stopped mentioning it as a hot topic, except to reveal the fragility of the big landowners caucus and extremist politicians”. 

The low adherence to the CPI is also seen in the commission's final result. "They failed to criminalize the MST in public opinion. They end up speaking to the converted. If anything, they only accentuated the perception that these people already have. I would only highlight Kim Kataguiri’s actions, which perhaps managed to disseminate to more people these ideas. Still, overall, they just reinforced an idea their audience already has."

“Bolsonarism was scorched,” says Ricci. "No one expected such a success from the MST, which has lost a lot of space in recent years due to the Bolsa Família Program having removed part of the social base of the occupations. The MST reemerges on the political scene as a great collective producer, which defends agroecology and maintains a left-wing and popular ideology. It changed its profile and adapted to the new century, in addition to adapting to “Lulism” [the group of those who support President Lula]. It couldn't be better for the movement."

Edited by: Nadini Lopes e Thalita Pires