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BRAZIL
Popular resistance in response to the coup
Ana María Guerrero
5/25/2016
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The temporary suspension from office of President Dilma Rousseff has been answered with protest marches by social and popular sectors opposing the impeachment.

With Vice-President Michel Temer taking over temporarily as President of Brazil on May 12, after the Senate suspended President Dilma Rousseff from her functions for 180 days as part of the removal process against her, social and popular movements, intellectuals, and progressive personalities are concerned and alert now that they are faced with a scenario that could mean a move backwards in matters of recognition, inclusion and rights of minorities.

In less than a week, Temer has eliminated social ministries that looked to narrow the gap in equality. If governments have to reflect the social diversity of a country and act as the defenders of democracy, this is not a high priority for the actual government.

The resistance to what has been widely classified as a “coup d’etat” revolves, above all, around two fronts: Povo sem Medo (People without Fear) and Brasil Popular (Popular Brazil) that brings together important and diverse organizations, groups, unions, among others. We see two lines in their positioning: the one close to the government of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT-Workers’ Party) and the other, being the opposition, which rejects the methods and motivations of those who are behind the impeachment. Both lines coincide in the diagnostic, but differ in the intensity of the call.

From the feminist movement, for example, is Shuma Schumacher, an activist from the decade of the 70s and present coordinator of the Rede de Desenvolvimento Humano (REDEH-Human Development Network). She maintains that they feel indignant but not surprised as they realize that they are facing the answer from a patriarchal system that moved backwards and lost some of its powers during the governments of Rousseff.

“It’s not just a coup against the president, it is also a blow against women, blacks, indigenous peoples and social movements,” Schumacher told Carta Capital, independent left-leaning publication, referring to the fact that the cabinet of ministers of Temer does not include women or blacks, and also to the measures approved by the interim president taken to cut public spending that includes cuts in funds for affirmative actions in favor of minorities.

Clara Araujo, coordinator of the Center for Studies on Contemporary Inequalities and Gender Relations of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), finds that non-compliance with the minimum quota of 30 percent participation of women in public office will be consistent with Temer’s “masculinization” of his government. She recalls that it was difficult for Rousseff herself to meet the quota due to pressure from her allied parties, among which was Temer’s Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB-Brazilian Democratic Movement Party).

In defense of democracy
During the second term of Rousseff, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) movement took distance from the government after assessing that the abandonment of its commitments (law of equal marriage, gender identity or against homophobia) by the government were in fact concessions to other sectors. However, without resorting to revenge, the União Nacional LGBT (LGBT National Union) movement believes it necessary to defend democracy because when it is threatened, the LGBT are “the first” to suffer the consequences.

They are right: Temer is linked with openly homophobic political sectors, such as the promoters of the “gay cure” and the “family statute” (which restricts the concept of family to heterosexual), besides having close ties to two devious public figures. The first one is Eduardo Cunha, an evangelical and also of the PMDB, who was recently revoked as president of the Chamber of Deputies for corruption and who expedited the request for impeachment; he is also known as the author of the heterosexual pride day and the criminalization of “heterophobia” draft laws which reveals his intolerance for sexual diversity. The second person is Jair Bolsonaro, from the Partido Social Cristão (Social Christian Party) — a homophobic and harasser of the homosexual left-wing Deputy Jean Wyllys —, who in the first round of the vote in favor of impeachment, thanked Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, Rousseff’s torturer during the military dictatorship (1964-1985), “for the great services rendered.”

The indigenous movement has found itself in a similar position. They saw important promises fade away with the alliance of the PT with big landowners and agribusiness, and in the process dilating issues like land demarcation but at the same time allowing the advancement of deforestation in the Amazonia, actions that harmed the environment and areas of indigenous dwelling, as was the Belo Monte dam case that is still fresh in their minds.

However, the Articulaçao dos Povos Indigenas do Brasil (Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), with representatives of ethnic groups such as the Tuxá, Guarani-Kaiowá or Ianomami, among others, believes that the impeachment process of Rousseff has been conducted with “anger and hatred” by “the same actors who historically” have attacked their rights. In a statement, they highlighted their rights “to life, to Mother Earth, to our condition of ethnically and culturally distinct peoples.” Also, they suggest that more than voicing their demands, it is now time to fight back and resist, believing that in a true democracy they would have their rights guaranteed, including the right to exist as indigenous peoples.

“I am impressed of how the system manages to fragment us and fragment our struggles. All we have left is to see what unites us, especially in moments that are politically sensitive, when it is extremely important that we bring together our forces to have stronger coordination,” Danielle Santos de Miranda, a Rio de Janeiro LGBT activist, told Latinamerica Press.

Indignation of the popular movement
It seems that what some have already envisioned will come to be, a “police State” that will undermine rights and will strengthen the persecution and repression of this and other social sectors. These sectors are concerned that Temer has appointed Alexandre Moraes as Minister of Justice, known by many because under his term as Secretary of Public Security of São Paulo between 2014 and 2016, the number of black protesters killed by police repression increased by 70 percent. To Moraes, protesters against impeachment have “nothing to complain about” and their actions resemble “guerrilla actions.”

In this spirit, two strong popular movements with far more confrontational speeches have surfaced: the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST-Landless Rural Workers Movement) and the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST-Homeless Workers Movement).

The MST proposes civil disobedience and is trying to join forces for an indefinite general strike, although with no set date yet. Also, it points out that hope needs to be sought out in the initiatives that the people are undertaking. In addition, it understands that there is a “feeling in the popular movement of having been betrayed” by the traditional political class, warning that if the impeachment succeeds they will continue to support the PT, including in the ballot boxes.

Meanwhile, the MTST states that the country will be “torched by strikes, occupations, demonstrations and blockades. If they were to go to the bitter end [if Rousseff is definitely removed], there will not be a day of peace in Brazil.”

“They may want to overthrow the [PT] government, arbitrarily imprison Lula [former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010)] or whoever, they may be able to criminalize the popular protest movements, but to believe that they will do that and then expect that the silence and peace of a cemetery will reign, is an illusion of those who do not know the history of the popular movement in this country,” the MTST warns.

Some believe that if the impeachment proceeding do not move forward, the PT could emerge stronger if it takes advantage of the wave of support received despite the distancing with the people’s struggles. This is possible if we consider that Lula remains the favorite in a hypothetical election, and if the population received well the gesture of Rousseff of having issued some decrees in defense of the rights of the most vulnerable and of social programs before the impeachment against her was approved.

There is, then, an uncertain forecast in the fights to come, and they are not expected, as we can see, to be peaceful at all. What will Temer do to calm the flames that light up on the prairie and prevent a fire from starting, we do not know. Nothing indicates that he is concerned either. —Latinamerica Press.


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Thousands of people took to the streets in protest against the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. / Sumaia Villela-Agência Brasil
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