Unrest in the streets of Brasilia

Source: Google

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

Brazil has been witnessing upheavals since 2015. Around 35,000 people have marched the capital and other cities in May 2017. Angry demonstrators have set fire to several ministerial buildings in Brasilia. 

Commuter buses have been burned. Communist sickle and hammers have been sprayed on the walls. Graffiti’s called for Death to the Bourgeois”.

To quell upcoming protests, there has been a heavy police presence on the streets. Rubber bullets have been fired. There also has been an investigation surrounding usage of live ammunition on protestors. At the present moment, people are demanding the resignation of President Temer, fresh elections and economic plans set by the current regime to be withdrawn.

Unions of key sectors, political parties and activists stand as one people to bring a change in their country. General strikes have been called. Proposals to bring changes to labour laws and pension system have angered the common man.

Temer had proposed a minimum age for retirement, which would compel many employees to work longer to receive a pension and reduce payouts in a country where many workers retire with full benefits in their 50s.

Recent polls suggest that over 92 per cent of people want new elections and there is less than 10 per cent of approval rating for President Temer.

These events indicate the unhappiness citizens have developed against their current leader. With the result, the stocks and their currency are plummeting. One minister has also resigned.

There have been two kinds of protestors on the streets of Brazil lately, especially since the impeachment of Rousseff last year. First type of protestors were the working class, largely anarchist, with a no favoured politician. The second type of protestors were defenders of Rousseff who were paid, made of a mix of syndicalist thugs, college socialists and special interest groups defending their government propaganda. The first group defended the investigations and more economic freedom, the second defended the parties and politicians.

Rightly after the new election, President Michel Temer has come under investigation by the Supreme Court for giving an alleged bribe to silence a former jailed party ally. The protests in Brasil haven’t put the president on second thoughts. He wishes to stay in power and lead the country.

In a wiretapped conversation, Temer discussed bribes. He appeared to tell Joesley Batista - one of the owners of Brazil meatpacking giant JBS - to maintain payments to Eduardo Cunha, the vilified and imprisoned former speaker of the House of Representatives, in return for his silence. Former presidential candidate Aecio Neves and the former finance minister Guido Mantega are also said to have been involved among the 83 alleged ministers.

Eduardo Cunha, formally of Temer's Brazilian Democratic Party (PMDB), led the impeachment against ex-president Dilma Rouseff that made Temer take the realms of presidential power. However, Eduardo was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption in March. Temer had been the vice president in her government.

In Petrobas scandal called Operation Car Wash, dozens of politicians and executives have been convicted for bribery and embezzlement charges. The executives of state-controlled oil company Petrobras allegedly accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices.

Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht that suborned government officials around the world for years has also been exposed by investigators. The company had an entire unit that served as a bribery department.

All these developments have made the common man furious because the elites have been robbing their country blind.

Infact, the 2015-16 mass protests in Brasil that eventually led to impeachment of Dilma Rousseff were due to these same reasons of blatant corruption. Rousseff had tried to block the Petrobas investigations in her past.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Rousseff’s predecessor who was regarded as a leftist icon in Brasilian politics, was also accused of money laundering and misrepresentation, including a scandal surrounding a beachfront home that he hadn’t disclosed that he owned and had made costly additions to it.

Since Temer became President, people have also been unhappy for his stances on environment and human rights as well. Temer himself has written two proposals to reduce protection of 600,000 hectares of the forest in the state of Pará, which is an area equal to Jamaica. This is at a time when deforestation has risen up to 28%. Also, the indigenous people have land conflicts with the farmers and ranchers. When 3000 indigenous people marched the streets of Brasilia some time back, they were met with police brutality.

Brazilian politics has been synonymous with corruption for decades, as politicians never seemed to be held accountable for their actions. Currently, Brazilian politics is sending shockwaves to the world with its corruption probes. Many think that Temer should step down. These scandals are also threatening vulnerable leaders from Panama to Peru in Latin America.


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