On May 12, Dilma Rousseff was suspended from the presidency of Brazil. She is out of power for 180 days, till the Senate votes for the final decision on her impeachment. The vice president, Michel Temer from the PMDB party, and one of the coup leaders, took office. This completed a very important milestone in the coup process, establishing the coup government.
All of Dilma’s ministers were removed from their seats. Ministries were eliminated, including the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, plus seven other ministries.
The remaining ministries had their names changed. Words like “to combat hunger” were removed from the Ministry of Social Development, and the Ministry to Combat Hunger became the Ministry of Social and Agrarian Development (whatever that means).
The Ministry of Labor and Previdência (Previdência would roughly translate to something like “social security” with the difference being a better retirement management plan behind it), now is just the Ministry of Labor. Social Security is out.
This video shows the protest of public workers against Temer’s minister of education and culture, Mendonça Filho.
These changes show the first signs of the systemic neo-liberal plan they have for the country. Eliminate the social benefits and especially the labor laws, like one month of paid vacation, six months of maternity leave, the “13th salary,” which is a “bonus” paid by the employer to the worker at the end of the year. That is why the word “Previdencia’ is gone. Also, this is why the ministries that were addressing the social issues faced by the majority of the population, the Black and poor people of Brazil, were shut down.
For the first time since 1979 Brazil has a government without women. The photo of the new ministers shows all white men.
The seven ministers with the red stamp are being investigated because of Lava Jato, the same investigation that tried to arrest Lula. And you may remember not long ago the international outrage when Lula almost took office as chief of staff for Dilma. Everyone went crazy about it because this would protect him from the investigation, but now we have seven people receiving exactly the same protection and no one talks about it.
Actually one of the Supreme Federal Court judges, Gilmar Mendes, invited all of Temer’s ministers for dinner. So you can see how much our judiciary system cares about it. To remember, the forces behind the coup are: police forces (federal and military mostly), judiciary, the media monopoly, the traditional right-wing parties, the business sector, national and international, and an extreme, violent, upper middle-class right wing that was out in the streets.
Another piece of information about the composition of Temer’s government is that one of the two new ministries Temer created is the “Cabinet of Institutional Security of the Presidency.” This is our old National Intelligence Service created during the dictatorship, which later during democracy was called the Brazilian National Intelligence Agency (ABIN), the Brazilian CIA. Now it has become its own ministry.
He actually set up ministries for the offensive force that will come: The Ministry of Justice and “Citizenship” is now controlled by a lawyer, Alexandre Moraes, who is involved in money laundering for the PCC (a prisoners’ organization), and of using extreme violence against kids 14-16 years old in Sao Paulo during the occupations to save public schools the state right-wing party was closing. And the Ministry of Defense, which, between us, won’t be that hard to convince to engage in the oppression.
Temer himself has some great experience with “oppression.” For instance, he was the defense witness for two cases of torture during the dictatorship, speaking in defense of the torturer. He has had a career working with “law and order.” No wonder he picked the slogan for his government to be “Order and Progress,” the words written in the Brazilian flag. One can only imagine the marketing coming with this idea, bringing nationalism with “order and progress” together in their brainstorming session.
José Serra, from the PSDB party, who lost to Lula in 2002 and to Dilma in 2010 as the mayoral candidate from the right and opposition, is now the head of the Itamaraty, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and is facing questioning and criticism from governments around the world. He has already attacked UNASUR, sending an official letter from the Itamaraty accusing General Secretary Ernesto Samper of having no foundation for his comments and suggesting the secretary has prejudice against Brazilians.
He published another one attacking Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, all countries where the presidents have expressed that they do not recognize the new president. President Maduro, on May 13, called back his ambassador in Brazil. On the other hand, the U.S. has recognized Temer and reinforced its “trust in the Brazilian institutions.” Their new puppet Argentina’s President Macri has done the same thing.
Now we also have the golpistas fighting between themselves for a piece of the pie, and we are already seeing a fight in the Lower House for its presidency, and threats from the Senate against Temer, telling him he must treat them well, because they can vote against the impeachment and put Dilma back. The capitalists who committed this coup are driven by greed, and they will stab each other in the back if given the opportunity to get a bigger piece.
On Thursday, May 12, Dilma made a speech inside the Presidential Palace with all her ministers denouncing the coup and then left the palace through the front door straight toward the thousands of people who were outside chanting for her. This is what we call in Brazil “going into the people’s arms.” Not that many presidents have done that when leaving the presidency.
Later, Michel Temer had to come through the back door because a group of women were chained in front of the Palace and had taken over the traditional ramp that the president walks up when being inaugurated.
The mobilizations against the coup and especially to expose the golpistas keep growing everyday. Different actors of the coup are being exposed, what we call in Latin America the “escrache,” to publicly shame the golpistas. These actions will help educate the people about what is happening, to fight the media monopoly. For you to have an idea, there are TV sets in 95.1 percent of the households in Brazil, refrigerators in only 93.7 percent. Most people get their news from the TV.
On Thursday night, 30,000 people went to Paulista Av., a landmark of Sao Paulo, the “Wall Street” of Latin America, where they said there won’t be peace for this golpista government. Many were part of homeless workers’ movements.
Students are occupying their schools and universities. In the state of Sao Paulo, students occupied schools that were affected by a corruption scandal in which the governor, Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB and a coup supporter, is accused of literally stealing students’ lunch money. But like any corruption case involving the right-wing parties, there is no investigation or punishment.
On the morning of May 13, the governor sent the Military Police to evict, without a judicial order, and arrest high school students who were occupying one of these schools. Here is the video of the eviction where over 50 students are arrested, many under age.
180 days of struggle
Moments like this are full of dynamic changes in which you need to be able to react fast to avoid mistakes. That is why the discussions between the forces of resistance normally lay out different possible paths the struggle can take.
With that in mind, we must mention a possibility that we can’t ignore, in which the effect of this coup could open an opportunity to a turn to a more radical left power in Brazil.
But that depends on a lot of things, and the main goal right now is to stay in the streets and expose the golpistas so the rest of the population understands what is happening and joins the protests.
In an interview, Pedro Stédile, leader of the landless movement (MST) that is part of one of the coalitions against the coup, Frente Brasil Popular (with around 60 parties, organizations and social movements), laid out the following fighting strategy:
“We (Frente Brasil Popular) did a debate that took the whole day, a few weeks ago, and our evaluation is that to place the recall now in the political agenda, is to anticipate the results of what will happen in the congress. We must try first to use the resources available to not let the president be impeached, which will be decided at the end of these 180 days.
“Where we can still find senators that won’t bend to the economic power interest and will help us block this coup.
“If the Senate still submits itself to the economic power interests and doesn’t stop this coup, we would still have another resource which is the Supreme
Court. Where we made it clear to the judge we will enter with an appeal if they decide for the impeachment.
“Well, if after all that, there is still a coup, the social movements will engage in another strategy with the goal that this strategy brings back to the people the power to decide who will govern the country.
“Right now, at our meetings we have four alternatives:
“1. The Community Party of Brazil defends the idea of making a petition, and use this work to politicize society. A petition that would be taken to the congress asking for a referendum where the people would decide to call for presidential elections.
“2. We already have in the Senate, and it was appreciated by two commissions already, is a request for the congress to call a formal referendum where the people would decide for a Constitutional Assembly to make a political reform in Brazil.
“So there is an idea to put pressure of approval of this legislative proposal that is already in course in the Senate.
“3. And this is a proposal from the Luisa Erundina, from the PSOL, which is a law proposal that implements a few political reforms.
“This proposal is in course in the Lower House, with at least 182 representatives supporting it. From the political reform proposals it has, the ones that interest us the most are: the right for the population to call a referendum to change the mandates of elected figures—nowadays, as everyone knows, a referendum can only be called by the congress, not even by the president or the people. So, if the people of Sao Paulo don’t like their governor Alckmin, they can collect enough signatures to demand the judiciary prepare a referendum to decide for a recall or not … and then the people will vote and decide if they will recall the elections or not. This would be for mayors, representatives (municipal, state and federal) and the president. So it is a very progressive law.
“Which the movements supported at the time, but I will repeat, a majority still prefers the Constitutional Assembly so the political reforms are part of the constitution. And we could also reform the judiciary power with a Constitutional Assembly.
“4. ‘Project of Constitutional Amendment’ that others are calling, that will call for general elections for representatives and the presidency.
“Now, what is the problem that we have? Of all these proposals, which I would say can complement one another, there is no preference here. Because they
are all reforms the country needs. But even if we speed them up, all of them, if we look at the political calendar ahead in the congress, it would be really hard to have any recall elections or political reform before the 2018 elections.”
“Only if, and we dream for it, in the next months, the crises of Temer’s government would aggravate so much that the masses would build a movement as strong as the one we did for the right to directly elect our president, Diretas Já.”
“And this movement would put pressure in the congress, so it would speed up one of these options, so we could have some type of referendum or recall, by the beginning of 2017. But this is a very tight calendar.”
And that’s the layout of both sides for now. The order of the day is to mobilize, be in the streets and expose the golpistas, so we can grow the movement and the pressure against this illegal government.