Brazil warming up for a new March against Rousseff
Millions of people are scheduled to protest President Dilma Rousseff all over the country today. Dilma’s popularity has fallen to a mere 8% amid the growing political and economic crisis.
The demonstrations called for this Sunday will be the third since Rousseff started her second term to which she was re-elected in October 2014.
In the seven and a half months since the start of her new term, support for Rousseff has fallen sharply, hurt by a huge corruption scandal in the state-owned Petrobras, the fragmentation of her parliamentary base and the economy on the brink of a recession have combined to shake her presidency.
The protests on Sunday intend to repeat what happened in March and April, when the political and economic crisis was still not so obvious, but still about two million people marched in the streets.
Since those protests took place, Petrobras investigations have drawn closer ties to the government and the Workers Party (PT), the birthplace of Rousseff and her predecessor and political godfather Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Among the dozens of detainees for the corruption scandal, are executives from twenty large private enterprises as well as former ministers such as José Dirceu, the “strongman” of the first term of Lula, and the former PT accountant, Joao Vaccari.
Police are investigating whether part of the money diverted from Petrobras, estimated at $2 billion over the last decade, reached Rousseff’s election campaign in 2014.
The investigation includes the names of fifty politicians, almost all from the PT, who, according to the prosecution, would have covered up what the opposition calls “looting” of the oil company.
Among the dozens of groups that call for the demonstrations there are sectors that ask for a trial with their sight set at the removal of Rousseff, which is seen by the government and the political parties as “coup maneuvers.”
Throughout this week, Rousseff has engaged in social movements allied with the government, and she has indirectly alluded to these proclamations against an alleged coup.
“The Brazilian state is only respected in the world to the extent that in its territory people exercise and respect popular sovereignty,” said Rousseff on Wednesday at a graduation ceremony for new diplomats.
The president said “that sovereignty means submission to the general will expressed at the polls” and that “it depends on the fulfillment of economic, social and political programs.”
Also this week she said she would not allow “setbacks” and that she will work to maintain the “social and democratic gains” achieved by the Brazilian “people”.
Dilma’s defense has also been supported by Lula, who in recent days participated in various acts “against the coup” in which he said that “some forget that Rousseff was re-elected in October.”
In response to the demonstrations on Sunday, the PT has called for numerous events next Thursday, where, according to Lula, “the people will express their support for Rousseff and democracy”.
The government, meanwhile, has said that the demonstrations on Sunday will test the “democratic normality” of the country.
“We see these movements and expressions as “natural” “respect” the criticism from society, said this week the Minister of Information, Edinho Silva. He admitted that the country lives a “political crisis” that feeds from the “economic crisis”.
According to Silva, the “task” of the government is to create the necessary conditions for a rapid recovery of the economy, which depends on the effect of a controversial liberal plan of austerity promoted by the Executive.
That plan, however, does not convince the social movements that support the Government, which exacerbates the problems of Rousseff.
“If it is to adjust, those adjustmentos should come for those who were never adjusted, with taxes on large fortunes and profits of banks,” said Guilherme Boulos, from the Homeless Movement.
From Love to Hate in only 8 years
On June 20, 2013 hundreds of supporters of the Free Pass Movement (MPL) took over the Paulista Avenue in São Paulo. They were celebrating the fall of the increase in public transport fares, a victory that came after a wave of protests that lasted 13 days and spread throughout the country.
Behind the mass was a small group of militants of the Workers Party (PT), who had participated in the acts shyly, embarrassed by the increase decreed in town by a mayor from the PT.
The battle in the Paulista Avenue was symbolic, but it showed that the PT has lost its position as leader of the popular mobilizations that had conquered in the decades of 80 and 90.
Beset by allegations of corruption, PT now witnesses speeches of hatred in the streets demanding the exit of Rousseff.
Rising unemployment and inflation increased Brazilian disappointment with the party, which was already high since investigations into the corruption case at Petrobras uncovered a web of bribery and money bribes that led to the imprisonment of mythical figures, the former Minister José Dirceu, and João Vaccari Neto.
In March 2013, three months before the first mass protests that caught the world’s attention, the PT was the preferred political force with 29% of those interviewed by the Datafolha Institute.
Rousseff’s government also enjoyed the favor of many people. Her government was considered excellent or good by 65% of those interviewed. That support was leveraged by social programs such as “Bolsa Familia”, a socialist plan to provide a meager food voucher to PT supporters all over the country, and the positive rates of the economy index.
However, this month, when the institute released its latest survey on the popularity of political parties, only 9% of Brazilians said they liked the PT.
Support for PT today is virtually identical to the Rousseff government. Only 8% of Brazilians believe that Dilma’s performance is good. According to recent surveys, a record rejection since the Brazilian re-democratization in 1985.
To some observers, this possibility for Dilma to leave office remote. “The profile of the president, who is a vain and very proud woman, does not make me believe that she will resign,” said political scientist, David Fleischer. “She has not admitted to the mistakes of her first government. I find it very difficult that she will resign”.
The Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) had already announced its support for the march on Sunday on a party program that aired on national television last week.