Protests are expected to take place across Brazil on Sunday against the Workers Party government of president Dilma Rousseff. But who is behind the protests and why?
As of late, things for Rousseff's government have not been good. Despite effecting massive social gains under both her administration and that of her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the economy is now faltering and inflation is on the rise. Leading members of the Workers Party have been implicated in the Lava Jato scandal involving the country's state oil company, Petrobras, and Rousseff’s approval rating has dropped to under 10 percent.
Though the Workers Party is just one of a number of major Brazilian parties implicated in the scandal, the mainstream media, led by Brazil’s largest news network Rede Globo, and the opposition, has focused their sole attention on the PT, attempting to wear down the Rousseff administration and tarnish the nearly rock-star public approval of former president Lula. The goal: take down the Workers Party government, by any means necessary.
In March and April, the same groups that are calling for this Sunday’s protests held extensive anti-government marches. More than a million largely upper-class Brazilians marched across the country. Those in the crowds called for president Rousseff to step down, or called on the Brazilian military to intervene.
Among the groups behind the protests — both earlier this year and this Sunday — are a series of fairly new right-wing organizations, formed over social media, with well over a million total followers online, and some powerful and wealthy backing. As one article in the Brazilian magazine Piaui put it in April, these groups essentially make up what you could call the Brazilian Tea Party.
Among them are the Free Brazil Movement, Students for Liberty, Come to the Streets, Revolted Online, Advances Brazil, Masons BR, Wake up Brazil, Brazil Best, In The Streets, Beloved homeland, UND (Democratic Nationalist Union) and Straighten Brazil. This Sunday's protests have also been backed by the major conservative opposition party PSDB.
Below we take a look at some of the groups and individuals behind the weekend's protests and the push against the Rousseff government.
The Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
The PSDB has been the leading right-wing party since the fall of the Brazilian dictatorship in the early 1980s, and the staunch opposition to the Workers’ Party. It has supported the call for this Sunday's marches. Although it has been reported that leading figures, including Aecio Neves, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jose Serra and Geraldo Alckmin, will likely not be participating.
Free Brazil Movement (MBL)
A far-right collective of young people that believe the solutions to the country's economic problems lie in free-market policies, and whose political heroes are Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Fabio Ostermann and Juliano Torres, two of MBL leaders, were educated in the Washington-based Atlas Leadership Academy, linked to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, financed by notorious U.S. businessmen Koch Brothers. The Koch brothers have millions of dollars invested in the oil industry, which could explain their interest in destabilizing the Brazilian government and Petrobras.
Students For Liberty (EPL)
Working together with the MBL – the Students for Liberty is the Brazilian associate of an organization with the same name in the United States, also financed by the Koch Brothers. Investment banker Helio Beltrão Filho, the national head of EPL, inherited shares in Grupo Ultra, one of Brazil's largest holdings. Grupo Ultra provided logistic and financial support to the right-wing military coup in 1964.
VemPraRua (Come to the Streets)
This group was the subject of intense scrutiny after several journalists revealed that it received financial support from the Study Foundation, an organization belonging to Brazil's richest person, Jorge Paulo Lemann. Lemann is the owner of AmBev, the biggest beer production company of Brazil, as well as Brazil’s Burger King franchise. The businessman has denied taking a stand in Brazilian politics. Rodrigo Telles, who runs the foundation, is also an AmBev shareholder.
With over 900,000 followers on Facebook, this is perhaps the largest and most rabid of the major groups behind this Sunday’s marches. Founder Marcello Reis was an evangelical preacher for a decade, and he created the group on Facebook in 2010. Their slogan is “Together we are stronger and with God guiding our way, we are unbeatable.” They are in favor of impeachment and until recently called for military intervention. They refer to Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, the MST, as Lula’s “red army” and have called for its “extermination.” They are critical of most politicians in Brazil, but particularly the Workers’ Party and its poverty alleviation programs.
The Globo News Network
The largest of the mainstream media in Brazil, and that which has played a huge role in influencing public opinion in Brazil since even before the start of the Brazilian dictatorship in 1964. Globo was active in encouraging Brazilians to join the marches earlier this year. However, it appears that it will be sitting this Sunday out. Last week, O Globo published an editorial taking a step back from its radical opposition to the Dilma government and instead calling for the “responsible politicians from all of the parties to create the conditions” for Rousseff to adequately govern. It is hard to explain Globo’s about-face, although it could have been worried about a potential downgrade in Brazil’s investment status. It could also have feared another potential backlash against for its role in the protests. Globo took tremendous heat for its promotion of the March rallies, when #GloboGolpista (#GloboCoupPlotter) was the top trending hashtag in Brazil in the leadup and during the marches earlier this year.
Eduardo Cunha and the PMDB
Eduardo Cunha, is from the PMDB party (strangely enough, PT allies), and the head of Brazil’s lower House. He is a leading figure in the calls to impeach president Rousseff, though he also won’t likely be attending the marches on Sunday. Last month, he announced that he would consider moving forward with congressional impeachment proceedings against Rousseff for corruption. That was until he himself was tied to the same scandal shortly thereafter. The proceedings are, for now, on hold.