Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro Thursday along with thousands of women to reject the installed interim government of Michel Temer, slammed by protesters as a coup regime.
“What unites us here is the democracy of our country, which was conquered with much struggle,” Rousseff said during the demonstrations that brought together some 5,000 Brazilians under the banner of “Women for democracy and against the coup” in the country’s second largest city.
“We know that what happened was a coup and now things will become increasingly clear,” she added, reiterating her previous arguments that the recent series of damning leaked recordings have solidified the fact that the plan to remove her from office was a coup.
The suspended president also emphasized the “crucial” role of women in democracy, criticizing Temer’s cabinet for representing a small elite group. “A government of old and white men does not represent the diversity of our population.”
The mobilization comes just a day after Rousseff’s attorney Jose Eduardo Cardozo presented her defense to the Senate as part of the impeachment trial she faces after being suspended three weeks ago. The defense included excerpts from newly-leaked wiretaps implicating high-level opposition figures, including members of Temer’s interim cabinet, in attempts to evade corruption investigations as new evidence in the case.
“The main reason for the coup against me was to prevent the battle against corruption from getting to them,” Rousseff said at the rally.
The women’s march also comes less than two weeks after the gang rape of a teenage girl by at least 30 men disturbingly went viral on social media and sparked widespread outrage and protests against rape culture, gender violence, and misogyny in Brazilian society.
The Coup That Ousted Brazilian Democracy
Rousseff warned that Brazilians face the threat of a rollback of important social achievements under the installed interim government. In just three weeks in office, despite being an interim and not a permanent or elected president, Temer has moved swiftly to cut back what he calls a “bloated” state. He axed key ministries and has promised to cut social spending while promoting privatization of Brazilian resources and increased access for foreign corporations.
Unions have called the removal of Rousseff a "coup against the working class," while the former head of the now-defunct Ministery of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights, Nilma Lino Gomes, labeled it a multidimensional coup with gender, race, and class consequences.
Rousseff was suspended from office for 180 days on May 12 after a 55 to 22 Senate vote decided to make her face an impeachment trial over allegations that she manipulated government accounts to disguise a budget shortfall.
If the Senate, overseen by the Supreme Court, ultimately decides to impeach Rousseff with a two-thirds majority vote after the trial, Temer will be permanently installed as president until 2018. Some Senators have begun changing their positions since the first vote.