Brazilian social movements shut down major roadways around Sao Paulo during mass protests for democracy and against unpopular and unelected “interim” President Michel Temer Tuesday morning as the impeachment trial likely to definitively remove suspended President Dilma Rousseff from office enters its final hours.
The Coup That Ousted Democracy in Brazil
Under the banners of “Out With Temer” and “For Democracy,” the Fearless People’s Front and the Homeless Workers Movement — known as the MTST and born out of the more well-known MST Landless Workers Movement — led the protest in Brazil’s largest city beginning at 6 a.m. local time. The protest are part of a national day of mobilizations in cities across the country against what popular sectors have widely condemned as a coup against democracy.
Protesters held burning road blockades on the highway running through Sao Paulo, known as Marginal Tiete, blocking trafficking for more than 90 minutes, Folha de Sao Paulo reported. Another group blocked the main Francisco Morato avenue in the western part of the city for about the same amount of time, while similar blockades were set up on other elsewhere, slowing traffic in the city of more than 11 million.
The demonstrators also slammed the violent repression of protests Monday night in Sao Paulo, when military police cracked down on 3,000-strong march on the city’s central Paulista Avenue with tear gas and flash bombs, local media reported.
Popular leaders have warned that the expected completion of Rousseff’s ouster with a vote in the Senate Wednesday will consolidate the “coup” and usher in a permanent state of similar repression against social movements under the imposed conservative government of Michel Temer.
“This is a sign that, when the coup is accomplished tomorrow or later, there will be a tough process of repression of social movements, including endangering our right to protest,” Brazil Popular Front leader Raimundo Bonfim told Brasil de Fato. “What they are doing is violence.”
The latest protests come as the impeachment trial in the Senate in Brasilia enters its final leg, with a debate between the prosecution and defense that kicked off at 8 a.m. local time. The process is expected to take five hours, according to O Globo.
After the lawyers’ debate, individual Senators will each have 10 minutes to make statements on the impeachment. With 81 seats in the Senate, the process is set to take 13.5 hours or more.
Supreme Court Chief Ricardo Lewandowski announced Tuesday morning that the final vote on whether or not to impeach Rousseff will take place on Wednesday, one day behind the initially projected schedule. A two-thirds majority, or 54 out of 81 Senators, is required to lock in the impeachment and permanently remove Rousseff, suspended to face the trial in May. Fifty-two lawmakers have already pledged to vote in favor of her ouster, just two votes shy of the threshold.
Rousseff gave her final statements to the Senate Monday in a marathon 14-hour session beginning with her 30 minute final testimony, followed by day-long questioning. Commentators have pointed out that Rousseff’s testimony is unlikely to sway the outcome in the Senate, but her final words will go down in history a pivotal moment in Brazilian politics.
The suspended president reiterated her innocence in the face of baseless accusations that she used budgetary tricks ahead of her 2014 reelection to make the government books look better than they were, a practice used by many of her predecessors without scrutiny. She also slammed the process as a coup that threatens the “death of democracy” and singled out top rivals behind the impeachment bid for being involved in massive corruption scandals.
Many have argued that if Rousseff is booted from office, Temer should also be removed instead of finishing out the term until 2018. The “interim” head of state faces major corruption charges, has been banned from running for public office for eight years, and would also carry the burden of accountability for any charges leveled against Rousseff given that he was her vice president under a now-defunct coalition between their two political parties.
Social movements have vowed to continue to protest Temer’s government if it is installed permanently, highlighting the threat the neoliberal administration poses to social programs and the rights of marginalized groups with a political agenda that Brazilians have repeatedly voted down in the polls for years.