Mass Mobilizations in Brazil Against Neoliberal Austerity

The protesters oppose the neoliberal PEC 55 welfare reforms proposed by the new post-coup, right-wing president.

Tens of thousands of members of trade unionists took to the streets of several cities across Brazil to protest the neoliberal constitutional amendment PEC 55 (previously PEC 241) proposed by President Michel Temer’s administration.

Authorities reported mass protests in at least 12 states, including Rio, Sao Paulo, Amazonas and Minas Gerais, among others. Demonstrations took place at hospitals, schools, public buildings and public squares, where people ocuupied the sites. PEC 55 is considered a historic move and is now one step away from being officially approved in the Senate after the lower house committee voted 23-7 in its favor.

The reforms will now face two more sets of votes from all members of the house of representatives and the senate on Nov. 29 and Dec. 13. Meanwhile, a proposed referendum on the reforms has been rejected by senators.

If approved, PEC would cut government expenditure for 20 years, especially on the health and education, critics argue would translate into an onerous burden on the poor. To be approved, the reform needs to be approved inside the lower house, as well as once in the Senate, with a three-fifths majority required.

Temer, who led the parliamentary coup against former President President Dilma Rousseff, has introduced a series of sweeping privatization proposals and cuts in education health and other social programs, since he was sworn in last August.

The president faces very low approval ratings at home among Brazilians. He is scheduled to complete Rousseff’s presidential term until the next election in late 2018, and his government is pressing accusations of corruption against Lula, who is the odds-on favorite to recapture the presidency.