Brazil: In the Aftermath of a Coup

A year after what various sectors of society referred to as the “Day of Infamy”, Brazil is suffering the dire consequences of the parliamentary-judicial coup perpetrated against constitutional President Dilma Rousseff.

On April 17, 2016, alleging the most implausible reasons, 367 federal deputies supported the decision to initiate an impeachment process against the president, elected by more than 54 million Brazilians, with no grounds to support the “crime of responsibility” she was charged with.

One of the last legislators to vote against the request for impeachment, the magazine Anfibia noted at the time, described the process as an indirect vote led by a “thief”, (Eduardo) Cunha, and a traitor, (Michel) Temer, with the purpose of annulling the popular vote of October 5, 2014.

Meanwhile, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff stressed that this was a trial with strong political overtones, with no credible legal grounds, thus in violation of the constitutional provision, while also questioning the responsibility of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) “for having allowed this act which embarrassed us nationally and internationally.”

The process initiated in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) – and whose main promoter, the former president of this body, Eduardo Cunha, was later sentenced to 15 years for corruption and tax evasion – significantly disrupted Dilma’s second term and resulted in her (“decorative”, in his own words) vice president, Michel Temer, taking hold of government.

“Outside of democracy, we will only have chaos and permanent uncertainty,” former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned then, and events have since proved him right.

Image result for The Brazilian people demonstrated in the streets after the coup against the constitutional President Dilma Rousseff, and demanded the removal from power of Michel Temer. Photo: TELESUR

Temer formed a cabinet without any women or Black politicians, with several of its members implicated in the corruption accusations of the Lava Jato operation (some, such as the president of the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, PMDB, Romeró Jucá, didn’t even last there a month), and that with the promise of pushing the economy forward, launched a neoliberal program rejected four times at the polls.

Thus, what analysts describe as the biggest blow to the social rights established in the 1988 Constitution was approved: the Proposed Constitutional Amendment 55 (PEC 55), which limits the growth of public spending to the rate of inflation for 20 years.

The “evil” PEC for some, and “the end of the world” for others, “will irreparably impact the protection networks developed in recent years by the Brazilian state, accentuating inequalities,” warned the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA).

According to the IPEA, as a result of the new tax system, social program investment will see a drop of some 868 billion reals (more than $270 billion dollars), while in the health sector the shortfall will be 743 billion reals (about 232 billion USD).

The PEC 55 was followed by two similar proposals, also promoted by Temer, which generated widespread popular rejection: reforms to the pension system and for increased labor flexibility; both of which are currently being considered by the Chamber of Deputies.

This, without forgetting the swift enactment of the legislation that extends outsourcing to all activities and which, according to trade union federations, far from promoting and protecting employment – as the government claims – makes it even more precarious at a time when the unemployment rate is at his highest ever level.

Contrary to his job recovery promises, Temer today faces Brazil’s highest historical unemployment rate, with a total of 13.5 million unemployed.

During the December 2016 – February 2017 quarter, the number of unemployed persons increased by 11.7% (representing more than 1.4 million people) as compared to the previous quarter from September-November, 2016. This represents a 30.6% increase (more than 3.2 million more unemployed) as compared to December 2015 – February 2016, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

The economy shows no clear signs of recovery and by late March the financial market had again revised 2017 GDP growth forecasts downward to just 0.47%.

This came as no surprise. According to a survey conducted by the Unified Workers’ Federation (CUT) and the Vox Populi Institute, the results of which were revealed two weeks ago, only 5% of Brazilians rate Temer’s government positively, while 68% rate the executive’s performance negatively and 28% as regular.

In a talk at Princeton University on April 13, Dilma Rousseff denounced the neoliberal, elitist, technocratic and undemocratic nature of the coup that cut short her constitutional mandate, and made clear that this had resulted in rising inequality across Brazil.

There is absolute paralysis faced with everything that is happening, as those who committed the coup now have no idea what to do, she stressed.

Advertisements