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Brazil: No need to despair, a new historic struggle is under way

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São Paulo. April 18th. 

Read the original article on Brasil de Fato (in Portuguese) here. Translated for LAB by Mike Gatehouse

Popular movements are already organising actions against the coup and promise to intensify the struggle this week.

The Brasil Popular e Povo Sem Medo Fronts call on the populace to mobilize for the next demonstrations. Photo: Brasil de Fato
The Brasil Popular e Povo Sem Medo Fronts call on the populace to mobilize for the next demonstrations. Photo: Brasil de Fato

“The result of this vote [for impeachment in the Chamber of Deputies], will further fuel this crisis which has engulfed the country. The Right should have no doubt about it. The workers will take to the streets.” This statement was made by João Paulo Rodrigues, of the national leadership of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), after the victory of the ‘Yes’ vote for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in the Chamber of Deputies on Sunday (April 17). He added: “We are mobilising across the entire country, more than we have done for more than 20 years. There’s no reason to lose heart. We have to prepare for political battles, and I believe they will be wonderful battles. Our generation is going to live through an extraordinary period, unparalleled in this country.”

In the same vein, the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) promised to step up its actions against the attempted coup, from Monday onwards. “No dates have been set, but if the impeachment is approved, the county will not have a single day’s peace.” Stated Natália Szermeta, state co-ordinator of the Movement. This is already a post-coup situation. According to Natália, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, and Vice-President Michel Temer, both of them from the PMDB party, do not have “the slightest legitimacy to govern this country.” Natália said that the movement should meet on Monday to coordinate various actions. “This is not going to happen in the history of Brazil. We’re not going to allow it. We are going to create popular resistance.”

For Ricardo Gebrim, lawyer and member of the Campaign for the Reconstruction of the Political System, it is vital to proceed with popular mobilisation. “In contrast to what happened with Collor, President Dilma is not going to resign, and we are going to step up our capacity for struggle. And this will be a shock to some people, because we’re not going to allow this coup to be carried out in the form in which they are attempting it. And this capacity for struggle is going to grow, it is politicising people. It is awakening their consciousness so that they can see what a farce this really is, and what a parody this grotesque Congress has become.”

Meanwhile, the two political fronts, Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo (People Without Fear), which drive popular movements such as the MTST, MST, CUT and UNE, are calling on the people to mobilise for the coming struggles. “We will exert pressure next on the Senate, the body which will rule on the impeachment of President Dilma, under the direction of minister Lewandowski of the STF. Our struggle will go on against the coup, in defence of democracy and our rights which were won in struggle, threatened by a fraudulent fight against corruption and an impeachment where no crime has been committed… We will continue the struggle to overturn the coup, now under way in the Federal Senate, and to advance towards full democracy in our country, which will require both a root and branch reform of the present political system, and genuine methods of combatting corruption effectively”, the document states.

Douglas Belchior, of Uneafro (União de Núcleos de Educação Popular para Negros e Classe Trabalhadora – Union of Centres of Popular Education for Black People and Workers), believes that it has become “explicit”, in the words of the deputies who backed impeachment, that Brazil is represented “by every worst aspect that exists in politics”. “We have a Congress with a majority which is conservative, racist and fascist. That is what justifies our presence on the streets.” He believes that the popular movements must now intensify their struggles and take advantage of the present moment which he defines as the moment for the popular organisations to rise up. “We need to continue this process of politicisation in the name of reform and of the struggles of the working class and the movements,” he said.

Demonstrations will start early on Sunday (17th). Already, by ten o’clock in the morning, Vale do Anhangabaú saw the arrival of the first people come to await the vote in the Chamber. Professor of Arts Silvia Maria de Oliveira, 46, and her partner, Fábio Mauro, 35, a salesman, had roused little Ligia, 7 years old, early from her bed.  “She has to learn from childhood the true meaning of democracy.” Despite the tense situation, they decided to come out today, because they believed that they should defend Brazilian democracy, which “is still young.” According to the organisers, 150,000 people were present at the demonstration in São Paulo.

When voting started, from 5pm, with the process televised live on giant screens installed in the Vale, the tension among the demonstrators was palpable. “I am tense, but I am hopeful that people will not retreat. We are going to hold on to the gains and all the improvements in this country, in memory of those who died for us to make them possible,” said Jaqueline Chaves, registrar.

The vote was punctuated by controversial statements, like that of the Deputy Jair Bolsonaro (PSC-RJ), who praised Colonel Carlos Brilhante Ustra, well-known as the man responsible for the torture of anti-government militants during the military dictatorship. His speech caused outrage among the demonstrators. “If this were a coherent process, these ‘yes’ votes should be annulled. They don’t have a single proof of wrongdoing against Dilma. This is a ‘third round’, [the established presidential election has two rounds, the second triggered if no candidate in the first round achieves 50% of the vote. A ‘third round’, therefore, would be an attempt to re-run and overturn a clear majority.] according to accountant João Brás. Even so, the demonstrators showed no signs of flagging and large numbers remained until the end of the voting.

By 22:30, with the government still short of 70 votes to defeat the motion, the government leader in the Chamber, Deputy José Guimarães (PT-CE), acknowledged defeat in the plenary vote on impeachment. “The coup-plotters have won, but the struggle is not over. Struggle will continue in the streets and in the Senate. The street is with us and the whole world is beginning to wake up and mobilise,” he said.