The vote is castWhen the 342nd vote was cast, providing the needed 2/3 majority, the crowds of pro-impeachment demonstrators who had gathered on the streets of many cities cheered euphorically and let off fireworks. There were panelaços, saucepan banging in some places. The result was a resounding defeat for the government, after days of intense negotiations by Lula with members of the parties who until very recently had been supporting Dilma’s government, some of them even holding ministerial portfolios. A special edition of the Official Gazette with hundreds of new appointments, designed to buy votes, failed to do the trick. Instead the tug of war for hearts and minds was won resoundingly by vice president Michel Temer, who can now expect to become president within two weeks, once the Senate votes to accept the impeachment process and investigate it, and Dilma is suspended, at least temporarily. Before the vote, Lula knew the battle was lost, but the margin was much larger than expected. Last week all sorts of panic rumours had been spreading on social media– Dilma would confiscate bank accounts and savings -a la Collor (Fernando Collor de Melo, President of Brazil from 1990 to 1992 who resigned shortly before being impeached for corruption). Business leaders warned that the economy would collapse if Dilma stayed in power. The federal police had also announced they would arrest all foreigners found at the protests, accusing social movements of bussing in Bolivians to boost their numbers. This led to the absurd spectacle of 300 Bolivian estate agents who had come to look at property in Goiás (a sign of the times), being temporarily detained. The São Paulo police also raided the HQ of the Gaviôes do Fiel , the supporters’ club of the popular Corinthians football team, and confiscated banners and replica coffins for São Paulo politicians involved in a corruption scandal over school meals, after they put out a video criticising the impeachment; the huge protest by Corinthian fans in the centre of São Paulo on Friday night when they chanted slogans against the state government’s corruption went unreported in the mainstream press.
What now for the PT?The PT executive meet on Tuesday (19th) to discuss alternatives. Some want Dilma to do a sort of volta por cima – call for immediate elections and step down. But this would mean a constitutional amendment being approved by congress, and it seems very unlikely that, having got their hands on power, the PMDB will risk losing it. Especially as opinion polls show that Michel Temer is as unpopular as Dilma, and a majority would like to see him impeached as well. In fact, a petition calling for Temer’s impeachment has been presented to the speaker of the lower house, but Eduardo Cunha shows no signs of dealing with it in the speedy fashion he dealt with Dilma’s. It is more likely that this will become a bargaining chip, as the petition against Dilma was, to make sure the case against him in the ethics committee of the house of deputies, goes nowhere. For his part, Temer, once in power, will probably see that the corruption case against Cunha somehow disappears. And Dilma shows no signs of stepping down before she is forced to. At a press conference on Monday night, she said she would fight till the end, as she did during the dictatorship. The bottom line is that nobody knows what to do. Lula’s strategy of asking notoriously fickle politicians to vote yes in exchange for favours failed dismally. Trade union mobilization, when almost ten million have lost their jobs, will be hard to conjure up. The social movements were ignored by the Dilma government until it needed them, and now it is they who will bear the brunt of the likely savage neoliberal policies of a Temer government.
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