On March 31st, 1964, Army General Olímpio Mourão from the state of Minas Gerais started to move his troops and tanks towards the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital at the time. The goal was to overthrow the elected President João Goulart. In the following months, after the coup-mongers won, left-wing militants were persecuted, demonstrations were repressed, and many were tortured.
On May 12th, 2016, the Brazilian Senate officially removed elected President Dilma Rousseff from office. 55 out of 78 representatives voted for it, and she will now be judged by Brazil’s Supreme Court within six months. Until then, Vice-President Michel Temer is free to implement his neoliberal agenda. Although the current overthrow was carried out by men in suits, not uniforms, as the days pass it is becoming clear that Temer will use force if necessary.
Repressive actions towards activists have been increasing over the past several days. On April 16th, the National Federation of Federal Officers (Fenapef) released a note stating that the Federal Police would detain foreign citizens protesting in Brazil: “The National Federation of Federal Officers – FENAPEF – informs the public about the legal prohibition on foreign citizens taking part in political demonstrations in Brazil, taking into account the news on foreign citizens coming from Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay in order to protest against the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff,” the statement reads.
Most recently, an Italian resident in Brazil, Maria do Rosário Barbato, who is also a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), received a notification by the Federal Police to testify due to her “political and trade-union practices.” This came after students from the same university were prohibited by a judge to debate the impeachment of Dilma.
But the most worrying repressive stance and acts on the part of the state were visible this week. Last Tuesday, various social movements united under the Popular Brazil Front (Frente Brasil Popular) organized countrywide demonstrations against the impeachment. In São Paulo, various roads were blocked with barricades on fire, which São Paulo’s Secretary of State Alexandre de Moraes called “guerrilla acts,” adding that if the protesters turned violent “they would be treated as criminals, not as protesters,” in a clear show off how Temer’s government will treat demonstrations. Alexandre himself is expected to become the Minister of Justice in the new government.
Also on Tuesday, 73 women were held for an hour in a plane and taken to the Federal Police station to testify. The reason? They chanted anti-impeachment rallying cries against two representatives who were on the plane too.
Finally, while the voting in the Senate was taking place, the police in Brasília used gas bombs and gas spray against a group of anti-impeachment women who marched towards the police block post. Two people were rescued by ambulances, and a man was taken to the hospital. In São Paulo, two anti-impeachment protesters were detained including a homeless man.
Such actions are by no means a coincidence. The country is divided, and political violence has indeed been on the rise. Even though state organs have not gone after activists yet, Temer’s neoliberal plans – including shutting down some ministries, slashing social programs, privatizations, and reducing government spending – are sure to spark revolts in the country over the next few months. This goes hand in hand with the fact that Temer plans to recreate the Cabinet of Institutional Security and reform the intelligence services (at the same time as the government is supposed to reduce spending). This sends us a very clear message: repression is coming. After all, what else could we expect from an illegal government?
Photo by Christian Braga/Journalists Livres (C) All Rights Reserved 2016.