Major Brazilian cities were swept by protests on Sunday demanding an end to corruption and the ouster of president Dilma Rousseff and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha. Organizers reported, though, that the number of protesters was much smaller than they had expected.
The Minister of the Social Communication Secretariat for the Presidency (SECOM), Edinho Silva, was brief in his remarks about the protests: “Demonstrations are a usual part of a democratic system. It’s part and parcel of a democratic country that abides by the law, respects its political establishment, a country we are helping build with keen, democratic commitment.”
With a mock burial of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) in the lawn in front of the Congress buildings, thousands of people dressed in green and yellow wound up their demonstration calling for the impeachment of Rousseff in Brasília.
Minutes before the act, protesters said the Lord’s Prayer, sang the national anthem, and read out messages to parliament members and Rousseff. “It’s time you show which side you’re on. You’ve got to be bold and comply with your voters’ wish. Vote for the impeachment,” a text addressed to congressmen read.
The rally drew some 5,000-6,000 people, according to military police, or 30,000, according to organizers. The protesters marched from the Museum of the Republic to the National Congress, carrying banners denouncing the fiscal policy and calling for an ouster of Cunha.
Beatriz Kicis, one of the organizers who is a member of such activist movements as Revoltados Online and Resgata Brasil, said the demonstration supported democracy.
“Our demonstration has nothing to do with AI-5 [a decree signed on December 13, 1968 which hardened repression in the military dictatorship]. We chose the 13th because 13 is the party number for PT, and PT is the party we want to oust from power,” she said.
On the sidelines of the protest, a group of activists from the Frente Brasil Popular movement who claimed it represents PT and some 20 organizations was leafleting at the TV Tower, one of the busiest tourist spots in the federal capital.
The small group was demonstrating against President Rousseff’s impeachment and the austerity policy, while also calling for Eduardo Cunha to be removed from power.
In São Paulo, protesters supporting Rousseff’s impeachment flocked to Paulista Avenue, a traditional setting for protests and celebrations in the city. Many of them were wearing yellow shirts, while others sported such accessories as scarves and bandannas, and painted their faces with the colors of the national flag. Several sound trucks were parked along the road, which closes off on Sundays.
According to Rogério Chequer, leader of another activist group called Vem pra Rua, Sunday’s protests are “the first step in this new stage of popular street activism.”
He admitted, however, that the demonstration was smaller than other similar protests that have taken place this year, and argued that “We had little time to promote it. It’s just natural that an event that is not advertised long enough in advance should be emptier. We’re not surprised.”
Along with his wife and two daughters, aged 7 and 5 years old, business administrator Eduardo Longo said he believes the protest is part of a major historical moment. “We can’t take this government any more. First of all, because corruption is widespread. Secondly, because of their economic policy, the fiscal backpedaling practices and the number of subsidies provided for only certain sectors. This is not going to foster a free economy,” he complained.
Longo stressed that he’s not very enthusiastic about the prospect of vice-president Michel Temer taking over in the event of an impeachment, but thinks this would be a required step to bring about change in the country.
Rio de Janeiro
Under a blazing sun on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro locals who joined the march for the president’s impeachment were also calling for a new election.
While the protesters’ main demand was for the president to step down, many of them wanted to remove Vice-President Michel Temer and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha.
“Corruption kills in this country. We’ve got to oust them all. I have fears about Temer [a pun with the vice-president’s last name, Temer, which means ‘to fear’ in Portuguese].
I want a new election,” said biomedical doctor Ana Lúcia Fragoso Kneip, who was carrying a poster that read, “Out with Renan [Calheiros, Senate President] and Eduardo Cunha,” with the party acronyms PT and PMDB crossed out.
University professor Silvia Soares was among the supporters of a new election: “Dilma is just one of them. There’s no use ousting her alone. It’s the corruption that is deeply ingrained in our political system that’s wrong. We need to change our political system. We must oust the whole presidential slate – if Temer was elected on illegal money, he, too, must step down,” she said.
Pensioner Sandra Maria Bernhardt says her chief demand is to have Rousseff ousted. “Rousseff had better step down and Temer take over for now. That’s what’s in for us right now,” said Sandra, who was keen to attend the march on her wheelchair, despite the hot weather.