Thousands are protesting the new president of Brazil.
Michel Temer was sworn into office on August 31, 2016 after the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff for administrative misconduct. She was convicted of mismanaging funds and violating the Brazilian Constitution by disregarding budget laws.
The ouster of Brazil’s first female president was highly controversial, and small-scale protests broke out both for and against her during her long suspension and trial. Some saw it as a miscarriage of justice and a power grab by her enemies; others insisted it was a wrong being set right.
As the former vice president, Temer took over as commander-in-chief once the impeachment was complete. Brazil’s Senate made it official by a 61-20 vote at the end of August.
By September 1st, the riots had started.
“It’s a coup,” said activist Gustavo Amigo, echoing sentiments from other anti-Temer protesters who allege that the entire impeachment was just a ruse to bring Temer and his political party to power.
Protests have been held everywhere from Curitiba to Rio de Janeiro, and more than 50,000 people rallied in Sao Paulo alone. Unfortunately, a group of that size also attracted a significant police presence, and violence erupted between the groups.
According to the anti-Temer activists, police officers with riot guns, water cannons and tear gas have been attacking and arresting protesters.
According to the anti-Rousseff group, police officers have been responding with justifiable force to looters, rioters and protestors throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Temer denied the significance of the protests during his first official presidential summit.
“They are small groups,” he said, “not popular movements of any size. In a population of 204 million Brazilians, they are not representative.”
One of the organizers of the protests, Guilherme Boulos, took umbrage to the president’s claim.
“The coup president of Brazil said that our demonstration would have 40 people,” he said. “We’re already [at] almost 100,000 on Paulista Avenue. Here are the 40 people,” he added.
His fellow protestors would agree. According to Amigo, their movement is growing louder and more powerful by the day, and they won’t be silenced until they get what they want: a fair election.
“We’re here to show that the people still have power,” said Amigo, “and that despite the coup, we are here in the street to bring down the government and call for a new election.”
But the political climate of Brazil will remain turbulent even if another election is held. While Rousseff’s impeachment may or may not be justified depending on one’s point of view, it’s raised questions all across the country about the use of government funds.
Some people are demanding more transparency between the government and the public when money is involved. Other people insist that everyone needs to learn to budget and stop overspending, including presidents.
Meanwhile, Temer asks for peace.
“It is urgent we pacify the nation and unite Brazil,” he told his supporters in his inaugural speech. “It is urgent to create a government of national salvation.”
Rousseff continues to rally her troops to speak out against injustice.
“The coup was not just carried out against me and my party,” she told reporters. “[It’s] going to strike, without distinction, every progressive and democratic political organization.”
One thing is for sure: Brazil is in a state of turmoil.