Brazil: Right-wing marches raise coup fears amid corruption scandal

Issue 
A protester calls for a 'military intervention' against Brazil's elected government at one of the large March 15 rallies.

Right-wing protesters swarmed ministerial buildings in the Brazilian capital Brasilia and along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 15.

The protests were part of nationwide demonstrations calling for the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Huge protests took place in 65 cities across the country, involving hundreds of thousands of people. Protesters claim that the recently elected president should be impeached due to a corruption scandal in the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Since her narrow re-election last October, Rousseff has sought to tackle wrongdoing in the company. During her election campaign as the Workers Party (PT) candidate, she emphasised an anti-corruption message.

Several media outlets have reported right-wing protesters carrying signs advocating for a military coup against the president.

Under the label of a “Constitutional Military Intervention”, some protesters have been calling for the military to take over the country to organise a trial of Rousseff and other PT government members for corruption.

The most influential spokesperson of this proposal has been Brazilian Army Reserve General Paulo Chagas, who iuploaded a video on Youtube last year calling for soldiers to take control to avoid what he called a “communist dictatorship ruling Brazil”.

In response, PT president Rui Falcao issued a statement condemning all attempts by the right-wing opposition groups to destabilise the democratically-elected government of Rousseff.

Despite the calls for her to step down, Rousseff took to Facebook defending “freedom of expression” and the protesters right to voice their discontent.

The president, who was tortured and jailed for three years in the 1970s during Brazil's military dictatorship, emphasised the importance of the right to protest, saying: “I come from a time when we were not allowed to protest.”

Opposition groups responsible for the marches are reluctant to accept Rousseff’s victory over the the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) Aecio Neves. They started calling for Rousseff's impeachment even before she took office for a second term.

On March 13, more than 100,000 Brazilians staged demonstrations of their own in at least 23 of Brazils’s big cities to express their support to Rousseff. Social movements, political parties and activists joined efforts to organise the mobilisations across the country.

Some of the main organisers were the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST, often considered one of the world's largest social movements), the Central Workers Union (CUT), the Brazilian Workers Union (CTB) and the PT.

MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile called upon his supporters to be alert, pointing out the Brazilian elite carried uot a succeful coup in 1964, a repeat of which “we will not accept”.

With banners in defence of democracy and of the state-owned oil company Petrobras, the social movements registered over 100,000 people participating in demonstrations nationwide.

The Brazilian government announced a new set of measures to fight corruption on March 18 in the aftermath of the state oil company corruption scandal. The new package ― made up of seven new measures ― imposes harsher penalties against crimes such as breaching electoral funding limits.

New sanctions include the confiscation of illegal assets, while a new corruption law will designate corruption in the public sector as a specific crime. As part of the package, the government will appoint a commission of experts on the matter to modify the justice system to speed up corruption-related cases.

Announcing the measures, Rousseff explained that the roots of corruption were deep and cultural. She said a “new public morality” must be formed.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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