MST leader says Brazilians must rise up
Joao Pedro Stedile is a founder and leader of Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement (MST). One of Latin America’s largest social movements, the MST fights for land reform and the rights of poor farmers.
Below, Stedile calls for resistance to the “institutional coup” in Brazil, in which elected Workers’ Party (PT) president Dilma Rousseff was removed by the Senate and Michel Temer installed on August 31.
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Brazilians must be prepared to fight back against the neoliberal assault that the new, illegitimate government has in store for the country.
The parliamentary-judicial-media coup has been carried out after the long episodes of a soap opera whose ending we already knew, since most of the actors had already received the scripts they would perform.
The problem was not with Dilma Rousseff, who even worked hard to adopt the fiscal adjustments required by the elite classes and handed over economic policy to one of Brazil's major banks, Bradesco, last year. She was guilty of no crime.
In the end, Michel Temer had also signed decrees that amounted to the same budget manoeuvres Rousseff was impeached over — as did 17 governors, including Senate speaker Antonio Anastasia. None were punished.
The farce was so great that the Senate did not have the courage to deprive her of her political rights — Rousseff is still allowed to hold elected office. They just stole her presidency.
The capitalists just needed a government that was completely in its power to implement its neoliberal plan. The aim is to recover its profits and ability to accumulate capital in the face of the severe economic crisis in Brazil, in Latin America and throughout the world.
In other words, they needed to throw the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the people. And for this, you must have absolute control of all the country’s levers of power: the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary and the media.
Now it is up to the grassroots forces, in their different expressions — political parties, popular movements, churches, intellectuals, artists and media — to analyse our mistakes, correct them and stand united to face the coming battles, which will be as important as the fight against the coup.
The coming battle will be to defend our social and labour rights against the neoliberal avalanche that will come from Congress. It will seek to dismantle all of the rights won over the past century.
After this, in no particular order, is the battle in defence of the natural resources the elites want to privatise in order to recover their previous levels of profit accumulation. This includes oil from Brazil’s deep sea reserves, land, biodiversity, minerals, water and more.
We have to take on the battle to ensure that our public resources and our taxes go toward the population’s needs in health care (they are already threatening to dismantle Brazil's free public healthcare system), education, affordable housing and agrarian reform.
We cannot remain silent amid the accusations of the “carwash” corruption scandal, which incriminates Temer and several ministers. We must demand fair punishment for those leaders of the right-wing parties, for now they can truly do as they please — and they are hiding behind the blatant persecution of PT leaders.
We must defeat this coup government. It has no legitimacy. It was not elected by the people. Many senators who voted for the impeachment are facing charges for corruption and all types of other crimes. The program that it is adopting — the attack on people’s rights — was not chosen at the polls. That is why “Fora Temer” (“Temer Out”) is essential to restore Brazil's democratic process.
This is the greatest of all these battles: to fight for changes to our country's political system, with political and media reform, which can only come through a national constituent assembly (to create a new constitution).
All of these battles require mass struggle and large grassroots mobilisations. The fastest way out, which can be achieved on the streets, is to require a popular referendum to return to the people the right to decide over privatisation, early elections and the convening of a constituent assembly.