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Brazil On Fire: Temer’s First Hours As President Marked By Social Unrest

By | [email protected] | September 1, 2016 11:46am


Many Brazilians gathered to celebrate Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment with champagne and cake in one of Brazil´s most iconic areas, Paulista Avenue in São Paulo. They rejoiced over Rousseff ousting in front of the São Paulo Federation of Industries (FIESP), which had been actively lobbying for Rousseff’s removal. The area had become ground zero for all the anti-Rousseff protests throughout the impeachment process, so it only seemed natural they would return to that spot triumphant yesterday.

The scenes, of course, only added fuel to the fire of claims by Rousseff’s supporters that say her ouster was nothing short of a coup perpetrated by Brazil’s rich.

For those protesting Rousseff’s ouster, the scene was much different as demonstrations turned violent and anti-riot police hit demonstrators with tear gas and stun grenades in the streets of São Paulo and other key Brazilian cities.

“I was out with my two small kids in a protest in Florianopolis today. We had to run away from stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas,” Aurora Liuzzi, a mother of two, told The Bubble. “We left the protest but are very worried for the people who were still there. We walked hand in hand with friends, teachers, students, homeless people, mothers with children like me.”

Brazil’s news channel showed protesters setting cars on fire, smashing windows of bank branches and even attacking police cars. The images also showed wounded protesters begging for help. The São Paulo police defended its actions by saying the demonstrators had turned violent. Some, however, took to the social media to protest what they described as a response that was out of proportion considering the violent actions were the exception rather than the rule of what were largely peaceful protests.

A pro-Rousseff group, which calls itself Ninja media, published a video of protesters being chased by the police under a storm of tear gas and rubber bullets in São Paulo. Others cried out for help on social media. “Please we need lawyers as witnesses, we have been arbitrarily detained,” wrote one man from Brasilia in social media.

Several mainstream news outlets though painted a far less innocent portrait of protesters. “They’re vandalizing the streets and attacking the police,” reporters narrated over confusing scenes of confrontation in the streets in Sao Paulo. Some marched toward the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, calling the media “part of the coup d’état.”

In Rio de Janeiro, the rain did not prevent thousands from gathering in The Republic Square calling on Temer to step down. No incidents were reported.

In the capital Brasilia photos on newspapers and social media showed people with bloody faces and rubber bullet wounds.

One notable aspect of the protest was the absence of organized movements such as labor union CUT (Labor Union) during last night’s protests. Prominent journalist Ricardo Noblat speculated that this could illustrate how there was an “acordão,” or tacit agreement between Rousseff´s party and the opposition.

That, he says, could be behind the Senate decision not to forbid Rousseff from holding public office. That move could create a precedent for other corruption trials involving politicians. Organized pro-Rousseff movements may have agreed to go easy on Temer in order to make sure he can survive the remainder of the term, Noblat says.

As has been the case for Brazil ever since the impeachment process began, it is all about who you believe. On one side small media outlets and people on social media crying out the police acted violently repressing the protesters, on the other side big news outlet (accused of actively taking a roll to oust Rousseff) and police stating law enforcement was simply pushing back against violent protesters.

Whatever the case, it’s safe to say Temer’s tenure is off to a rocky start.