In the name of God and the family, Democracy was voted down in Brazil
The crisis challenges organized civil society to reposition itself, with greater autonomy, and fight for a broad arena in which the people’s diverse social expressions can dialog. They must stay in the streets for more democracy and against further regression
Text originally published on 18/04/2016 in FASE’S website.
After six hours of voting, 72% of the House of Representatives — most of them using authoritarian, chauvinistic and LGBT-phobic language — said “yes” to an impeachment process qualified by many Brazilian and international institutions and by a large segment of leftist militants and human-rights defenders as a coup. On the historic evening of Sunday, April 17, on the 20th anniversary of the Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre, a moment to remember the bloodshed in a struggle for better times, the words “my” and “mine” were spoken to justify attitudes against democracy, displaying self-interest high above any sense of the common good. A country of many peoples? We heard much more about “family” values than any description of impeachable offenses. It was not a moment to learn about the Rule of Law. FASE regrets this demagoguery perpetrated in the name of God and joins the struggle to separate organized religion from the state, while also taking a stand against intolerance and in favor of religious diversity. This is not a contradiction.
We want a country that cherishes and promotes various kinds of families, not just heteronormative families in which a man speaks for the rest. For 55 years we have fought to end the privileges of economic and corrupt groups. We are dismayed that the session was chaired by Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), who stands in the Supreme Court accused of sending millions to tax havens. Along with the People Without Fear Front and the People’s Brazil Front, who have called protests to defend democracy, we criticize the stance of vice president Michel Temer (PMDB), who has both written and spoken of his own thirst for power.
On live TV, a media that, like radio, is a public concession, the majority of Brazil’s 200-million populace witnessed the spectacle. The media, in fact, needs to be regulated immediately in Brazil. In the past 12 years, little or nothing was done to democratize the media, much of which is “owned” by members of Congress, although this is forbidden by the Federal Constitution.
It also became clearer that the electoral system must be reformed. According to official data, of the 513 members of the House of Representatives, only 36 were directly elected by the popular vote. All the rest were “pulled in” by party- and coalition-led slates. The problem is that such alliances are rarely forged in the name of ideals, but to defend economic interests and “governability.” We must ban corporate funding of campaigns. It is high time to radicalize democracy, won at such a high price by those who fought the civilian-military dictatorship. It is unbelievable that members of Congress are still willing to defend the torture and crimes committed in 21 years of authoritarian rule. In Brazil’s streets today, demonstrations both for and against President Dilma’s impeachment spread nationwide. Back then, this was simply not possible. We must also recall that the possibility of protesting is not the same for all. There are several Brazils.
In the favelas, in the homeless camps, in the landless peasant settlements, in indigenous territories, quilombolas and other gatherings of traditional peoples, in the rivers and wetlands of artisanal fishermen and women, in the daily lives of men and women workers more exploited every day through outsourcing, of street people, women, poor young blacks, much blood is still being shed. They demand and are fighting for rights, to demarcate territories, for land reform, for housing, basic sanitation and for free, high-quality healthcare and public education. They would be the hardest hit by a coup d’état.
The world is watching. A variety of international institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), along with governments from other countries, have questioned the consequences and the need for this impeachment process. Organized civil society has also taken a stand. For example, the Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (Abong), of which FASE is a member, although “deeply critical of the direction taken by Dilma Roussef’s government,” stresses its opposition to the “attempted coup.” Another is the Latin American Association of Development Promotion Organizations (Alop), of which we are also a member, which responded to the dramatic situation by standing against the destitution of the legitimately elected president. It also stated that the head-on fight against corruption is an obligation for public and private institutions and for all of civil society, but that it does not justify any twisting of the facts by the media. In the 21st Century, we have already gone through coups d’états in Paraguay and Honduras. Another one in Brazil would have impacts and be a setback for the entire region.
This is no time for polarization, since the moment is complex. Some Congressmen spoke of family farming and rural extension and then voted for impeachment. Some reject violence in the poor peripheries but defend the destabilization of the country. Others from reactionary parties voted “no,” perhaps to hold up “conciliatory policies.” In response to such scenes, we congratulate the few members of Congress who used their 30 seconds of speaking time to defend what they really do or try to do with their mandates. We must respect the vote. But even more so, we radically criticize today’s accelerated, destructive development model.
Organizations, unions, associations and social movements, at this moment of political and economic crisis, face the challenge of repositioning themselves, with greater autonomy. We believe there is no other choice. Rather than taking sides, we must take a stand. FASE has already chosen the struggle for human rights, food sovereignty, environmental justice, women’s rights and the right to the city. It is urgent to take to the streets. There shall be struggle like there always has, including strikes, land and building takeovers, expanding agroecology and territories free of GMOs, mining and oil wells. We must continue to forge a broad arena for dialog in which the people’s diverse social expressions can be heard, in order to rein in conservative movements and stop further regression.