A day of mourning: The Brazilian Senate buries democracy with a coup

This commentary on the removal of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff is by Vagner Freitas, president of the main trade union federation in Brazil, the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT). It originally appeared in Portuguese under the title, “Em dia de luto, Senado enterra a democracia e dá golpe.” It was translated by People’s World staff member Eric A. Gordon.

Most affected by this coup will be the working class. But this date also marks the beginning of a new stage of struggle.

President Dilma was definitively removed from office by the Federal Senate, despite not being proved responsible for any crime. This coup against democracy will profoundly affect the lives of workers both in the fields and in the cities, and of Brazilians who most need the continuation, and increase, of rights and public policies, as much today as in the future. This is not a question of a simple change of command, but rather the usurpation of Brazil’s fate by a portion of the political class, the judiciary, and the press that seeks power at any cost.

The trial, as everyone saw, was a parade of hypocrisy and cowardice on the part of legislators in the corridors and in open session of the National Congress. As “judges” there were many senators who are criminals being tried by the Supreme Federal Tribunal (Supreme Court) for corruption and other crimes. Without the least compunction they appropriate the right to judge an innocent president who committed no crime, has no foreign bank accounts, was not accused of corruption, and who was legitimately elected by more than 54 million Brazilian citizens.

The intellectual authors of the plan for the coup – Eduardo Cunha, declared guilty by the Supreme Court and with millions banked in overseas accounts, and Michel Temer, cited by accusers in the Lava-Jato scandal – crawled out from the underground where they always worked and joined with the loser of the last election, Aécio Neves, to legitimate the coup. Now they shamelessly show their cynical, conspiratorial faces to the light of day, protected by the barons of media, the large landowners, executives of multinational enterprises, bankers and many other opportunists.

Attacks on social and labor rights by Temer’s government-by-coup are the greatest demonstration that big business, both Brazilian and from abroad, financed the coup and now is reversing pro-worker and social welfare reforms.

It signifies a reduction or extinction of rights won by long struggle, from the 1943 Consolidation of Labor Laws through the 1988 constitutional social programs, which have enabled Brazil – although more slowly than we would have preferred – to leave behind its past as a country of impoverished people, hungry, illiterate, sick, homeless and without access to clean water, jobless, and without dental and medical care.

All the proposals submitted to date by the coup regime go against the interests of the working class. The latest of these, a cut in funding for literacy programs, has just been announced by the illegitimate government. Freezing of public funding for 20 years, linked only by a correction to inflation, will leave millions of people without their admittedly modest yet essential health, education, security and leisure time services that exist today. The illegitimate Ministry of Health has already said that the national health service, for example, is excessively big, and therefore must be cut, made smaller and dismantled. As for education, a reduction or elimination of programs such as Science Without Borders, among others, has been announced.

Among the plans for the coup regime is also a brutal attack on labor laws, against the labor department and all the rights guaranteed by it, such as pay for the 13th month, paid holidays, overtime, weekly day of rest and others. Another proposal on negotiation law abandons workers to their own recourses, forcing them to negotiate the rights contained in the Consolidation of Labor Laws directly with their employers, without adequate protection and without rules. The destructive purview of the coup regime includes ending the policy of stabilizing minimum wages and also turns against retired people and those with pensions, with their announcement of a reduction of up to 40 percent in the value of benefits, a de-linkage of benefit adjustments to minimum wage, and an increase in the minimum retirement age to 65 or 70 years.

This game against the people is brutal and cruel.

Recently achieved rights, such as measures to protect the lives and dignity of women, of Blacks, of indigenous people, and the LGBT population, are targets for attack and mockery. One example of this are the quotas in higher education for students from the public schools, so essential to overcoming inequality and the lack of professional opportunity.

With the unjust rout of Dilma, the coup regime gains the unlimited freedom to attack our future and the future of the country as well. The Brazilian Labor Federation (CUT) and the social movements will fight against these retrogressive policies.

Destruction of the dignity of the people, and contempt for it, and by extension for Brazil itself, will be felt not only internally.

Before the world, the illegitimate government has already announced the sale of Petrobrás and its petroleum deposits and reserves, and the privatization of state entities such as the Bank of Brazil, the Treasury, the Postal Service, and the energy companies. The coup regime also wants to free up the sale of land to foreigners, compromising our energy production and water usage. They want to “free” our airspace. In short, they want to auction off our national sovereignty dirt cheap.

These measures are the answer the legislators and the coup leader Temer and his crew have offered to the financiers of the coup, businessmen who demand the means to guarantee more and more profits and fewer rights to workers.

CUT, its affiliated unions, and the social movements that have always been with us, have done all within our reach to prevent this coup.

We did not want to stop the coup simply to personally defend Dilma – whose honesty and seriousness would have been sufficient to earn our defense – but to halt the conservative wave mounting around her, the loss of rights and backward regression.

With all the difficulties in her government, we knew that Dilma never aimed her weapons to take Brazil backwards. To the contrary, like President Lula, Dilma did all she could to rescue the country from the international crisis that punished the world in 2008 and since.

On our part, we always pointed out that which we believed wrong, such as the financial adjustment so praised by those who are taking us to the gallows. We mobilized people, strikes in both the public and private sectors, demonstrations, meetings, hearings and negotiations to pressure the government to stay on the road toward development with the essential struggle for social justice.

Today, on this day of mourning, we begin another cycle of struggle to retake our democracy. For the month of September, CUT has scheduled a National Day of Work Stoppage, a militant General Strike against the takeback of our rights, on September 22nd.

We will do all we can to organize our affiliates and our non-affiliates to combat unemployment and stop the takeback of our rights. With us will be all those who also take pride in the democratic movement, for example, artists, intellectual and jurists who have denounced the coup here and around the world.

This is a moment of profound sadness for us. This sadness will spread to the hearts of those now indifferent who will see, despite the silence of the media, that the coup regime aims to rip up the Constitution of 1988. But sadness will not make us bow our heads nor will it break the spirit of the working class. Because all that we achieved was the fruit of struggle and perseverance.

We will engage in daily valiant resistance against the enemies of our country. We are not alone. We will occupy all spaces, such as we did before, in combatting arbitrary rule and tyranny, always in the defense of democracy, for participation by the people, for a fair distribution of wealth, for social justice and the rights of the working class.

Until victory!


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