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Brazil's right wing exploits scandal to promote coup calls

Demonstration by opponents of the calls for a coup.

March 14, 2015 -- TeleSUR English, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Government supporters say the opposition is inventing a crisis in order to undemocratically remove President Dilma Rousseff, of the Workers Party of Brazil, from power. The political forces organising marches on March 15, 2015, against the democratically elected government of Dilma Rousseff began conspiring immediately after it became known that she had won the run-off election in October 2014 against the candidate of the Brazilian elites, Aecio Neves.

The right-wing political opposition in Brazil has been reluctant to accept the results of that election, seeking to implement their neoliberal agenda by whatever means they can. The opposition, like their right-wing contemporaries in the rest of Latin America, have become frustrated at their repeated electoral defeats. The left-wing Workers Party (PT) has been in power since Rousseff’s predecessor, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, was elected president in 2002.

Who is behind the impeachment campaign?

Leaders of the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), one of the main organisers of the March 15 marches, told Folha de Sao Paulo, “The main aim of the movement, at this moment, is to overthrow the PT, the biggest nemesis of freedom and democracy that haunts our country." In light of this goal, the MBL has been pushing for impeachment proceedings against Rousseff. Supporters of the government consider this an attempt to hold a “third round” of elections. They accuse opponents of wilfully ignoring the fact that Rousseff won the election with 51.64 per cent of the vote, in an election that was affirmed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Rousseff has referred to the attempt to hold a “third round” as a break with democratic order in the country. “The election is over. A third round … cannot occur unless one wants a break with democracy", she said during an event earlier this month. The Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) is also backing the marches, but stops short of backing a call for the impeachment of Rousseff. The party’s national president and former presidential candidate Aecio Neves said he would not personally attend, but the party and its members would attend.

Calls for coup

In a statement released March 13, the PSDB criticised those who said the marches are calling for a break with democratic order. However, there are numerous groups openly calling for the military to intervene and remove Rousseff from power. These groups have stated that they also back the marches and will turn out and demand a military intervention.

Thousands of Brazilians are using Twitter to reject a coup d'etat and are accusing the largest media network due its leading role ahead of the opposition's demonstrations. Former president Ignacio Lula Da Silva called an extraordinary meeting of the Workers Party (PT) to warn them on the possibility of a military coup, as the video below shows. Joao Pedro Stedile, leader of the Movement of Landless Campesinos (MST) – the biggest social movement in Brazil – also called upon his supporters to be alert. “In 1961, the Brazilian elite tried to stage a coup … afterwards, in 1964 they were able to do the coup. We will not accept a coup”, he said.

Disguised as “constitutional military intervention”, some protesters have been calling for the military to take over the country in order to organise a trial of and convict President Rousseff, the former president Lula Da Silva and other members of their government under corruption charges, since October last year. The most influential exponent of this proposal has been General Paulo Chagas, of the Brazilian Army Reserve, who issued a video on Youtube last year calling for soldiers to take control, in order to avoid what he believes is a communist dictatorship ruling Brazil.

Calls for a coup to remove the PT from power are not new. A march calling for the military to take over the country, Rio de Janeiro, November 2014. Shortly after Rousseff’s re-election in October, supporters were mobilised to defend Rousseff’s victory and reject calls for an impeachment or military intervention. The opposition insists that Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis. In an interview with Carta Capital, Miguel Rossetto, secretary-general of the office of the presidency, said, “There is no political crisis. The neoliberals and conservatives were defeated electorally, the crisis is theirs, because they lost.”

Petrobras scandal

The right opposition has been successful in utilising a corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state oil company, to mobilise Brazilians in protest. The opposition has deliberately tried to tie Rousseff to the scandal, despite the fact that she has been cleared of any involvement. A new expanded investigation into the scandal named a number of high-ranking politicians, however Rousseff is not under investigation.

The powerful private media in Brazil has been key to trying to tie Rousseff to the Petrobras scandal. Veja magazine deliberately published unsubstantiated accusations that both Rousseff and her predecessor were connected to the scandal in order to try to influence the election. The Center for Economic Policy found the media disproportionately represented Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party in an unfavourable light compared to opposition candidate Aecio Neves.

Brazilian media giant Rede Globo has also played an active role in mobilising against the PT governments. The network changed its programming in order to encourage more people to attend the March 15 marches and broadcast the events live on its networks. Erick Bretas, one of Globo's directors, publicly announced that he would attend the march.

The controversy over the role played by Globo is such that supporters of the government have taken to calling them "coup backers" and have been denouncing them over social media.​ The hashtag #GloboGolpista, meaning Globo Coup-backer, has been trending throughout the country.

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