Over the last few months, right-wing forces in Brazil have seized the opening created by a failing economy and corruption investigations involving all political parties to suspend a democratically elected president. The politicians leading the effort to remove the president are implicated in multimillion-dollar scandals. Ironically, there are no corruption or other criminal charges against the president, Dilma Rousseff.
In 1964, Brazilian conservatives and elites used the army to remove a president with tragic results: deaths, disappearances and torture. The dictatorship that followed lasted more than 20 years. Over 50 years later, the same elites have manufactured a media circus, a political farce, to remove another democratically elected government. If successful, this legislative coup will set back progress for Brazil's democracy and its workers for years.
On April 15, just before Brazil's lower house of Congress voted to advance a politically motivated impeachment process, the AFL-CIO released a statement that read, in part:
The AFL-CIO vehemently rejects the effort to invalidate the progressive policies and achievements designed to build inclusive democracy in Brazil. We firmly support the democratic, pro-worker programs for social justice that have been pursued and administered with professionalism and success, lifting over 40 million people out of poverty.
The most representative labor organizations in Brazil have long supported democracy and the rule of law, while calling for political reforms to eliminate practices that have made corruption endemic there. Many of those now leading the call for impeachment have long blocked such reform and profited from corruption.
While there are many valid criticisms and frustrations with Brazilian politics and the current state of the country’s economy, these do not justify the impeachment of a democratically elected president.
On May 18, the same forces in the Senate voted to continue the impeachment. With this decision, the political crisis in Brazil has entered a stage likely to damage democracy in the country for years to come and have a negative impact on the entire region. The interim government has already acted to undo progress for those working people, women and Afro-Brazilians so long excluded from a share in prosperity and democracy. In response to this latest assault on a democratically elected government, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling on the U.S. government to express concerns over the negative impact on democracy in Brazil and beyond.
The way forward is not less democracy, but more. Not excluding those long excluded--by race or class or gender--who recently began to share in what Brazil produces, and who are leading the country. The way forward is more inclusion of those working people and citizens.