Social movements and trade unions have announced plans to hold a general strike on 10 May, ahead of a vote in the Senate on whether to proceed with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Supporters of the president have demonstrated against the process with increasing frequency over the past two weeks. The Senate is almost certain to approve the measure, meaning that frequent protests are likely to continue over the coming months.
Organisers have not yet provided specific plans for demonstrations next week. But the head of Brazil’s largest trade union, the Unified Workers’ Central, said at a rally on Sunday that there will be protests countrywide. Several other social organisations, including the Landless Workers’ Movement and People Without Fear, have announced that they intend to participate. Based on recent pro-government protests, individual rallies will probably attract at least tens of thousands of people in major cities.
The strike will continue a period of sustained activism that began when the lower house of parliament voted to impeach the president on 17 April. Last Thursday, members of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), a social movement, mounted roadblocks in at least eight states countrywide, as well as in the Federal District. Brazilian news outlets reported on 21 April that Vice President Michel Temer had decided to relocate to Brasilia because of frequent protests outside his home in Sao Paulo.
Protests will probably continue throughout the impeachment process, as activists seek to influence how senators vote. A simple majority of senators is needed to approve that there are grounds for an impeachment trial to go ahead. They will probably decide this on 11 or 12 May. Recent polls among law-makers suggest that over 50% of senators already intend to vote in favour of opening the investigation. This means that President Rousseff will have to hand over power to the vice president for up to 180 days.
Aware of this probable scenario, leftist activists are also preparing for a campaign of ‘civil disobedience’ against a government led by the vice president. If Temer remains in office for the entirety of this period, we anticipate that protests will continue until early November, or at least until the Senate makes a final decision on Rousseff’s future.
Reports in the Brazilian press in recent weeks suggest that Temer is preparing for office and is considering making ‘radical’ cuts to government spending to restore investor confidence and avoid having to raise taxes. Such cuts would risk stoking more violent disruptive unrest. Security forces would probably respond forcefully. But even if he decides against such a move, Temer will struggle to quell protests over the coming six months given the controversy around the impeachment process, and his influence in ousting the president.
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Image: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/ Gustavo Oliveira/ Demotix/ Press Association Images