[ACNS] Anglicans in Brazil are continuing to stand-by the country’s embattled President, Dilma Rousseff, claiming that attempts to impeach her are a right-wing attempt to scupper her party’s endeavours to support Brazil’s poor and marginalised.
Since coming to power in 2003, President Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has overseen huge improvements in the lives of low income and vulnerable communities. But right wing opponents – in alliance with Christian fundamentalists – are seeking to have her impeached.
The lower house of Brazil’s Parliament voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff earlier this month over charges that she manipulated government accounts. The upper House will consider the move next month and are expected to suspend President Rousseff while they carry out a trial of the charges, which she denies.
There have been large-scale protests throughout the country by supporters and opponents of Ms Rousseff. The Primate of Brazil, the Most Revd Francisco de Assis da Silva, and the Province’s House of Bishops have both issued statements in support of the President.
“Essentially, we are witnessing an attempted coup by right wing politicians who represent the interests of Brazil’s wealthy minority and want to put a stop to social welfare for the poor,” the Revd Joabe Cavalcanti, a former a trade union leader in Brazil who now serves as a trustee for the Anglican Mission agency United Society. “Since the dark days of the continent’s military dictatorships, South America has come a long way. Democracy has been embraced.
“Now many people fear that those achievements could be put in peril by the current undemocratic, non-electoral and non-judicial attempts to overthrow Brazil’s elected president.”
In an interview with the United Society, Archbishop da Silva, said that he is continuing to support President Rousseff and her party in their efforts to improve the lives of the poor.
“What we are seeing is the emergence of a political alliance between Brazil’s wealthy elite and Christian conservatives in an attempt to stop social advances for the poor. These people are opposing legislation that supports women and education for all.
“I find it shocking that MPs are using the name of God to justify their attempts to impeach President Rousseff. They are trying to give a religious justification for their attempts to block social welfare initiatives being put forward by the president.”
In a statement providing background to the current crisis, the United Society say: “There are accusations of corruption and scandal on both sides of the political divide in Brazil. In essence, the disagreements boil down to a contest between left- and right-wing agendas.
“Since her re-election in 2014, President Rousseff’s popularity has plummeted due to an ongoing economic crisis, national corruption scandals, and the fall of many middle-class Brazilians into poverty.
“In response, opposition parties are attempting to remove her from power, claiming she should be impeached for using money from state-owned banks to safeguard an anti-poverty programme. However, it has been noted that this budget strategy has been used by previous presidents without complaint. Indeed, the same budgetary manoeuvre was used by Senator Antonio Anastasia, Rapporteur of the Upper House Impeachment Committee, when he was Governor of Minas Gerais.
“Many of the politicians who want to see the president impeached are themselves under investigation for corruption, even for torture and practising modern slavery. As one example, Federal Deputy André Moura, of the Social Christian Party Sergipe, which voted for the impeachment, is charged with attempted murder.”
Commenting on President Rousseff’s opponents, the Brasilia-based Anglican blogger Rodrigo Gomes da Paixao, wrote: “They are self-centred members of an elite that doesn’t want the government to pay social welfare. That is the very reason for which they plan to impeach Rousseff – because of her budgetary manoeuvres to guarantee the payment of a social benefit to poor families.”
Speaking to the United Society, Mr da Paixao added: “It is worth highlighting that the undemocratic ventures we are seeing are only possible because Brazil – unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – has never punished the coup-plotters of the past. While Argentina’s dictator Videla died in jail, João Batista Figueiredo, the last dictator in Brazil, enjoyed a quiet retirement in Rio.”
He said that if the impeachment went ahead, and the country adopted the economic agenda of the president’s rival Vice President Michel Temer, ordinary Brazilian workers would lose a huge amount.
“The Bolsa Família programme, which helped reduce poverty, would be limited to families earning less than a dollar per day,” he said. “Funds for building popular housing would be limited. Workers would have to work until they're 65 in order to retire (in order to accumulate the required 35 years of social security contributions). Retired people wouldn't have their pensions automatically adjusted to the annual minimum wage raise. And the minimum wage itself wouldn't be adjusted by inflation.
“Temer also plans to please evangelicals by disallowing women priests and doing away with aspects of racial equality law and human rights, which will certainly affect current programmes to tackle institutional sexism, racism and homophobia. By contrast, President Rousseff’s Workers' Party is seen as the political patron of LGBTs, Indians, blacks and feminists.”
Mr Cavalcanti described the achievements of the Workers’ Party since coming to power as “truly monumental,” adding: “It is the largest and most rapid redistribution of wealth and reduction in poverty ever carried out by a democratic country in the history of the world.”
Highlighting some of them, he said that the percentage of people below the poverty line has been reduced from 15 per cent in 2003 to 2.8 per cent in 2014; and that the percentage of students from poorest 20 per cent of the population studying at state universities has increased from 1.2 per cent in 2004 to 7.6 per cent by 2014; and that the number of non-white students had increased from 16.7 per cent to 45.5 per cent over the same period.
And in what he describes as “one of the largest house-building programmes the world had ever seen,” the government have built 3.4 million houses between 2009 and 2014 for poor families who had been living in shanty towns and other substandard accommodation.
- The United Society has published a prayer for Brazil:
Loving God of all,
we pray for our sisters and brothers in Brazil at this time of political turmoil.
We thank you for those who work for the good of all peoples in that diverse land:
those who have brought justice to oppressed lives,
those who have brought dignity to the marginalised,
those who have brought education, healthcare and hope to many,
those who work for a fairer distribution of the country’s resources.
Root out self-interest, corruption and oppression,
and breathe through your Spirit
your kingdom values of justice and worth for all.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,