“It is amazing how the coronavirus ended up associating itself with the Bolsonaro government’s ideals of liquidating people through hitting the poorest, Afro-Brazilians, the peripheries, the sick, people with disabilities, and women. The virus is perversely damaging the most poor and vulnerable. It is as if this virus is implementing a terrible plan of eugenics- of death.”
by Brian Mier
On May 21, the Brazilian Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores/PT) joined with 400 social movements, church groups, labor unions and left political parties and officially submitted the first collective impeachment request against far right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, during a small, socially distanced protest in front of Congress in Brasília. Later that afternoon, I caught up with Congresswoman Maria do Rosário do ask about the process.
Maria do Rosário is a teacher, domestic violence activist and political scientist who began her career in the 1980s as an organizer for the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). During the 1990s she was elected to Porto Alegre’s city council during the tenure of legendary progressive mayor Olivio Dutra. Later, she was elected to Rio Grande do Sul State Congress, and then to Federal Congress. From 2011 to 2014 she served as President Dilma Rousseff’s Human Rights Secretary. Today, Rosário is one of the PT’s 54 Members of Congress, and a leader of the Muda PT internal caucus, which advocates for “restrengthening the party’s capacity to organize and mobilize the fight for anticapitalist, anti-racist and anti-patriarchal policies”.
Brian Mier: There are 30 impeachment requests sitting on Congressional President Rodrigo Maia’s desk and it seems like he doesn’t want to do anything about it. How is this impeachment request different from the others?
Maria do Rosário: The impeachment request that we submitted on May 21st, is different because it establishes, compiles and documents a series of crimes of responsibility. We are not merely requesting impeachment for political reasons, even though any impeachment always has political motives behind it. In this case, the basis of the impeachment is the set of crimes that Bolsonaro is comitting and the request is grounded in the Constitution and federal law. We are demonstrating concrete evidence of crimes , which differentiates our request from the others. And our request is also different due to it’s amplitude, because it was submitted by 7 political parties and 400 civil society organizations. The PT participated, but it is important that it is not the only party doing it because this is a political movement of Brazilian society in favor of what is reasonable, of a Brazil that protects its citizens. This is why it is important to stop Bolsonaro from committing these crimes.
BM: When Michel Temer was President he avoided impeachment by “buying” members of Congress, by allocating huge amounts of funds for their pet projects. It looks Bolsonaro is now doing the same thing. Do you think that, by recently allocating R$80 billion in projects to members of Congress, he really managed to buy the support of the majority of Congress?
MR: Jair Bolsonaro was, for a long period, a mediocre congressman. He was one of the members of Congress who used to negotiate for his own personal interests over those of the Brazilian people during this period. Now, he is trying to work inside Congress, looking for lawmakers who are not fully committed to supporting the Constitution, who put their personal interests above the interests of the Brazilian people. But, like all legistlatures, the Brazilian Parliament carries an internal contradiction. It can rise above these deals, which are not always republican, through proximity to society and the accountability to which society holds it, especially if the press stays on top of what is happening in this country. These eyes from the outside have more power over lawmakers than the R$80 billion that Bolsonaro handed over to members of our national Congress to prevent his impeachment. I have heard a lot of complaints to [Congressional President] Rodrigo Maia (DEM) about whether he is going to put impeachment up to vote or not. But the fact that he is not starting the impeachment proceedings immediately will contribute more towards an eventual impeachment. Right now, Bolsonaro has this financial power and a pen with which he says he can command Brazil. With the pandemic, with the inability of people to freely circulate due to everything that is happening in Brazil and in the World, we have to ask ourselves if the fact that Rodrigo Maia is not putting impeachment up for vote is a way to contribute so that we can build a more viable impeachment procedure.
BM: In the United States, the Democratic Party opened an impeachment procedure against Donald Trump but it didn’t work out. One of the reasons cited for this failure is that Trump has a fanatical support base that represents nearly half of the US electorate. Bolsonaro does not have anything close to that level of popularity, but don’t you think that, with 27% of the electorate saying that he is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, it will be hard to push through this impeachment? How are you and your partners working to increase popular pressure against Bolsonaro?
MR: This impeachment request is different from the others because I don’t believe that Bolsonaro will ever totally lose his support base. Fanatics don’t change – they will stand by him in favor of death and the negation of science and all of the worst things that he does will only serve to further please this fanatical segment of the population, because there is a religious element in their relationship with him. Nevertheless, I believe that even if he maintains this social base, Congress and the institutions need to confront him and push through this impeachment. If we don’t confront the fascist manner in which he relates to the government and the State, Bolsonaro can increase his internal power and act even worse against his opponents and society and try to shut down institutions. Bolsonaro is a risk for democracy, for the state institutions, a risk in relation to the pandemic and a risk to the Brazilian population.
BM: How is the pandemic exacerbating gender problems in Brazil?
MR: Women are extremely affected because they are the poorest of the Brazilian poor and suffer the most violence among all who suffer from violence in Brazil. Femicide is increasing and together with this we are seeing that violence against women in general is increasing all over the country. In addition to this increase in the number of assassinations of women, we see a destruction of public policies that began before the pandemic. During Bolsonaro’s reign we have seen a total dismantling of public policies for protecting women from domestic violence and for prevention of domestic violence and they are being replaced with the encouragement of hatred, violence, rape and all of the most abject forms of disrespect towards women, their lives and their families. So now there is poverty, violence and a culture of hate which is represented in power, this power which emanates from the Bolsonaro government.
BM: Is there any other thing you would like to say about the coronavirus pandemic and the fight against Bolsonaro?
MR: We really have two battles to wage: one against the virus and the other against Bolsonaro. One complements the other. It is amazing how the coronavirus ended up associating itself with the Bolsonaro government’s ideals of liquidating people through hitting the poorest, Afro-Brazilians, the peripheries, the sick, people with disabilities, and women. The virus is perversely damaging the most poor and vulnerable. It is as if this virus is implementing a terrible plan of eugenics- of death. Bolsonaro’s supporters carry a symbol of this with them every Sunday to the door of the Presidential Palace in their weekly protests: a coffin. It almost seems like a commemoration of the death going on in our country and an expression of loathing of the people’s suffering. This is why he can no longer continue as President of Brazil.