The Central Unica de Trabalhadores (Unified Workers Central/CUT) is the largest union federation in Latin America, with around 8 million members. In January, working together with its social movement and union federation partners in the anti-coup coalitions Frente Brasil Popular and the Povo Sem Medo, it announced a general strike for February 19 against the government’s proposed deep austerity cuts to the retirement pension system, which will spare the judiciary and military and disproportionately burden the working class. In the weeks that followed, resistance to the coup government gained momentum, culminating with a Rio carnaval float depicting Michel Temer as a “neoliberal vampire” (The Guardian apparently made the editorial decision to remove the word “neoliberal” in its coverage) and a mass, anti-Temer carnaval occupation of Rio’s Santos Dumont airport. On the verge of the general strike, on Friday, February 16, Michel Temer issued a decree turning over responsibility for Rio de Janeiro’s public security to the Military which effectively grants the right for soldiers to shoot to kill. CUT leadership immediately issued a public statement about the intervention. The following is a translated version of CUT’s statement, which can be seen in its original Portuguese here.
For CUT, what Rio and Brazil really need is a social intervention, with public policies, income and job generation.
The decision by the putschist and illegitimate Michel Temer to issue a decree for federal intervention in public security in Rio de Janeiro is one more irresponsible act with the goal of trying to throw a smoke screen over the innumerable scandals that involve his government, such as the open investigation which points to the president’s involvement in shady dealings in the Santos Port, and his political defeat in the frustrated attempt to ratify retirement system reform, hampered by pressure from CUT, the other union federations and the social movements.
As in all decisions made by this golpista, the ones who will pay the price for this measure are the people. The people of Rio de Janeiro are the victims of a poorly planned intervention that does not have clear objectives because it will not solve the problems of violence, unemployment and late salary payments to which the population is submitted.
You cannot solve public security problems through military intervention. The solution is public investment in sewage treatment, housing, urban mobility, job generation, solidarity economy measures, a basic living wage, investment in education, culture, sports, vocational training, guarantees for a first job for youth and a dignified retirement pension for all of the people in Rio and Brazil.
The crisis of Brazilian states, mainly Rio de Janeiro, is connected to the approval of constitutional amendment 95 (PEC 95), which freezes public investments in security, health and education for 20 years and reduces investments in the social policies that guaranteed development, jobs and income during the Lula and Dilma governments. During that era, Nem, one of the organized crime bosses in Rio de Janeiro, complained that the Federal Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento/PAC) was robbing him of his best soldiers.
Rio de Janeiro and Brazil do not need federal intervention in public security, we need a social intervention immediately!
We need an intervention that is discussed democratically in the communities with the social movements, the unions and the people in Rio and Brazil, that can take us out of the crisis, not just of security but the social crisis that this coup government has installed on the nation and that compromises survival and exposes the population to all types of violence.
It is against all of the moves of this coup government and its allies that the CUT is organizing the workers and reaffirming its mobilization agenda against the retirement system reforms, which are ending retirement benefits for millions of Brazilians, and against all the measures underway to remove social and labor rights.
On February 19 there will be a national strike, a paralyzation. It is a day to cross our arms and fight against the neoliberal agenda, which conflicts with public interest, against the end of retirement, against decisions like the one on February 16 to intervene in Rio de Janeiro without presenting any real solution to solve the state’s violence problem.
The people of Rio de Janeiro deserve respect!
The Brazilian people don’t accept any more abuse!
February 16, 2018
CUT National Leadership