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Cassia Bechara of MST says that the Temer government is repressing and criminalizing those who oppose its agenda – including social movements and former Presidents Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff – in order to legitimize itself

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Last Friday, Brazilian police geared up with heavy weaponry and raided several buildings and compounds belonging to the landless workers movement, also known as MST in Brazil. Raids took place in the state of Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Sao Paolo state. Those arrested have been accused of participating in criminal activities which MST rejects outright. MST was one of the key founding organizations of the World Social Forum. On Saturday, the day after the arrest, over one thousand activists from 36 different countries gathered at one of the raided locations at the national school of Florestan Fernandes near Sao Paolo. Let’s have a look: [[SINGING]] PERIES: Those gathered expressed their solidarity with MST and their organization that has been the beacon of landless workers’ rights in Brazil and which supported social movements worldwide. They were joined by former president Lula De Silva among other legislatures. Let’s have a look. [[LULA DE SILVA SPEAKING]] [[CHANTING]] PERIES: These attacks on the MST come in the wake of parliamentary coup against the Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff last August. Now there are a series of charges and obligations against former very popular President Lula De Silva. Some speculate that these allegations that appear to be popping up every week is an effort to slander his appeal. MST has always supporter former President Lula De Silva. He’s considered a serious contender for the next presidential elections. Unless the allegations materialize in barring him from running in the next election. Well onto talk about this and much more from Sao Paolo Brazil is Cassia Bechara. She is a director with MST National. Cassia it’s so wonderful to have you with us. CASSIA BECHARA: Hi, Sharmini. Thank you very much. It’s very nice to be here. Thank you for offering this experience. PERIES: So, Cassia, let’s start with why the crackdown on MST is happening right now. BECHARA: Sharmini actually we understand that the crackdown is not only on MST but it’s in a lace to criminalize all sorts of social movements and social struggles. What happened last Friday was a national police operation that started the police upon and also in some places like Sao Paolo and Mato Grosso do Sul. And the targeting MST leaders who have organized a land occupation on what is actually state land and was taken by a big company called [inaud.]. So it’s actually a way of criminalizing the struggle for land but more than that it’s criminalizing all the struggles and social movements in Brazil. You that you now live under a coup de tat in Brazil and the government needs to legitimize itself by criminalizing every organizing department which was against the coup. So it is on the fence, more than on MST to criminalize the whole social movements in Brazil. MST is actually a big target because it’s a symbolic movement in Brazil. It’s one of the movements in Brazil. It was one of the main working class organizations working against the coup. So, this is just one of the ways to symbolically criminalize social movements. But you have to remember you have non brazil, one thousand schools occupied by the students in Brazil against the [inaud.] to make several reforms on education. So, the students are also mobilizing. The repression of the police will always be targeting the students. So this only to say that it is much larger than only an attempt MST but the whole struggle in Brazil. PERIES: Cassia, you are now coming to us form one of the schools that were raided by the police last Friday. The National School of Florestan Fernandes. Now this is a school where a lot of education training goes on nationally but also internationally. I mean I myself have been to this school. Last time for a meeting of journalists that were taking place. Describe to us this atmosphere this kind of raid has left on the school and the movement. BECHARA: It was very impressive. The violence in which the police came to the school with very heavy arms and just like jumping the gates and starting fighting into the air but really threatening the ones who were there. Really surprised because the school is also bigger than MST itself. It’s a symbol [inaud.], nationally and internationally. Even though it was showed not only on Saturday but on the day itself, because even though the ones of us who were there at the gates were able to prevent the police to really enter into the facility of this school. But what really made them retreat and leave was the prompt national and international [inaud.] respond what happened. So, I think there a two things important in this event. One is how communications were important. We showed how it was important for as a social movement to be our own communication tools. The way that very quickly on social media, the comrades could make the video and send it out and send it to Brazil and the whole world. The response was so quick and the pressure under the police command was what incited the police to retreat. This is really important to find out. Of course we who are there at the gates .We could prevent them from entering the facility in the first one hour of conflict. But if it wasn’t for the internet international solidarity, they would have entered at some time. We are were unarmed. We will not be able to hold them for much longer. There invasion was totally illegal. They didn’t have search warrants to enter the school. Their arrest warrants they showed us didn’t have any legal ability because it wasn’t signed by any judge. So it was an arrest warrant that was figured out from the office and didn’t have any signatures from any judge. So it wouldn’t have any legal validity. But they were really determined to enter. PERIES: Now Cassia, President Dilma Rousseff was replaced was replaced with here very conservative Vice President Michel Temer. Just days after removing her from office, Temer was caught on a video speaking where Temer effectively admits that President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office because of her refusal to accept his economic plans rather than any law she broke by away of bookkeeping. So let’s have a look at what he had to say here. MICHEL TEMER: While I still was vice president, we released a document named “A Bridge to the Future,” because we knew it would be impossible for the government to continue on that course. We suggested that the government should adopt the theses presented in that document called “A Bridge to the Future”. But as that did not work out, the plan was not adopted and a process was established which culminated with me being installed as president of the republic. PERIES: This is also from Intercept of Dilma Rousseff referring to these comments, confirming that this was in fact the reason why she was removed from office was that she didn’t accept Temer’s economic plan presented to her. DILMA ROUSSEFF: Also there were those with their own plans that wanted someone else: “We will implement a political program that was not approved at the ballot box, a different political plan”. And this is being confessed. There’s something curious about this coup, they confess to it. SPEAKER: Two days later.. ROUSSEFF: They’re confessing. The last confession came from the illegitimate usurper president currently in office who said the following: “We implemented the impeachment to push through the ‘Bridge to the Future’ [economic] program”. Well, the “Bridge to the Future”, which takes away labor rights, takes away social rights, privatizes, and sells land to foreigners, this program wasn’t approved at the ballot box. So, this is another reason behind the coup. PERIES: Cassia in the first video we showed of President Temer, he’s saying that Dilma Rousseff was removed because she rejected following his economic plan. What kind of plan did he propose here? BECHARA: This what I was saying since the beginning and it’s really important to highlight, Brazil there wasn’t an impeachment process in Brazil. What happened in Brazil was a coup de tat. This only proves this audio and video that you showed only proves that the main reason for this coup de tat, is to implement a new liberal agenda in Brazil. This is what the government started doing from the beginning. This is what they call [inaud.]. The problem that Temer just spoke about in the video. It’s just a problem to implement, hard implement, neoliberal measures in Brazil. That means [flexibilized] labor laws. That means [inaud.] of health and education. That means the end of the retirement policies. That means so many things that he started doing as soon as he took the power. This is why also; they are cracking down and they are determined that they are going to crack on any movement or anyone who stands in the way to implement it. They are repressing the students who are occupying these schools against the implementation of liberalism implementation. That’s why they’re cracking on MST and that’s why they’re going to crack on the unions who are organizing and mobilizing against the labor adjustment that the government’s trying to implement. Now for the 11th of November, we are calling together with all unions in Brazil, the general strike against the implementation of this weather economy in Brazil which is actually just to implement neoliberalism in Brazil. PERIES: Now the November 11th national day of strike that you’re calling for along with a number of other unions as you said and social movements and so on, do you think this effort in terms of the raid on the MST and the arrests that have been made is an effort of intimidation in order to crack down on the ability of MST to organize very effectively. I mean MST has a very good proven track record of being able to mobilize thousands and thousands of people to these actions. BECHARA: You’re right. They’re trained to intimidate MST but also in intimidating MST, they also think that they can intimidate all the social movements in Brazil. Of course, it backfired on them because what happened at the school on Saturday, just after this intimidation was the opposite for what could happen. The wave of solidarity to be able to gather so many people as we did in less than 24 hours called to show them that as more oppression they try to [inaud.]. They’re going to mobilize even more. So even though we do believe that what they are trying to do is criminalize the struggle, to intimidate people, to organize themselves [inaud.] but it’s not going to work and I think all the social movements in Brazil have already showed that they’re not going to get intimidated by this government. PERIES: Alright Cassia, I look forward to having you back on November 11th. One of our producers here at the Real News, Gregory Wilpert, will be on the ground for that day of national strike on November 11th and we look forward to hearing from you then. BECHARA: Thank you Sharmini. Thank you very much. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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