Brazil’s Social Movements Planning General Strike for November
The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and others are ramping up opposition to the coup government, says the MST’s Ana Moraes
GREGORY WILPERT: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert, coming to you from Quito, Ecuador.
It has been almost a month now since Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office, via an impeachment that she and her supporters have called an institutional coup. The new President, Michel Temer from the center right PMDB party, has already provoked much opposition to him from social movements in Brazil because he has produced a number of proposals to the country that move the country towards the right, including privatizations, austerity measures and deregulation of the labor market. The demonstrations though, such as though that have protested against the impeachment trial, have often been met with police repression. At the forefront of the opposition to Temer is Brazil’s landless worker’s movement, MST.
Joining us to discuss the MST’s position with regard to the new Temer government in Brazil is Ana Moraes. Ana is a member of the MST’s national coordination and of the MST international relations collective. Thank you very much, Ana, for agreeing to this interview.
ANA MORAES: Thank you.
WILPERT: Let’s begin with the most fundamental issues, which is what is the position of the MST with regard to the removal of Dilma Rousseff from office?
MORAES: Well first of all, al lot this has been part of a plan that was put in place already in 2014 when Dilma Rousseff was reelected for her second term in office. From that moment on, the Brazilian upper class launched various efforts to destablilize the government of President Dilma. There are several attempts, such as not recognizing the vote and challenging it in the Supreme Court. And there are several efforts to destabilize from the Congress, which goes over to be an effort to interrupt, on the part of these parliamentarians, the PSDB and eve and the PMDB which until recently was part of the government of Dilma.
So, for us, this impeachment process, the coup, is a process that has been going on since 2014 and with the election of Eduardo Cunha to be the speaker of the House of Representatives, they put together a strategy of impeachment. From then on, of course, the architecture of the coup becomes easier, when Cunha takes on impeachment. For us, this is part of the upper class’s plan, for not confronting the crisis and the PT [Worker’s Party]. So the whole process of destabilization begins in 2014.
WILPERT: President Michel Temer has already moved the country to the right, introducing budget cutbacks, proposing privatizations, and changes in the labor law. What else do you expect the Temer government will do?
MORAES: The whole impeachment process is a process of confrontation on the part of the upper class. And the plan, the coup president himself, Michel Temer, recently said, last week, that the removal of President Dilma was because she did not accept a plan for building a bridge to the future. And this plan, which was never voted on, in the ballot boxes in Brazil, which was not chosen by the people, is precisely a neoliberal plan. For us, this neoliberal process was abolished ever since President Lula got into office in Brazil. He [Temer] said that her removal was because this. It is quite clear ever since the arrival of the coup plotters to power. It is possible only in the form of a coup because their plan would never be elected again in the voting booths of Brazil. Not only are there neoliberal plans, such as the labor reform, but also the constitutional amendment that seeks to freeze for a period of 20 years the heath, the education, and public safety budget. So we see in all of the actions of the coup government, a new implementation of the neoliberal plan, which is also for us is outside [inaud.], even for the International Monetary Fund. This is an archaic, retrograde, conservative plan, which would never be implemented if it had been put up for popular election. We see it with quite a bit of concern. Not only that, there is also the sale of land to foreigners, which is a plan that is being voted on in Congress that was proposed by the coup government and which will provide the lands of Brazil to private foreign businesses. From there, what we see is that the precarious agrarian reform will be completely paralyzed because of these neoliberal actions.
WILPERT: Let’s turn to the MST. What are your plans to resist the policies of the Temer government?
MORAES: Look, here in Brazil- and perhaps you have heard of it too – we have the Popular Brazilian Front. So our actions of confrontation are very much part of the plan that is articulated with various social movements and political parties, which are part of this Popular Brazil Front. One of the actions for the next period that we hope to pursue, work, and articulate, together with the labor movement, is a general strike for the beginning of November. So one of the actions that we are thinking about are street mobilizations. We would work together with other farm workers organizations and with the labor movement, for a large general strike, which would be a work stoppage of 24 hours, of all services in Brazil. Another demand that we are thinking about is “elections now.” That is, since we do not recognize the current government, which was not elected by the people, by all Brazilians, we would like, and we will put this into a plan as an action, a demand for new presidential elections. In other words, we want that the president to be elected by the ballot and not in an usurper manner. We continue to call for, in our banners, “Out with Temer,” which is a slogan that is already very strong among all social movements in Brazil. Of course, associated with the demand for new elections, which we are calling, “Elections now!” there is also a proposal for a political platform. For us, from the MST, this political reform would only be possible with a constitutional assembly. That is, we do not trust this coup-mongering congress which removed an elected president to make changes to the constitution. That is why we are asking that it be exclusively a constitutional assembly in order to make changes in the Brazilian political system so then from there we can make structural changes in politics.
WILPERT: I would like to return later to the topic of political resistance. But first, regarding the issue of the constitutional assembly, are there parties and social movements that are supporting this already? Or is this something that the MST is promoting and still needs to find other support from other sectors of Brazilian society?
MORAES: In 2014 we organized a popular consultation, to the people of Brazil, with regard to a constitutional assembly. From there we organized committees in all of Brazil and had a debate that lasted about six months, where we organized debates, and on September 7th of 2014, we organized a popular consultation where over 8 million participated, voted, and said that they are in agreement with holding an exclusive constitutional assembly from the political system of Brazil. Today we have a block a coalition that is very strong, of several organizations and parties, which are in agreement. If we keep in mind, when Dilma took her oath of office, for her second term, in her speech she referred to the proposal for a political reform via an exclusive constitutional assembly. We, together with Via Campesina and several other popular organizations in Brazil, we are lifting this banner. It still is not a banner of the whole social movements of Brazil. Some parties are not in agreement, but for us it’s not just about calling for new presidential elections, as long as it also isn’t associated with a reform of the political system because the change will not come about just with putting in place or removing a president. The changes come with policies and laws that govern the Brazilian electoral system. Indeed, it still is not a banner of all of Brazil’s left, but it does have a large following among various popular movements.
WILPERT: I imagine, and you said this already, that you will mobilize in the streets for this too. Do you think that this will happen more frequently and what will you do with regard to this police repression? I imagine the government is worried and this is why they are repressing protests, right?
MORAES: Yes, of course. Not only is the government acting in a repressive manner, but we also have several political prisoners because of the current situation in issues that have to do with the struggle for land. The MST is already being classified as a criminal organization. The change towards repression is already in happening, once Dilma was removed from office. And the demonstrations in Sao Paulo were repressed in a fascist form. The government of Sao Paulo, which is an ally of PSDB and PMDB, which is the same thing. We believe that this will be a recurring thing in different demonstrations, including in the possible general strike that we are doing and planning. So, yes, this will be a characteristic because repression is a characteristic of fascist governments that implement a coup. So this will be a very predominant characteristic and the social movements will take care for this.
WILPERT: Very good. We will continue to follow what is happening and what the MST is doing. In any case, thank you very much, Ana, for doing this interview with us.
MORAES: We are very grateful and we are here in struggle, always.
WILPERT: Very well. And thank you for watching the Real News Network.
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