2015 protests in Brazil
|2015 protests in Brazil|
Top to bottom:
Demonstration in Brasília outside of the National Congress Building. Thousands protesting on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Demonstration in downtown São Paulo.
|Date||15 March 2015, 12 April 2015|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
In early 2015, a series of protests began in Brazil against corruption and to denounce the government of President Dilma Rousseff. The protests were triggered by revelations that numerous politicians, mostly from Brazil's Workers' Party, were being investigated for accepting bribes from the state-owned energy company Petrobras from 2003 to 2010, during which time Rousseff was on the company's board of directors. The initial protests occurred on March 15, with protestors generally estimated to number around a million, while police stated 2,400,000 and organizers 3,000,000, taking to the streets to protest the scandal, as well as the country's poor economic situation. In response, the government introduced anti-corruption legislation. A second day of major protesting occurred on April 12, with estimates of 696,000 protestors by police and 1,500,000 by organizers.
In 2015, approval ratings for President Rousseff dropped to record lows due to a slowing economy, increasing unemployment, a weaker currency and rising inflation. Higher class Brazilians stated that Rousseff could not manage the Brazilian economy, used class tensions for her political campaigning by stating her political opponents were "enemies of the poor" while the poor felt betrayed since she passed policies to avoid an investment-grade downgrade that supposedly hurt lower class Brazilians.
In February 2014, an investigation by Brazilian Federal Police called "Operation Car Wash" placed Petrobras at the center of what may be the largest corruption scandal in Brazil's history. On 14 November 2014 police raids spanned six Brazilian states and netted prominent Brazilian politicians and businessmen— including some Petrobras directors— who were placed under investigation in regards to "suspicious" contracts worth $22 billion. When the allegations that graft occurred while President Rousseff was part of the board of directors of state-owned energy company, Petrobras, between 2003 to 2010; Brazilians became upset with the government and called for Rousseff's impeachment. No evidence that Rousseff herself was involved in the scheme has been found, and she denies having any prior knowledge of it.
In March 2015, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors could investigate about 50 individuals, most belonging to the Workers' Party, for possible bribery and other scandals focused around Petrobras which allegedly gave lawmakers in Brazil millions of dollars for themselves and for political campaigns. On 16 March 2015, prosecutors charged 27 people in the Petrobras scandal including João Vaccari Neto, treasurer of President Rousseff's Workers' Party and Renato Duque, former head of services of Petrobras. Vaccari was charged with corruption and money laundering that was possibly related to allegedly illegal campaign donations that was supposedly solicited from Renato Duque. Duque was then arrested and denied "having money abroad or moving money abroad" according to his attorney while Vaccari's lawyer also denied allegations against him. On 15 April 2015, Vaccari was arrested at his Sao Paulo home. The Workers' Party responded to his arrest calling it "a political arrest".
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, "[t]he real strengthened 0.6 percent to 3.2304 per dollar and has fallen 17.7 percent this year" and was the largest drop in value among "major currencies" that were observed by Bloomberg. Bloomberg Businessweek also noted that Rousseff’s government raised taxes and slowed spending to avoid a credit rating downgrade "after years of ballooning spending and subsidized lending", that economic growth had stalled and that "inflation exceeds the ceiling of the target range". The Petrobras scandal had also hurt the economy by causing a slowing of investments in both the industries of energy and construction.
March Police stated that about 33,000 participated in the protests while the pro-government organizers said about 175,000 supporters demonstrated. On 15 March, mass protests occurred across Brazil. Although crowd size estimates differ, most calculations put the number at roughly one million nationwide. with many protesters wearing yellow and green clothing similar to the Brazil football team and Brazilian flag. In São Paulo, police stated that at the start of the protest, there were approximately 580,000 demonstrators originally participating but the numbers grew quickly by about 4,000 people every two minutes. Datafolha estimated a different number of protesters, stating that 210,000 demonstrators protested at some point and that 188,000 did so at the same time. On Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, thousands protested and collected signatures directed at impeaching President Rousseff. The protest occurred on the 30th anniversary when Brazil's democracy was reinstated after a military dictatorship. Meanwhile, it was possible to see some demonstrators at the protest asking for a military intervention against Rouseff. Many of the protesters on 15 March demanded the impeachment of Rousseff while demonstrating.
Brazilians protested again on 12 April, with police saying there were about 696,000 people involved while protest organizers stated there were about 1,500,000 demonstrators. In São Paulo, protesters were numbered between 275,000 by police and 1,000,000 by organizers. In Rio de Janeiro on Copacabana Beach, there were less demonstrators than the 15 March protests but several thousands protesters still demonstrated. Those participating in the demonstrations sang rock songs that dated back to the protests against the Brazilian military dictatorship. The protesters still believed that President Rousseff knew about the scandal beforehand and demanded her to step down or called for her impeachment. Analysts stated that the smaller turnout could show that the protests would eventually come to a halt and the movement would end. Protest organizers combatted such statements saying that the movement had spread to smaller cities in Brazil compared to the 15 March protests.
On 15 April, labor organizations protested against a law that permitted companies to treat workers as independent contractors, with the protests spreading through 19 Brazilian states with demonstrators blocking roads.
President Rousseff expressed that she defended the right to protest but characterized them as a move against her by opposition politicians and business elites. During the week following the 15 March protest, President Rousseff stated that she was also open to dialogue while also mentioning that she may have made mistakes with her economic policies.
Following the 15 March protests, the Brazilian government announced that "a package of anti-corruption measures" was on its way to being presented according to Secretary General Miguel Rossetto and Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo. Cardozo also stated that the government would participate in dialogue and that there should be "a ban on corporate finance of electoral campaigns". On 18 March, President Rousseff introduced the anti-corruption package which had included measures that would result in up to 10 years in prison corrupt individuals and fines from 5 to 10 times the amount of money involved with any action. The package would also subject more individuals in all branches of the Brazilian government to the 2010 Ficha Limpa act, a law that makes an individual ineligible to participate in the government for eight years if they had been impeached, had resigned to avoid impeachment or are convicted of a wrongful action by a judiciary panel.
In February 2015, month before protests began, Rouseff's approval rating dropped 19 points to 23% with 44% disapproving of her. Following the 15 March protests, Rouseff's approval rating fell even further to only 13% with a 62% disapproval rating, one of the highest disapproval ratings in the past 20 years of any president. According to polls by Datafolha performed on 9 and 10 April, 63% believed President Rousseff "should face impeachment proceedings" while less than 15% knew that the vice president, Michel Temer, would become president if Rousseff was impeached.
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- Data Folha 15/02/2015
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