By Renata Koch Alvarenga
After months of protests both in favor and in opposition to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian people expected a strong reaction when she was officially removed from office on August 31.
Since the impeachment, riots have occurred every day in Brazilian states such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul. Tens of thousands organized through social media have taken to the streets to speak against the decision to impeach the first female president of Brazil.
The protests also called for elections and demanded the exit of the interim president, Michel Temer, Rousseff’s former vice president and a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, whose ascension to the presidency is seen as a coup by protesters.
The protests were marked by a high level of violence, especially perpetrated by local law enforcement. According to The Washington Post, riot police responded to peaceful protests by hurling tear gas into the crowd. In one case, a 19-year-old girl lost her sight in one eye after the explosion of a percussion grenade thrown by the police.
The reactions, however, did not stop at the national level. At the Brazilian consulates in New York and Buenos Aires, large groups of Brazilians protested with posters that read, “Defend Democracy in Brazil,” as reported by Folha de São Paulo, a major Brazilian newspaper.
At the regional level, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela broke diplomatic relations in Brazil following Rousseff’s impeachment. Maduro argued that the “coup d’etat isn’t just against Dilma. It is against Latin America and the Caribbean.” He remains convinced that “this is an attack against the popular, progressive, leftist movement,” according to The New York Times.
José Serra, Brazil’s foreign minister, retaliated by saying that Venezuela’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the impeachment was undemocratic.
The Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement in April regarding Brazil’s situation, concluding that the impeachment was not valid. “There is no criminal accusation against the president; rather she has been accused of the poor administration of public resources in 2014. This is an accusation that is political in character, and that does not merit an impeachment process,” said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, after an analysis made by the organization.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) emphasized the points made by OAS, stating that removing a president from office for administrative failures and for political reasons is a dangerous criminalization of governance.
With 61 votes in favor of her exit, Dilma Rousseff, a member of the Workers’ Party that had been in power for 13 years, was impeached by the Senate exactly a week before Independence Day, one of Brazil’s most important holidays.
In March, Michel Temer’s party announced that it was withdrawing support of Rousseff’s ruling coalition, leaving her isolated several months before the impeachment vote, Reuters reports.
According to CNN, Rousseff, accused of moving funds between government budgets, said the impeachment is completely undemocratic: “When Brazil or when a president is impeached for a crime that they have not committed, the name we have for this in democracy, it’s not an impeachment, it is a coup.”