Quote of the day: Behind anti-Rousseff marches


From Glenn Greenwald, writing for the Intercept:

Momentum for the impeachment of Brazil’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was initially driven by large, flamboyant street protests of citizens demanding her removal. Although Brazil’s dominant media endlessly glorified (and incited) these green-and-yellow-clad protests as an organic citizen movement, evidence recently emerged that protests groups were covertly funded by opposition parties. Still, there is no doubt that millions of Brazilians participated in marches demanding Rousseff’s ouster, claiming they were motivated by anger over her and her party’s corruption.

But from the start, there were all sorts of reasons to doubt this storyline and to see that these protesters were (for the most part) not opposed to corruption, but simply devoted to removing from power the center-left party that won four straight national elections. As international media outlets reported, data showed that the protesters were not representative of Brazilian society but rather were disproportionately white and rich: In other words, the same people who have long hated and voted against PT. As The Guardian put it in its description of the largest Rio protest: “The crowd was predominantly white, middle class and predisposed to supporting the opposition.” To be sure, many former PT supporters turned against Dilma — with good reason — and PT itself has indeed been rife with corruption. But the protests were largely composed of the same factions who have long opposed PT.

That’s why a photo — of a wealthy, white family at an anti-Dilma protest trailed by their black weekend nanny decked in the all-white uniform many rich Brazilians make their domestic servants wear — went viral: because it captured what these protests were. And while these protests rightly denounced the corruption scandals inside PT — and there are many — they largely ignored the right-wing politicians drowning in far worse corruption scandals than Dilma.

Plainly, these were not anti-corruption marches but rather anti-democracy marches: conducted by people whose political views are a minority and whose preferred politicians lose when elections determine who leads Brazil. And, as intended, the new government is now attempting to impose an agenda of austerity and privatization that would never be ratified if the population had any say (Dilma herself imposed austerity measures after her 2014 re-election, after running on a campaign against them).

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