RIO DE JANEIRO – Amidst accusations of involvement in the billion dollar corruption scandal with Petrobras, Lava Jato, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was ousted from her executive duties on May 12, 2016 and currently undergoing an impeachment trial.
Days after the coup, interim president Michael Temer appointed a twenty-three all white, all male conservative cabinet, the first of it’s kind since the military dictatorship of the 1960’s. He also eliminated eight Ministries including the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights allegedly due to austerity measures.
Brazil ironically boasts of being a Racial Democracy, a nation that is post racism, yet is one of the countries with the highest social inequalities of the Americas with racially segregated cities that resemble the geographical apartheid of U.S cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. The coup of President Dilma is yet another violent manifestation of racial and class warfare that defines contemporary Brazil.
Beginning with Lula’s presidency, Dilma’s political party, Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker’s Party) (PT), implemented social welfare programs to address stark inequalities such as the Bolsa Familia, Zero Fome and Affirmative Action. While the welfare programs only sought to reform governing institutions rather than create structural change, they did challenge existing notions of class and race. For the first time in Brazilian history, poor black students could attend federal universities, attend and perform in plays, wear name brand clothing, and eat at the same places that were exclusive for white people, blurring the visible markers of segregation.
The participation of black people in the main arenas of society has caused much racial stress for the predominately white middle and upper classes as their entitlement and exclusivity to these spaces is threatened. Their white fragility has triggered a series of violent backlash towards individuals and institutions not adhering to class and racial norms.
Just last month, Diego Viera Machado, a student and cotista (recipient of Affirmative Action) of the largest university in Rio, UFRJ, was found beaten and murdered by a conservative group on campus. The group also hacked into the university email system and sent a threatening email to all cotistas, stating they were setting an example with Diego.
Also, with the dissolution of the Ministry of Culture that preserved African heritage and encouraged black art, many organizations that largely depended on government assistance risk being defunded.
While Dilma’s presidency was far from perfect, her ousting is an example of the powerful sector of Brazilian society that is actively resisting the social inclusion of poor, specifically black population in Brazil.
Finalmente, Fora Temer!