On March 15th, 2015 millions of Brazilians hit the streets to protest against president Dilma Rousseff and demand her impeachment. The protest was organized by “Movimento Brasil Livre” which means “Free Brazil Movement” an organization founded by Kim Patroca Kataguiri, Renan Antônio dos Santos, and Alexandre Ferreira dos Santos whom is photographed above. Thankfully I am lucky enough to know the founders and they were some of the first Brazilians I befriended during my first weeks in Brazil. Little to my surprise did I know that they would be the leaders of one of the largest protest in Brazils history. Thankfully I was able to talk to Kim and ask him a few questions. Kim told me originally they were expecting 200 thousand protesters in São Paulo and 1 million in Brazil but to their surprise 1 million protesters hit the streets in São Paulo and 3 million in the whole country with over 73 different cities involved. I asked Kim what their future plans were for Movimento Brasil Livre, he told me they are currently working on their next protest which will be held on April 12th, 2015 and that they are expecting an even larger turn out. In the long run they expect to become something like a “libertarian Tea Party”.
Due to reading up on this history of the Brazilian government, I am familiar with the current situation however in order to get a natives point of view I asked Kim to give me a short summary on several topics. First, I asked him to discuss the Lula government that was in place from January 2003 to January 2011 and directed under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. I then asked him about the current president (Dilma Rousseff and to also touch a bit on the corruption scandals that have taken place in the past few years.
To give you a bit of history heres what Kim told me:
“Lula came as a messiah of integrity to the brazilian people. He was very popular because he was the first Brazilian president with a history of being poor. Also, he used the economic stability that the president that came before him left along with the commodities boom to waste a lot of money in welfare. This gave the people a false feeling of prosperity and economic growth. The Worker’s Party started to ruin in 2005, when a scandal called Mensalão was exposed by the media. It revealed that the government used public money to buy the Congress, getting all it’s bills approved. The government should have fallen then, but the main opposition party (PSDB) preferred not to attack the government because they had a similar ideology and don’t like taking risks. In other words, they were cowards. Then, in Dilma Rousseff’s government, another scandal was exposed, the Petrolão, which is the same as Mensalão but with Petrobras’ money. So, the false image of a honest party totally fell apart. This combined with an economic crisis caused by the disastrous government administration caused the revolt of most of the population”.
After hearing this I asked Kim a common question that may be asked by many others. Even if Dilma were to be impeached isn’t there fear of another corrupt president stepping into her place?
“theres no magic formula, its done step by step”
“The vice-president is Michel Temer, from PMDB, a known corrupt party. But we defend the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff because the Worker’s Party is not only corrupt, it’s totalitarian. They don’t simply steal money, they destroy the republic, they use public money to ensure their hegemonic power. We won’t end corruption in Brazil with the impeachment, but we will protect the republic, which is a big step forward. If we manage to impeach the president, we will fight to reduce the size of the government, after all, the politicians’ power limit is corruption’s limit”.
My last questions to Kim were: Do you think Dilma will be impeached? Even though everyone knows Dilma has done wrong, is there legal proof that backs up the fact that she could indeed be impeachment?
“We have two legal bases to demand Dilma’s impeachment. The first one is what the Constitution calls “improbidade administrativa”, which is when a president’s subordinates are corrupt or irresponsible and the president does nothing about it. Rousseff was president during the eight years of the administration council of Petrobras and president for four years during the Republic. During that time, she was completely responsible for every Petrobras’ director. She admitted that if she knew all the details of the Pasadena refinery negotiation she wouldn’t have authorized it. Well, the directors knew them, so it was her responsibility to know, which means that even if she didn’t really know the details, she can be impeached for “improbidade administrativa”. The other legal base is what we call responsibility crime. She is trying to make deals with the companies involved in Petrolão to save them from being penalized. She can’t do that because it breaks our Anti-corruption Law, that began in 2013, which also makes her impeachment possible, for responsibility crime”.
“Impeachment is a political, not judicial process. The last president we impeached, Collor, was declared innocent by our highest court and still the congressmen approved an impeachment process against him. Which means that we can impeach her if we have 2/3 of the Congress, even if the impeachment is only based in political reasons”.
Well there you have it my friends. A little bit of Brazilian history about what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and maybe what we can hope to see happen in the future. I would like to thank Kim for answering my questions and I am happy to be in Brazil during a time where history is being made. It’s pretty amazing that three young adults ranging from 19 to 31 were able to start an organization like Movimento Brasil Livre and even more amazing that the country is sticking up for what they believe in and unifying themselves to fight against the government. Below is a link of a New York Times article about the organization and the protests. Have a look!
And remember if you are in Brazil the next protest is April 12th! See you there!