President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. Source: President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. Source:

As the right attempts a coup, the workers and their allies are determined to fight back, reports Orlando Hill

The lower house of Brazil’s Federal Congress on Sunday night presented a grotesque and reactionary spectacle. 367 of its members voted in favour of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff (25 more than the two thirds necessary) while only 137 voted against, 7 abstained and 2 were absent. 

Each member had to go up to a microphone and declare their vote. The opposition, most of them wrapped in either their state or the national flag, dedicated their votes to their children, grandparents and God. Some of them declared their hatred towards CUT (the largest national trade union federation) and president Rouseff’s Workers’ Party (PT). In his 2 minute speech, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, from state of Rio de Janeiro, stated “they [the progressive forces] had lost in ‘64 [with the military coup] they have lost now in 2016.” 

He justified his vote as one against Communism and dedicated it to Cornel Carlos Brilhante Ustra who tortured Rousseff when she was arrested in the 1970s. Cornel Ustra was the director of the infamous DOI-CODI (the ‘intelligence’ and repression agency during the military dictatorship). He was known for torturing pregnant women by sticking rats up their vaginas. 

Not one of them mentioned the irregularities in the budget that brought the impeachment process. It was clear why they had staged this coup. Those who voted against the impeachment dedicated their votes to the poor, blacks, indigenous Brazilians, LBGTs, women, land reform and the victories of the workers.

The best speech of the night was delivered by Jean Willys a gay rights activist and member of PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party). He expressed his embarrassment at having to take part in a farce conducted by a thief and a traitor and backed by torturers and cowards. He dedicated his vote to the LGBTs, homeless, landless and the blacks who are exterminated in the suburbs. The end of speech was met with an uproar from the crowd gathered outside congress. “As trans, as bis e as sapatão tá tudo organizado para fazer revolução!” (“Trans, bis and dykes are all organised to carry out the revolution!”).

Thousands of Brazilians in every state capital and in towns across Brazil took to the streets to watch on large screens the vote in Congress.

In Rio de Janeiro, crowds gathered in Lapa, a district famous for its bohemian night life. Lilian Hill and Fernanda Cervi (biologists at the Botanical Garden) arrived there at nine: “The atmosphere was a bit tense. People were anxious. But nobody kept quiet. They would cheer the politicians that voted against, and booed those who voted for. When it was over people felt a bit let down. I saw people crying. But the crowd was ready willing to fight. On the bus on our way home we met an elderly gentleman with his wife. He told everyone not to give up the struggle. He was born fighting and will carry on fighting.”

The Senate will now decide, by a simple majority, whether to proceed with the impeachment. Dilma Rouseff will then be suspended for 180 days while the Senators judge the case. Meanwhile Michel Temer, who plotted the impeachment campaign, will assume the presidency. 

Despite the devastating defeat in the Congress the workers and their allies are determined to fight back with all forms of mobilization to put pressure on the senate. CUT (Unified Workers’ Central, the largest national trade union organisation with a membership of over 3 thousand trade unions), has declared that it will not recognise a government led by Michel Temer and will fight against any attempt to take away workers’ rights. 

Soon after the vote for the impeachment passed in Congress, the president of CUT, Vagner Freitas, spoke to the crowd gathered outside. “If they think they have defeated us with a vote in a corrupt congress, they are badly mistaken. We would like to say to the speaker of the house that we will pursue him until he is behind bars.” He went on to urge the workers “to make this the largest 1st of May celebration in our history for democracy and with Cunha (the speaker of the house) in jail.”  

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.