Brazil’s landless movement vows to defeat ‘coup’ in streets

Brasilia : Members of the MST Landless Workers Movement told Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday they would take to the streets to defeat a plan to oust her in a “coup”, as they termed an ongoing impeachment effort in Congress.

“Stay firm in your struggle, president. Because the landless movement won’t leave the streets until it has defeated the coup that’s under way,” Alexandre Conceicao, a member of the MST’s national directorate, said in a ceremony at the Planalto presidential palace in this capital.

Conceicao said the “wealthiest 1 percent” of Brazilians were behind the impeachment drive, adding that they want to return to power to “reclaim their privileges”.

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But he told the centre-left Rousseff that “this palace belongs to all of Brazil’s people”, who will defend it by “occupying the streets” to ensure she is able to complete her second and final term in office, which expires on January 1, 2019.

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The leader of the MST, known for its tactic of occupying farms or government offices to press for land reform, referred to mass nationwide demonstrations on Thursday in support of Rousseff that brought tens of thousands of Brazilians to the streets.

He said they served “notice” of “what social organisation is” and proved that the president’s supporters were “mobilised to not allow this coup”.

In another heated speech during the gathering, the secretary of the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers, or Contag, Aristides Santos, urged the government to make a bigger push for land reform but said his organisation was prepared to defend Rousseff’s administration.

“The way to combat the coup is to occupy the properties of the coup-mongers in the countryside,” Santos said, urging activists to “enter the homes, the estates and the properties of all the coup-mongers,” because “there’ll be land reform and there’ll be a struggle, but there’ll be no coup”.

The president faces possible impeachment for allegedly massaging budget figures in 2014 and 2015 to disguise the size of the deficit.

Rousseff has said she did nothing illegal and that her conservative opponents are plotting to oust her from office via a coup after losing to her twice at the ballot box in 2010 and 2014.

The impeachment effort is currently in the hands of a commission made up of 65 members of the Chamber of Deputies, who must decide whether to bring an impeachment vote before the full lower house.

More than half of the members of that commission are under investigation for corruption or other serious crimes.

A two-thirds majority is needed in the lower house to move the proceedings to the Senate, where the vote of a simple majority would be sufficient to launch an impeachment trial, during which time Rousseff would have to temporarily leave office and be replaced by her vice president, Michel Temer.

Rousseff’s situation was complicated further when a key member of the ruling coalition, the PMDB party – led by Temer, who is also being probed for his alleged involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme – decided Tuesday to formally break with her administration.

Temer remains vice president despite the split and the PMDB’s decision to take an “independent” stance in regard to Rousseff’s possible impeachment.

The impeachment battle comes amid severe stagflation in Brazil, which suffered a 3.8 percent drop in its gross domestic product in 2015 — its worst result in 25 years — and is enduring its highest inflation and jobless levels in many years.

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