Young Brazilians decry palace coup as leftist president gets impeached

Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

SAO PAULO—The sound of fireworks and car horns filled the air of Brazil's economic capital Wednesday afternoon following a majority vote in the Senate to formally impeach President Dilma Rousseff, whose presidency had been suspended since May amid a probe over the government´s accounting practices.

But not everyone is celebrating the president's removal. Supporters of the left-wing former president claim her ouster is the culmination of a methodical right-wing plot to destroy Brazil's popularly elected government and seize power through undemocratic means. For them, Rousseff's removal was a palace coup.


As the dust settles, many young Brazilians are left wondering about the future of their country's struggling democracy.

Dilma Rousseff supporters hold a demonstration during the impeachment trial on Aug. 30 in Sao Paulo.
Photo by Cris Faga/LatinContent/Getty Images

"Democracy is an illusion in Brazil," said David Villalva, a 27-year-old telecoms sales executive who helped organize protests against impeachment. “Citizens here don't have efficient ways of participating in public decisions.”

After three days of political speeches, highlighted by an 11 hour-long hearing where Rousseff had to answer a barrage of questions from lawmakers, the Senate voted 61 to 20 to impeach the president on allegations that she mishandled the national budget and lied about the state of the economy during her 2014 re-election bid.

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Some Brazilians celebrated the vote as an example of how their country is finally reigning in corrupt government practices.  But others argue that Roussef´s punishment didn't fit her crime. Since the impeachment proceedings began earlier this year, thousands of Workers' Party supporters and some independents have taken to the streets to defend their country's elected government.

Police face off against Rousseff supporters at a rally on Avenida Paulista while the president got questioned by the Senate on Aug. 30
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On Tuesday night a protest in Sao Paulo drew about 4,000 people, who were dispersed by police as they tried to reach the offices of one of the country's main newspapers. For them, the country's mainstream media outlets have been part of efforts to remove the president.

A small group of protesters evaded the police blockade and lied down in front of Brazilian paper Folha de Sao Paulo

Now that Rousseff is out, some of her supporters are saying they will shift the focus of their protest to make life impossible for the replacement government led by 75-year-old lawyer Michel Temer, a former Rousseff ally who turned on the president as she lost popularity during the country´s long economic crisis.


A small but dedicated group of protesters has been in the streets of Sao Paulo for three days and insist their movement is the “beginning of the end” of the Temer “regime.” They want to force the substitute president, who is also under investigation for misuse of campaign funds, to resign. Three of his ministers have already resigned over corruption probes in just three months.

But for now many Brazilians just seem relieved that the impeachment process is over.  Rousseff´s popularity has plundered amid her own party´s corruption scandals, and many people here just hope that the country can get back to some semblance of economic and political stability.


“Temer may not be perfect, but we need to get the country moving again,” said a 38-year-old businessman in Rio de Janeiro, who asked not to be named because of family ties to the government. “Hopefully they will implement programs that will fix the economy.”

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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