[Documents menu] Documents menu

Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 97 13:12:11 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #391, 7/27/97
Article: 15341

/** reg.nicaragua: 64.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #391, 7/27/97 **
** Written 7:45 PM Jul 27, 1997 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **
From: Weekly News Update <wnu@igc.apc.org>

‘Open your eyes:’ Day of Protest in Brazil

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Issue #391, 27 July 1997

Thousands of workers marched in the capitals of Brazil's 27 states as part of Open Your Eyes, Brazil, a march called for July 25--Rural Workers' Day--by the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the Workers Central (CUT) and the country's leftist parties, particularly the Workers Party (PT). It was supported by the National Bishops' Conference. The march, which protested against the government's neoliberal policies and backed agrarian reform, was also supported by many unions, including civil and militarized police, who remain on strike in many states throughout the country. In Sao Paulo, former PT presidential candidate Luis Inacio Lula da Silva marched with metalworkers from the ABCD industrial district, where the PT and CUT were founded. Many marchers came from the Paranapanama region of Sao Paulo state, where the situation is tense as thousands of landless workers are demanding to be allowed to use unproductive land. [El Diario-La Prensa 7/26/97 from AFP; Clarin 7/26/97] As part of a wave of actions leading up to Rural Workers Day, 800 MST members occupied a General Motors plant in Gravatai, Rio Grande do Sul state, before being driven away by army troops. General Motors was targeted because the state government had given the company land worth $258 million as an inducement to set up shop there. [Clarin 7/24/97]

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso called the day of protest a flop; in the northeastern city of Recife, Pernambuco state, organizers said 1,000 attended, though an Agencia Folha reporter put the number at 350, and said that the weak observance was due to public dissatisfaction with the police strike. [Brasil Online 7/25/97, 7/26/97 from Agencia Folha] Earlier in the week, a soldier replacing strikers was killed in Recife during an attempted bank robbery. [ED-LP 7/25/97 from AFP] Meanwhile, Pernambuco's state government is planning to permanently replace any police still on strike as of July 28 with reserve police and private security guards. On July 25, civil police in Sao Paulo decided not to strike and to accept raises of 5.1% to 34%; the state's militarized police have already settled. Both civil and militarized police remain on strike in Alagoas, the site of army violence last week [see Update #390]. [Brasil Online 7/25/97 from Agencia Folha]

Cardoso acknowledges that the police (some of whom are owed as much as eight months of back pay) have a valid claim, but said the strike wave was the worst breach of discipline in the history of the militarized police, and warned that it was creating a sort of radicalism inappropriate in an armed institution. [ED-LP 7/25/97 from AFP; Brasil Online 7/25/97 from Agencia Folha] However, the police have widespread support: a Datafolha poll taken on July 24 in ten Brazilian capitals showed 89% of respondents support the demand for higher salaries, 60% believe the police have a right to strike although it is illegal, 58% support participation by union centrals and the MST in the police strike, 36% say they are in total support of the strike activities, and only 15% believe the government's claim that the strikes are mostly motivated by partisan politics. 52% blame the federal government for the strikes, while another 30% blame the state governments. On the other hand, 57% believe that marching without going on strike was the best tactic for the police to use, and 80% thought police should not carry arms while protesting. Support for the strikers was highest in Alagoas. [Folha de Sao Paulo 7/26/97] Support for the police also came from the far right: Jair Bolsonaro, federal deputy for the Brazilian Progressive Party (PPB) and defender of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, said the government was to blame for the poor living conditions of the forces of law and order. [ED-LP 7/25/97 from AFP]

Interviews with police union leaders revealed that many are members or sympathizers with the PT, including Inspector Claudio Cesar Russo da Cruz in Rio de Janeiro, and Jose Almi Pereira Moura, a PT city councilmember in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. [By contrast, Renato Ribeiro, head of the strikers in Recife, says he learned about strikes while repressing protests by other workers.] [Folha de Sao Paulo 7/27/97] While the strikes continued, 1,446 PT delegates met in Sao Paulo on July 26 to determine who would head the 1998 national electoral campaign. Lula, representing the moderate wing of the party, is backing Antonio Palocci, former mayor of Ribeirao Preto, while state deputy Renato Simoes is the candidate of the party's left wing. The party's presidency was also to be contested; Lula favors keeping incumbent Jose Dirceu in the post, while the left is supporting federal deputy Milton Temer. While the two factions are about equal in strength, Lula's side was expected to carry the day. [Brasil Online 7/25/97 from Agencia Folha]