The fate of suspended President Dilma Rousseff lies in the hands of the Senate, which will vote Tuesday on whether to permanently oust her from office over allegations of mishandling the fiscal budget prior to re-election. Brazil’s Senate began proceedings against Rousseff on Thursday, a trial that has widely been condemned as a parliamentary coup.
If the impeachment is approved, Senate-imposed interim President Michel Temer will be installed until 2018. For Brazil's left, the interim Temer administration has made its plans heard loud and clear: roll back economic, social and political rights and empower the nation's oligarchy.
But Temer's government is clearly waiting in the wings for the Senate to permanently oust Rousseff before formally announcing cuts to key social programs and ultimately impose neoliberalism.
Cutbacks in Housing for the Poor
Temer’s interim government will face a budget deficit. In June, GDP shrunk for a fifth consecutive year as South America's largest nation continues to suffer from recession. In the midst of widespread protests against corruption and the millions spent on the Olympic Games, social programs have taken the strongest hits.
The highly successful national social housing project, hailed by the United Nations as a “success story,” was the first target of spending cuts.
Called "Minha Casa, Minha Vida" (My House, My Life), since it was launched in 2011 the program has reduced Brazil's housing shortage and provided 1.7 million poorer Brazilians with cheap, affordable homes amid the economic crisis.
Under the government of Rousseff, total spending on the program over the next three years was expected to be US$67 billion, according to data released in March.
To add to this, the democratically-elected government of Rousseff had made a commitment in February to build 2 million new units of social housing. However, analysts fear that cuts—expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars—will now disrupt the plans.
Paving the Way for Privatization
Just like the My House, My Life program, the "Bolsa Familia" is a state subsidy for low-income citizens that has been credited with lifting millions out of poverty.
Both social programs are considered flagship projects of both Workers' Party governments, which were led first by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and now by Dilma Rousseff.
But with sweeping privatization proposals and cuts being proposed, according to the International Trade Union Confederation, both are now under threat.
The Brazilian Constitution stipulates that in 2016 a minimum of 13.7 percent of the country’s total federal tax budget would be allocated toward health services, and 18 percent would go toward education.
But the interim government is now analyzing a constitutional amendment that is currently under review by Brazilian lawmakers, which aims to eliminate constitutional clauses guaranteeing minimum federal spending in the area of health and education.
Lack of Diversity and Minority Representation
Once Brazil’s first woman president was suspended by the Senate in May, Temer unveiled the members of his Cabinet.
There were no women, no Black ministers, no one who identifies as gay, lesbian, or transgender, nor anyone representing social movements or any other of Brazil's minority groups.
Temer's ministers are all white men. Seven came under investigation in May for their alleged role in the largest corruption scandal in the country, involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.
The ministers facing corruption allegations also enjoyed a form of immunity, since as they became sitting government ministers, only the Supreme Court can try them in legal cases.
On top of an the all-white Cabinet, one of Temer’s first decrees was to eliminate a list of ministries as part of his austerity measures, directly attacking diversity and other progressive institutions.
These were the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Racial Equality, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Women, the Ministry of Agrarian Development and the Ministry of Science and Technology, among others.
Dragging Brazil to Neoliberalism
In April 2016, when Michel Temer was still Rousseff’s vice president he presented an economic plan in direct contradiction with the PT's progressive values.
The Financial Times described it as representing "a radical break with the left-leaning program of Dilma Rousseff.”
According to the media outlet, Temer would scrap the existing formula under which Brazil's minimum wage is automatically adjusted based on economic growth and inflation.
The interim government would also reduce pension benefits as well as minimum wage adjustments, and relax labor laws to facilitate business interests and reduce costs for employers.
According to the FT, the program presented was “like a wishlist for markets and investors with proposals to liberalize industrial relations and reform pensions and government spending.”
Temer would also sell state assets to private investors and expand concessions to business groups for infrastructure projects. Finally, he intends to make government expenditures on health and education optional, instead of mandatory and scrap nationalist laws in the oil sector, according to the same report.