October 26, 2016

Brazilian Politics Takes A Satanic Turn; Interim President Is In Hot Water

Supporters of Brazilian suspended President Dilma Rousseff protest against acting president Michel Temer, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 22, 2016. (AFP Photo)

RIO DE JANEIRO:  Artists, producers and actors are occupying public buildings across Brazil to protest the new government of interim President Michel Temer.

Musicians railed against Temer at shows across Brazil this weekend, and their audiences sang for his ouster. Some chanted “Temer out” to a famous and melodramatic opera melody — its sense of impending apocalypse playing with unfounded Internet rumors that Brazil’s unpopular new leader is a Satanist.

Formerly the vice president, Temer was installed after Dilma Rousseff was suspended in a controversial impeachment vote in the Senate earlier this month. She faces a trial in the Senate and has called her ouster a coup.

The occupations were sparked by Temer’s cost-cutting move to ax Brazil’s Ministry of Culture and have fanned the flames of a cultural revolt.

They came on the heels of a “silent protest” by Brazilian actors and director Kleber Mendonca Filho at the Cannes Film Festival in France, as well as anti-impeachment declarations by other famous Brazilians, among them Wagner Moura, star of the Netflix series “Narcos.”

The artistic movement has galvanized producers, musicians, actors and artists and is especially dangerous for Temer because it was spontaneously organized by the creative community, not Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.

On Friday singer Caetano Veloso performed a free show for thousands outside the landmark Ministry of Culture building in Rio that is occupied by protesters. The crowd turned one of his classics into a sing-along of “I hate Michel Temer.” Earlier, another crowd there sang “Temer out” to a melody from Carl Orff’s opera, “Carmina Burana” during an orchestral concert.

Other “Temer out” chants were also heard at free concerts by major Brazilian artists such as Ney Matogrosso in Sao Paulo on Saturday night, and “Temer Never” flashed on a screen during Sunday’s performance by rapper Criolo.

Free shows at the Rio occupation have been markedly different from the staged protests that Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has organized against her impeachment. Rather than party politics, the focus has been on culture and democracy.

Temer, whose centrist PMDB party abandoned Rousseff’s ruling coalition in March, has installed a business-friendly administration — but some of the ministers in his all-male cabinet are being investigated in a vast corruption scandal centered on the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

Rousseff has not been named in the scandal — which along with a deep economic recession, was a key factor in her suspension. But investigators say that politicians from hers and Temer’s party were heavily involved and that allege she tried to obstruct the investigation — which she denies.

The move to eliminate the Ministry of Culture was an attempt to cut Brazil’s bloated public spending. But in a country that loves, lives and breathes culture, it may have been a costly mistake.

Veloso’s show featured songs he wrote while exiled during Brazil’s military dictatorship. “It was emotional because it was Caetano clearly showing his support,” said Rodrigo Faria, 34, a cultural producer who was at the show. His performance gave the movement extra weight: It was like Bob Dylan doing a free show at Occupy Wall Street.

The next day, the new government backed down and said it would retain the Ministry of Culture. But protesters in Rio vowed to continue their occupation.

“It is a victory,” said Diana Iliescu, 37, an audio-visual producer and one of 90 activists taking part in the occupation. “But what we want is to defeat Temer.” She was one of a group coordinating releases to social media in a communications center set up in an office.

Danae Melo, 34, an actor sleeping in a tent in one of the occupied rooms, explained how protesters had taped off areas around valuable artworks, including an enormous painting by Candido Portinari.

“We taking care of everything carefully,” she said. “We are here protecting our Brazil to deliver back democracy.”

Outside, on Saturday night, a rapper performed an anti-government number while a performance art piece was presented by a group sitting silently on plastic chairs, which they continually rearranged.

With street venders selling beer and drinks, the occupation has become a social attraction for Rio residents and inspired others across Brazil. And protesters are proud that the diabolic “Temer out” chant has caught on.

There is no evidence to suggest that Temer, a Christian, is a Satanist. But the allegation is damaging in a country as religious as Brazil.

And a moment when Temer lost his voice during his first news conference, causing him to harrumph and cough in a deep voice, has added fuel to the fire. Videos alleging that it was the moment Satan took possession have been watched by tens of thousands on YouTube.

Brazil’s artistic revolt shows the level of Temer’s unpopularity, even among those who supported Rousseff’s removal.

“Temer is more intelligent,” said Carlos Damasceno, 57, who attended pro-impeachment rallies in Rio. But he added: “I don’t like him very much. He doesn’t look honest.”

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