Reportage. The Day of National Paralysis clogged streets from Sao Paulo to Brasilia. Six ministers in the Michel Temer government have been forwarded to the Supreme Court for investigation.

Brazilians decry pension reform as corruption case hits Temer ministers

In Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and other cities across Brazil, thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest the pension reform ordered by Michel Temer. At least 18 states and the federal district were clogged by strikes and street barricades Wednesday in what has been called the “Day of National Paralysis.”

It was a very successful protest, organized by trade unions and popular organizations against the neoliberal measures undertaken by the Temer government, which took over after the institutional coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff.

After having passed a constitutional reform which prevents the possibility of welfare for 20 years, Temer now wants to increase the retirement age to 65 (for both men and women) and increase to 49 years the minimum contributions necessary to achieve retirement. The reform also includes other aspects, like reducing survivor’s pensions and raises. In Brasilia, Temer justified the reform citing the social security deficit, which amounts to about $48 billion. In Brazil, the cost of social security is equal to 2.7 percent of GDP.

At the end of the protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, former President Lula da Silva issued a warning: “The reform will leave millions and millions of Brazilians without pensions, and it will ensure that the poorest, especially the rural workers in the northeast region, will receive only half a minimum wage.”

Other movements that attended the demonstrations are the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), the Fearless People’s Front and the Popular Front. There were strikes of transport and services, including schools, hospitals, banks and waste collection. In the capital, Brasilia, over 1,000 MST militants occupied the Ministry of Finance and denounced the principal author of the reform, Minister Henrique Meirelles.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office sent a list of names to the Supreme Federal Court (STF) seeking to investigate 83 Brazilian politicians under the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption inquiry. Among the suspects are six Temer ministers.

The STF — the only court with jurisdiction over those who enjoy privileged status, like deputies, senators and ministers — has granted permission to proceed against one of them, Eliseu Padilha, who is accused of environmental crimes. Padilha, one of the men closest to Temer, is a partner in a company accused of destroying a mangrove forest to build a wind park in a protected area. If convicted, he could serve one to three years in prison.

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) will then respond to the request with regard to the other five senators. There are already 350 other investigations underway as part of Lava Jato, and the international corruption network revolving around the company Odebrecht.

Da Silva is one of them. He appeared for the first time to testify before a judge this week. He has been charged with “obstruction of justice” in the Petrobras scandal. He was accompanied by a small crowd of activists, pleaded innocent and denounced the “persecution” he has suffered for three years; it’s “almost a massacre,” he said.

A few months ago, Da Silva’s wife died of a stroke. The leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) remains at the top of the polls for the upcoming presidential elections. He is the man the right must beat. Additionally, the judge presiding over Lava Jato, Sergio Moro, may join the race. Temer, the Brazil Democratic Movement Party candidate, met with his supporters to discuss campaign finances after a new law banned contributions from companies.

After excluding Venezuela from Mercosur, Temer is continuing a strategy to bring the trade bloc toward the E.U. and neoliberalism. Mercosur representatives will meet with the E.U. in Argentina from March 20-24, where similar protests are scheduled against President Mauricio Macri.

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