Around 35,000 people marched in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, last week to protest against President Temer, who is accused of corruption, and is fighting for his job. Protests turned violent as protesters broke into government buildings and soldiers were deployed to clear them out.
The march was mainly peaceful; however, some people started fires, threw stones at officers and used portable toilets as barricades. Riot police retorted by using tear gas, pepper spray, firing guns in the air and throwing stun grenades into the crowd. Some groups forced their way into the Ministry of Agriculture and started a fire there, forcing employees to flee. Protesters also reportedly forced their way into the Ministry of Culture.
The president then sent soldiers in to contain the protests, saying that the police could not cope. The move sent shockwaves through the country; deploying the military is very risky in a country where the military dictatorship only ended in 1985, and is still an extremely sensitive issue.
The Defence Minister, Raul Jungmann, went on national television that afternoon to reassure the country that the President had only deployed troops to restore calm and patrol certain areas. However, 1,500 soldiers were sent into Brasilia, which has previously been the scene of much worse protests that the riot police managed to control.
It clearly shows how nervous President Temer is of being removed from office, and since the president sent in the army, senior officials have been distancing themselves from a decision that Temer’s office put out a statement saying was necessary.
President Temer was already unpopular due to harsh economic reforms, and the corruption scandal that broke last week has left him struggling to keep his coalition together. He is also deeply disliked by the left because he played a large role in impeaching the last left-wing president Dilma Rousseff, in what was widely regarded as a coup.
Since the new scandal, many people are wondering how long he can last before he is either impeached, or is forced to step down. Temer has spent a lot of time since the news broke repeating that he will not leave office. Deploying soldiers to contain a protest against him seems like a desperate move from a drowning politician.