BRAZIL TROOPS SENT IN TO PRO­TECT GOVT BUILD­INGS

Pro­test­ers trash min­istries and spark run­ning bat­tles with riot po­lice

New Straits Times - - World -

BRASÍLIA

BRAZIL­IAN sol­diers de­ployed on Wed­nes­day to de­fend gov­ern­ment build­ings in the cap­i­tal here af­ter pro­test­ers de­mand­ing the exit of Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer smashed their way into min­istries and fought with riot po­lice.

“Fed­eral troops are al­ready here in (the For­eign Min­istry),” De­fence Min­is­ter Raul Jung­mann said.

“And next there are troops ar­riv­ing to se­cure all the min­is­te­rial build­ings.”

Jung­mann said the army was or­dered in by Te­mer, who is fight­ing for his po­lit­i­cal life af­ter be­ing placed un­der a cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The de­ploy­ment of sol­diers sent a psy­cho­log­i­cal shock­wave through a cap­i­tal al­ready shak­ing from the day’s vi­o­lence and fran­tic de­bate over the cor­rup­tion scan­dal threat­en­ing to bring down the pres­i­dent.

In the lower house of Congress, the ses­sion was tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended af­ter left­ist deputies took over the speaker’s podium, bran­dish­ing signs say­ing “Te­mer out”.

Troops are reg­u­larly used in Brazil to back up po­lice when law and or­der breaks down.

The is­sue is sen­si­tive in a coun­try that lived un­der mil­i­tary rule from 1964 to 1985 and the de­ci­sion to bring sol­diers into the heart of the gov­ern­ment com­plex spooked even Te­mer’s al­lies.

“The ques­tion of a mil­i­tary pres­ence is al­ways some­thing that fright­ens us,” said Tasso Jereis­sati, pres­i­dent of the PSDB so­cial democrats.

Vi­o­lence erupted soon af­ter the crowd, es­ti­mated by po­lice at 35,000, marched to­wards the pres­i­den­tial palace, which is flanked by Congress and the gov­ern­ment build­ings.

Although most of the pro­test­ers were peace­ful, small groups wear­ing masks threw stones at of­fi­cers ring­ing the area and smashed their way into the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry and re­port­edly also the Cul­ture and Plan­ning Min­istries.

Riot po­lice crouch­ing be­hind black shields lobbed tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd, trig­ger­ing run­ning bat­tles.

When pro­test­ers set a fire in the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry, em­ploy­ees were forced to flee.

“There was an in­va­sion of the min­istry’s pri­vate en­trance. They lit a fire in a room, broke photos in a gallery of ex-min­is­ters and con­fronted po­lice,” a spokesman for the min­istry said.

“The build­ing was evac­u­ated.” Jung­mann said the protest had been “peace­ful but de­scended into vi­o­lence, van­dal­ism, dis­re­spect, at­tacks on state prop­erty, and threats against peo­ple”.

Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees “were ter­rorised”, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to a count re­leased by au­thor­i­ties, the day of protests re­sulted in 49 in­juries and seven de­tainees.

Or­gan­ised by left­ist groups and trade unions a week af­ter he was placed un­der a cor­rup­tion probe, the protests are calling for Te­mer’s res­ig­na­tion.

Pro­test­ers also want the end of aus­ter­ity re­forms cen­tred on cuts in the coun­try’s gen­er­ous but un­af­ford­able pen­sion sys­tem.

The left smells blood just over a year since Te­mer took over from Work­ers’ Party pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff af­ter she was im­peached for il­le­gally ma­nip­u­lat­ing gov­ern­ment ac­counts.

Op­po­nents say Te­mer could soon be forced to re­sign or sub­jected to an im­peach­ment trial.

“It’s the end of this putchist gov­ern­ment. That’s why the peo­ple have taken to the streets,” said Fran­cisca Gomes, 59, who came from Sao Paulo to protest and car­ried a fu­neral rib­bon with the pres­i­dent’s im­age and the words “R.I.P. Te­mer”.

In­side Congress, Work­ers’ Party Se­na­tor Gleisi Hoff­mann echoed those words, say­ing: “Te­mer will fall. Ev­ery­one says this gov­ern­ment is dead.” AFP

AFP PIC

Pro­test­ers clash­ing with riot po­lice in Brasilia yes­ter­day.

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