BRAZIL TROOPS SENT IN TO PROTECT GOVT BUILDINGS
Protesters trash ministries and spark running battles with riot police
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
Protesters clashing with riot police in Brasilia yesterday.