Bolsonaro ousting “easier” than Dilma’s, says young conservative figurehead

. Jan 28, 2021
kim kataguiri impeachment Congressman Kim Kataguiri: Impeaching Bolsonaro to be "easier" than Dilma Rousseff ousting. Photo: Michel Jesus/Câmara dos Deputados

Back in 2015, Brazil was introduced to a group of teen libertarians who used social media to defend public spending policies as tight as their jeans and demand the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff. Through organizations such as Movimento Brasil Livre (the Free Brazil Movement, or MBL) and Vem Pra Rua (Take to the Streets), these youngsters were a pivotal part of the political crisis that engulfed Ms. Rousseff’s center-left administration. They helped orchestrate massive protests that culminated in her ousting by Congress one year later.

In subsequent years, these organizations seemed to adapt to the political landscape they once hoped to change — with many running for public office as members of establishment parties and even facing their own accusations of shady financing.

But now, MBL and Vem Pra Rua appear to have returned to their roots, once again calling for Brazil&#8217;s president to be impeached. </p> <p>This time, however, the target is far-right Jair Bolsonaro, the man they helped elect in the first place.</p> <p>But the MBL and similar movements want to tread carefully around the matter of impeachment, and there is no likelihood that they will join forces with left-wing parties who also oppose Mr. Bolsonaro.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;I don&#8217;t see the possibility of joint actions at this point, as we don&#8217;t share many interests [with the left],&#8221; says Congressman Kim Kataguiri, the best-known face of the MBL. &#8220;We are thinking of the economy and the preservation of life. The left thinks more about the political bankruptcy of the Bolsonaro administration.&#8221;</p> <p>Indeed, Mr. Kataguiri authored one of 57 impeachment requests currently pending against the president, motivated by accusations that Mr. Bolsonaro <a href="">tried to tamper with the Federal Police</a> to shield his son from investigations.&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1000" height="667" src="" alt="protests brazil 2016 dilma rousseff" class="wp-image-55789" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w, 600w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><figcaption>In 2016, the MBL and Vem pra Rua put millions on the streets against then-President Dilma Rousseff. Photo: Alf Ribeiro/Shutterstock </figcaption></figure> <h2>A shift in allegiance waiting to happen</h2> <p>While it may be surprising to see this &#8220;<a href="">hipster alt-right</a>&#8221; heading for a collision course with President Bolsonaro, this trajectory has been carefully calculated and is part of a long rebranding effort from these young conservative groups.</p> <p>As far back as 2019, the MBL already flirted with the idea of distancing itself from the government. It invited lawmakers from left-wing parties to debate solutions for the country at its <a href="">annual congress</a>. Such guest appearances even included cabinet members of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, seen as something of a bogeyman by the MBL and their cronies.</p> <p>These movements once openly shared President Bolsonaro&#8217;s ultra-conservative views, leading an <a href="">intense online campaign</a> to boycott the LGBTQ-themed <a href="">&#8220;Queer Museum&#8221;</a> art exhibition in 2017. But now, they are seeking to gain independence on Brazil&#8217;s right-wing, attacking Mr. Bolsonaro in the process.</p> <h2>Manaus crisis sparked impeachment calls from &#8216;hipster alt-right&#8217;</h2> <p>The government&#8217;s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was seen as the final straw that pushed young right-wing conservatives toward the arms of the opposition.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;The incompetence in securing vaccines for all Brazilians has caused more [coronavirus] deaths and is severely damaging the economy,&#8221; says Rogerio Chequer, leader of the Vem Pra Rua movement. In 2018, he <a href="">declared support for Mr. Bolsonaro</a> against &#8220;the political establishment scum,&#8221; but has since drifted from that position. &#8220;This pandemic has aggravated an administration which was already off the rails,&#8221; he continues.</p> <p>For Messrs. Kataguiri and Chequer, Brazil&#8217;s second coronavirus wave — which led to <a href="">horrific scenes</a> in the Amazonian city of Manaus — could create the necessary conditions for impeaching Mr. Bolsonaro. &#8220;And, as vaccines are rolled out, people will be able to take to the streets and demand his removal,&#8221; adds Mr. Chequer.</p> <p>Mr. Kataguiri goes one better, suggesting that impeaching Mr. Bolsonaro would be even more straightforward than it was in 2016. &#8220;Dilma [Rousseff] had the Workers&#8217; Party and all the left behind her. The country was divided. Not now — everyone is against [Mr.] Bolsonaro.&#8221;</p> <p>Polls beg to differ, however, and show that the president has been able to keep one-third of the electorate on his corner. However, the opposition — spanning from the left-wing to the young conservatives of the MBL — wagers that this will change if economic conditions degrade further.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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