Rampant corruption, unemployment and the dismantling of social and environmental protections have been fiercely denounced by important sectors of the Catholic Church in Brazil in critiques of the policies of Michel Temer, President since the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in August 2016.
On 1 August the bishops of the social policy departments of the bishops’ conference said: “Colossal unemployment, the breaching of the democratic order and the dismantling of labour and social legislation cry out to heaven.”
“The Government,” the bishops said, “instead of strengthening the role of the state to meet the needs and the rights of the weakest in society, is favouring the interests of big capital and penalising the poorest, for example, by the reform of the pension system based on false arguments.”
The previous week Brazil’s Jesuits spoke of their “concern and even anger at the way the dominant classes are dealing with the economic, social and political crises that plague the country…. Corruption and the mixing of public and private interests in the organs of the state are scandalising the majority of the Brazilian people and stripping the executive and legislature of their legitimacy. Not even the judiciary is always impartial.”
The Jesuits criticised growing inequality. “Many people who had left poverty behind are being forced to fall back into dependence on welfare,” they claimed. They also condemned legislation that accepted the illegal acquisition of land and deforestation, and weakened constitutional protection for the land rights of indigenous people and communities of former slaves.
One of the high points of the long-running corruption scandal, associated with the state oil company Petrobras, was the conviction last month of former President Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva for accepting gifts from a construction company in return for contracts with Petrobras. The ex-president is appealing.
On 3 August President Temer secured enough votes in the Brazilian Congress to avoid also having to face allegations of corruption before the Supreme Court. Theologian Leonardo Boff commented: “The Presidential palace was turned into a huge Ali Baba’s cave that openly distributed largesse, promised grants running into millions or other favours to buy votes.”
A feature of this latest vote that has attracted comment was the “silence of the streets”, the absence of demonstrations near the Congress as the vote on Mr Temer’s future was held. The bishops see the Church’s role as helping the Brazilian people to “overcome naivety, passivity and indifference”.