Musicians Lead Protest Against Brazil's President

May 29, 2017
Originally published on May 29, 2017 8:38 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Brazil, a corruption scandal has many people pushing for president Michel Temer to leave office. And NPR's Philip Reeves discovered that this political fight reached a picturesque place in Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Applauding).

PHILIP REEEVES, BYLINE: Copacabana Beach is all about pleasure. Yet on this day, politics have come to the beach, swept in by a tide of Brazilians demanding the resignation of their president.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: Thousands are here for a political protest that's also a concert. Young and old have come to see some big names from the world of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: When Grammy winner Caetano Veloso takes the stage, the crowd sings along before breaking into a chant that you often hear in Brazil right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

REEVES: Temer out, Temer out - they're referring, of course, to President Michel Temer.

RAPHAEL ESPIRITO SANTO: I'm here because I don't agree with our president. I think our president should be ousted.

REEVES: Lawyer Raphael Espirito Santo doubts that Temer will be president for much longer.

SANTO: He will not - will not survive. He won't survive because the political powers in Brazil are not with him anymore. The media is not with him. The traditional media is not with him. The social movements are not with him. And even the parties who support him are not with him anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: Temer's allies began deserting him this month when this secret recording surfaced. In it, Temer allegedly endorses hush-money payments to silence a former political ally who's in prison. He denied that, saying the recording's doctored and went on TV...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHEL TEMER: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: ...Insisting he won't resign. Yet there are other allegations of corruption and obstructing justice. Brazil's Supreme Court has ordered an investigation. Temer's also very unpopular. His plan to kickstart Brazil's economy by revising the labor and pension laws has sent his approval ratings into single figures. There's no doubt he's fighting to keep his job, says Fabio Zanini, political editor of Folha newspaper.

FABIO ZANINI: Well, he's not dead yet. He's not finished yet, but his chances are getting smaller and smaller by the hour.

REEVES: The lore in Brazil says that if Temer does resign, Congress would elect an interim president to finish his term, which ends next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: The musical protest on Copacabana Beach is calling for direct elections, allowing the public to choose their new president. One of the objections Brazilians have to Temer is that he was never elected president but took over from his predecessor, who was impeached. Brazilians have spent years watching prosecutors gradually exposing a huge web of corruption involving many of their top politicians.

Protester Gabriel Pietro.

GABRIEL PIETRO: The interests of the parliamentarians - congressmen - are not like our interests. They are totally disconnected from the people.

REEVES: And the people seem totally disconnected from them. Pietro says no one here has faith in politicians anymore. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.