Brazilians drive out corrupt President - 1992

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
May 1992 through December 1992
1 May
1992
to
30 DEC
1992
Location and Goals
Country: 
Brazil
Location City/State/Province: 
Sao Paulo
Location Description: 
Major cities
Goals: 
Resignation of President Collor
 

In 1990, Fernando Collor de Mello became the first elected President after 29 years of military rule. He narrowly won his election as a center-right candidate and campaigned on fighting corruption, fighting inflation, and defending the poor. He tried various economic policies to reduce inflation and increase foreign investment but was unsuccessful in turning the economy around. His austerity measures created significant opposition.

On 10 May 1992, Pedro Collor, brother of Fernando Collor, gave a magazine interview revealing his brother’s involvement in an influence peddling scheme, run by his campaign treasurer, P. C. Farias. This news set off an investigation by Federal Police and Federal Prosecutors.

Various opposition groups representing trade unions, university students, high school students, business and professional groups formed a movement called ‘Movement for Ethics in Politics (MEP) 29 May. The different groups had their own reasons for opposing Collor, but the corruption charges gave an opportunity and a parliamentary mechanism to use for his removal.

1 July, the Congress formed a Joint Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry composed of senators and members of the Chamber of Deputies to investigate charges and review evidence against the President uncovered by the Federal Police and Federal Prosecutors. The commission took testimony from Pedro Collor, P. C. Farias and others who revealed that millions of dollars worth of funds had been used for personal expenses of the President and his family. (delete - The public opposition grew as evidence was revealed )

On 11 August, 10,000 people demonstrated in front of the Sao Paulo Art Museum. This event was organized primarily by students and allies who worked at taking a non-partisan stand, focusing on promoting ethics and democracy, rather than narrow political policies that people could not agree on. This demonstration increased the pressure for the Congress to take action against the President. In response, on 13 August, President Collor gave an impassioned speech on the street to taxi drivers, calling on his supporters to come out on Sunday, 16 August, to show their support for him by wearing the colors of the national flag, green and yellow.

On 16 August, the opposition to Collor came out in greater numbers than his supporters and identified themselves by wearing black clothes and painting their faces black, symbolizing mourning about corruption. Students made an organizing effort, but student leaders interviewed said the response by the people was much larger than their organizing had generated. There was a spontaneous outpouring of energy against Collor.

On 25 August, the Movement for Ethics in Politics asked for demonstrations across the country against corruption, to pressure the Congress which was to vote the next day on the question of beginning the impeachment process. 400,000 came out in Sao Paulo, 100,000 in Recife and 80,000 in Salvador. Protesters performed symbolic burials of the Collor government, dressed as phantoms, as prison inmates, rats, the dragon of inflation, and painted their faces, calling for Collor’s resignation, ‘fora Color’.

26 August, 60,000 demonstrated as the inquiry report was released and showed proof of the President illegally having personal expenses paid with money raised by his campaign treasurer, P.C. Farias. 1 September, citizens presented a petition accusing President Collor of ‘crimes of responsibility’ warranting removal from office. The Brazilian constitution required citizens to submit such petitions for impeachment. The Chamber of Deputies began impeachment proceedings on 3 September with the creation of a special committee of the Chamber of Deputies to study the petition.

750,000 demonstrated in spite of a rainstorm on 19 September, demanding the impeachment of Collor. Protesters chanted ‘Leave now!” and “To Prison”. Thousands of students and union activists cheered speeches that attacked President Collor’s free market and anti-inflation policies. However, opponents to Collor also included business and centrist political parties like the Democratic Movement Party as well as leftist parties like the Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Brazil. Students painted their faces to read ‘fora Collor’, meaning ‘out with Collor’.

The Chamber of Deputies’ committee held a vote 24 September to approve a report accepting the impeachment petition and recommending the full Chamber of Deputies should accept the charges of impeachment. A two thirds vote of the full Chamber was required to move the process to the Senate. 29 September, more than the required two thirds majority of the Chamber of Deputies voted to impeach, 441 v 38.

The Senate began the proceedings on 30 September and formed a committee to examine the case and see that the previous Chamber of Deputies committee had conducted the process legally, and it ruled that the Senate should organize itself as a Court of Impeachment and proceed with the trial of the President.

The full Senate agreed 1 October to conduct the trial, and the leader of the Supreme Court began to lead the impeachment process. The Congress notified the President with a summons 2 October that he was to be tried. As specified by the Constitution, the Congress suspended his presidential powers for 180 days and established the Vice President as acting President.

President Collor resigned 29 December 1992 while the trial was underway and it was clear he would be found guilty. The President of Congress presided over the process as Vice President Itamar Franco took the oath of office as President in a joint session of Congress. President Collor wanted the trial to end with his resignation, but the Congress completed the trial and on 30 December, 1992, in the early morning, the Senate found the President guilty.

This campaign was comprised of multiple groups from across the political spectrum coming together around a common objective of removing President Collor from office. They succeeded in this goal. In addition, President Collor was banned from political office for eight years, but later, in 2006, was elected as a Senator.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The student activism of the 1960's in Brazil, inspired this campaign.(1)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jamie Irwin, 15/02/2015