Even as May Day protests were expected in cities across the world on Sunday, as economic crises and a rise in unemployment have fuelled anti-government sentiment, Brazil saw some radically different scenes.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Brazil’s main cities on International Workers’ Day in a show of support for the embattled President Dilma Rousseff.
Protests were seen in 16 of the country’s 27 states, called by Central Union of Workers (CUT) and numerous other labor and left-wing organizations.
The support for the embattled leftist leader Rousseff in Brazil was in sharp contrast to France which was on high alert after protests against planned labour changes this week sparked a frenzy, with cars set on fire and dozens of police officers being injured in Paris in clashes with protesters.
On Sunday, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo saw the largest march with around 100,000 people, according to organizers, in three separate marches.
Photo caption: Thousands rally in major cities across Brazil on International Workers Day on 1 May 2016 [Image Courtesy: PT, Brasil]
Rousseff appeared at the CUT march in Sao Paulo, alongside the mayor of Sao Paulo, Fernando Haddad, and the president of the Workers’ Party, Rui Falcao.
During a speech to the crowd, Rousseff announced a new policy measure, according to Brazilian daily O Globo, saying that her flagship social welfare program Bolsa Familiawould be increased by 9 per cent.
Bolsa Familia is an ambitious cash-transfer scheme that has helped elevate millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Funds are channelled through the mothers of poor and working-class families.
The scheme was launched nationwide by President Lula’s administration in 2003 and its exemplary success has cemented support for Rousseff’s Workers Party among the poorest in Brazil.
On Sunday, Rousseff also announced that 25,000 new houses would be built within the Mi Casa, Mi Vida (My Home, My Life) program, the renewal of the contracts of foreign doctors in the Más Médicos (More Doctors) program, an increase in paternity leave for public officials and an adjustment to the rental tax to benefit workers.
In other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Joao Pessoa, Recife and Salvador, Rousseff supporters marched, saying they would not allow her impeachment.
The Brazilian Senate is currently considering whether to open an impeachment trial against Rousseff, over alleged fiscal irregularities in 2014 and 2015.