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I’m Going to the Streets So We Don’t Lose the Basic Rights We’ve Won [OPINION]

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This article by Gizele Martins is part of a series of opinion pieces on the impeachment by community reporters published on RioOnWatch.

I was born in the Complexo da Maré favela. I have lived here for 31 years. My family came from Paraíba to try to make a living in the so-called ‘Marvelous City,’ Rio de Janeiro. There were years and years of struggle, poverty, and heavy manual labor in the building of daily life.

In the 1990s, my family was also affected by the economic crisis. Unemployment was high during that time. The promise of a new government led by the Workers Party (PT) was what everyone was talking about in the favela. For it was led by Lula, a man from the Northeast who was of the people, poor, and a hard worker. Obviously, the favela rejoiced when he won the elections. I remember that my whole family came together at my house to watch the inauguration and, with pride, said that Lula represented us.

But it is certain that when you reach the top, when you are in power, things change, and if people don’t change, the system will confine you. It was like this during Lula’s term, and the same thing happened with Dilma. I believe that the PT, with its numerous negotiations in order to remain in power and lead the nation, subjected itself to big negotiations with big business people.

It is for this reason that I don’t believe in the state as the solution to struggle for in order to have sovereignty and equality for all people. I believe that the government only serves to attend to a white, rich minority who live in the formal city, those who run and have always run the country.

But I know that there is a difference between the PT and the current government. At least the PT offered us crumbs. The current government doesn’t even offer us that. This government doesn’t even try to pretend that it is popular, or for the people.

The crumbs make a difference in the lives of those who have nothing, who don’t have a home, who aren’t employed or who are without any other right. I went to university; this made a difference in my life.

We, the people, have fought our entire lives to have minimum rights: affirmative action in the universities, Bolsa Família, Minha Casa Minha Vida; all of these actions were not given by the government because they’re good, but because the poor, black, favela population fought for these rights.

But it is certain that the current government that assumed control through a coup is not concerned with its popularity. We already know what they have come for. They never pretended to be of the people. You just have to look at who they are and which class they come from. They are white and rich, big businessmen, landowners, and commercial media owners. They think they own the country.

It is for this reason that I worry and say that yes, a coup did take place. It’s a coup against the popular classes, against us, poor, black, women, Northeasterners, from the favela. It’s a coup against the majority that has never been assisted by any government, a coup against a population that fights to this day to survive.

It is impossible to defend the PT with the level of romanticizing that some of the social movements are doing. But it is also impossible to defend the current government that does not want to offer a single crumb to the poor. Unfortunately, those crumbs make a big difference in our lives, since we don’t have anything to begin with.

There are many contradictions that emerged when the PT governed. I will go to the street not in favor of Dilma, or Lula, or the PT. I will go so that I will not lose any more rights, rights that have been hard won by us, the people.

Gizele Martins is a journalist and community communicator from the Maré favela complex.