By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The decision by Brazil’s President Michel Temer to call in the country’s Armed Forces to try to control the protest of more than 45,000 that gathered at Brasilia’s Esplanade of Ministries on Wednesday, May 24th, was widely criticized.
The government justified the action saying that the decision was taken because there weren’t enough agents from the National Force to contain the violence.
“The demonstrations that took place in Brasilia on this date, as widely presented to the media, have produced acts of violence and vandalism that, unfortunately, have put at risk the lives and safety of those who work in the Esplanade of Ministries in this federal capital,” said the note released to the press on Wednesday afternoon.
The release goes on to state that the President ’emphasizes that he will not hesitate to exercise the authority that the position confers upon him whenever it is necessary’.
The ‘Occupy Brasilia’ demonstration began peacefully, protesting the social security and labor reforms and calling for the ousting of President Michel Temer. In the middle of the afternoon, however, a small group of protesters tried to force their way into some of the Ministries’ buildings.
Several windows were broken in some of the buildings, and fire was reported by local media in the Planning, Agriculture and Culture Ministries buildings. Officials say that seven people were arrested and 49 wounded in connection to the vandalism.
With the escalating violence President Temer issued a decree authorizing the use of the Armed Forces to protect the Ministries buildings and the National Congress until May 31st. According to the Ministry of Defense press office, the Armed Forces will be restricted to the ministries buildings, and not include the control of possible future protests in the esplanade’s lawn region.
The President’s decision led to wide criticism. “Extreme measures [were] adopted without prior knowledge and nor consent of the government of Brasilia,” criticized Brasilia’s Governor, Rodrigo Rollemberg.
“The facts of today in Brasilia depict the country’s grave political crisis. It is not the violence and the restriction of freedom that will solve it,” Rollemberg added.