By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On Thursday, June 11th, Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT) opened its fifth conference in Salvador, Bahia, trying to garner optimism while plagued by plummeting popularity and widespread corruption scandals. Concerns about the divisions within the party have been so great that President Dilma Rousseff cut short her participation in the European Union-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Summit to return for the opening ceremony of the PT Conference.
During her speech, President Rousseff called on the PT party to continue to ‘walk together’ with allied parties and social movements to transform Brazil. “All of us here share the dream of transforming Brazil. To reach that dream we need to walk together. I need everyone of you, with all the strength you have, to stand by me,” said the President.
Despite the strong criticism received in the past few weeks, some coming from PT party members themselves, Rousseff defended her government’s fiscal adjustment. According to Rousseff, her administration has not altered the commitments the PT has made to the country.
“This is the time to say that we are a government that has the courage to conduct adjustments and make these adjustments to render sustainability and continuity to the development program we adopted in 2003,” she told the audience of almost 800 activists. “I have come here to assure each of you that we have a strong, consistent agenda of measures that will guarantee the recovery of growth, continuity and the advancement of the inclusion process of our population.”
For the past year the Rousseff government has been struggling to distance itself from the billion-dollar corruption scandal perpetrated by high-level officials at one of Brazil’s largest government-run companies, Petrobras. The scandal has implicated government officials and even PT party treasurer João Vaccari Neto. In addition, the Rousseff administration has seen its popularity tumble as the country’s economy struggles with rising unemployment and inflation.