After the vote, Rousseff defiantly slammed her impeachment as a sexist, homophobic, racist coup. She also addressed those who had vaulted into the middle class during the country’s commodity-fed, PT-led boom years. “I'm speaking principally to the Brazilians who, during my government, overcame misery, accomplished the dream of having their own house, started to get medical attention, entered into university, and stopped being invisible in the eyes of the nation, moving toward having rights that were always denied them,” she said. “We accomplished, with success, a project that brought about the biggest social inclusion and reduction of inequalities in the history of the country.”
As Rousseff’s odds of escaping impeachment dwindled, Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, resigned itself to the reality of life under the government of the center-right, pro-business Michel Temer, Rousseff’s replacement and former vice president, who many residents I spoke to fear will erode labor protections and deprioritize health and education spending. In their eyes, the business and political elites in his coalition, led by the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), have disregarded the medium-term costs of impeachment for the poor, as they scrambled to leverage the Petrobras scandal and Brazil’s sputtering economy for their own political gain. They worry about Temer’s suspension of a government program to combat illiteracy, and his plans to reportedly expand the use of private prisons; his allies in the so-called “bullet caucus,” a bloc of pro-military lawmakers in Brazil’s congress, hope to see expanded access to firearms nationwide.
On August 28, the Sunday before Rousseff’s impeachment, Rocinha was the site of “Funk Without Fear,” a politically themed party featuring funk carioca, a popular genre of irreverent electronic dance music. The neighborhood of some 100,000 saw its fortunes rise under Rousseff and the PT’s 13 years in power, with more of its residents able to attend university, open small businesses, and even purchase satellite TV dishes. Hence it was a logical site for what was, effectively, a wake for the party’s political legacy. “For all the problems with the PT,” said the 29-year-old event planner Michelle Lacerda, “it consistently gave us a lifeline here.”
The newly installed Temer promises to enact economic reforms that will improve the livelihoods of working Brazilians. “I just don’t believe he’ll govern in the full public interest, because his mandate doesn’t come from the people,” Lacerda said. She pointed out that one of Temer’s reforms, so far, has been to give federal judges a 41 percent raise.
The main objective of “Funk Without Fear,” according to its organizers, was to protest the government of Temer (himself accused in plea-bargain testimony of requesting bribes. He has been banned from running for public office for eight years for violating campaign finance laws). Why funk? Fillipe Dos Anjos, secretary of the Federation of Favela Associations of Rio de Janeiro, an advocacy group for favela residents across the city, explained that the genre “is uniquely Rio and it came out of Rio’s favelas, which stand to lose dramatically with this impeachment.” Dos Anjos, a 32-year-old former navy member who lives in the favela of Santo Amaro and studies history at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, hoped the event would show that favelas are determined to be heard at a time when an icon of the Brazilian left is on life support. “Rio funk is about showing that creativity and solidarity are what make favelas great—things that money alone can’t buy,” he said. Funk, then, offered an appropriate, rambunctious soundtrack for the end of Rousseff. What lay ahead with Temer was uncertain.