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Brazilian Diplomats Criticize Temer Over Protest Crackdown

  • Associated Press

FILE - A demonstrator dressed in a black feathered costume holds a sign telling Brazil's President Michel Temer to "get out," during an anti-government protest in Brasilia, May 24, 2017.

More than 100 Brazilian diplomats spoke out Thursday against the administration of President Michel Temer, whose already low popularity has slid amid corruption allegations that have spurred growing calls for him to resign.

In an open letter titled "Diplomacy and Democracy," the diplomats criticized the recent use of force to contain protests and said Brazil's leaders should choose dialogue over "authoritarian temptations."

The letter came a few days after Brazil's Foreign Ministry harshly criticized a U.N. statement condemning violence against protesters in Brasilia on May 24. In that demonstration, more than 35,000 people protested Temer's proposed economic austerity measures, including changes to the pension system and labor laws. Protesters also called for him to resign amid the investigation into alleged corruption and obstruction of justice.

Several dozen protesters were injured and several news organizations captured images of military police firing live rounds at protesters. After scenes of vandalism, Temer issued a decree to use troops to protect public buildings in Brasilia, a measure that was criticized by a Supreme Court justice and key leaders of Congress. The president, whose popularity has fallen into the single digits, said it was a necessary measure to block anarchists who had trashed the government area, but he withdrew the soldiers.

"We, civil servants of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Brazil, have decided to publicly come forward due to the worsening of the social, political and institutional crisis that currently ravages Brazil," the letter said. "We repudiate the use of force to repress or inhibit demonstrations."

The diplomats also called for Brazilian leaders to "renew the commitment for constructive and responsible dialogue, urging everyone to give up authoritarian temptations, personal or partisan conveniences and attachments."

"Only in this manner it will be possible to restart a new cycle of development, legitimized by popular vote," the letter said.

One of the diplomats who signed the document told The Associated Press that the decision to write the letter came after the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the criticism from the U.N. was "biased" and "uninformed."

"There has been some discomfort among officers with the use of the Foreign Ministry to legitimize Brazil's new government abroad, but the statement against the U.N. crossed a line for many," said the diplomat, who agreed to speak about the letter only if not quoted by name, fearing retaliation by the administration.

Temer, who was vice president, took over the presidency in May 2016 after his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended and later impeached in a process that she and her supporters have called a coup. Next week, Temer faces an electoral court trial that could remove him from office for alleged illegal campaign financing, a charge he denies.

Also on Thursday, a Supreme Court justice who is close to Temer decided to halt a trial that could strip politicians of their right to be prosecuted only by Brazil's top court. Lower courts have led several charges against politicians that are out of office.

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