RIO DE JANEIRO – The exuberant, sassy celebration of Carnival is giving Brazil's battered leftists a stage to vent their frustrations — even while having a good time — after a year that saw their movement pushed out of power and the economic achievements of a decade undercut by a persistent crisis.
Thousands have turned out at Carnival street parties and other events across Brazil since Friday sporting shirts, earrings, banners and masks demanding the resignation of conservative President Michel Temer, who in August replaced his impeached center-left predecessor Dilma Rousseff.
Some wear straightforward T-shirts emblazoned "Out with Temer!" Others are more playful. The mocking chants of "Bye bye, darling" that greeted Rousseff's ouster now find a retort with shirts begging, "Come back, darling!" One man wearing a Temer mask at a street party decked himself in Christmas ornaments, making fun of a politician who once described his role as "decorative."
"This is our revenge against the man who stole our government from us," said retired teacher Silvia Barros, 72.
A member of Rousseff's Worker's Party, she prepared anti-Temer banners at Rio's Sao Salvador Square, a traditional gathering point for left-leaning voters, that she hoped would be displayed from the stands in the Sambadrome parade ground where Carnival samba schools compete this week. "Coup mongers, fascists! Thou shall not pass!" read one banner.
"People need to know he is there just to annul our rights and our democracy," she said.
Twenty-five-year-old economist Rodrigo Socrates said Carnival is a "leftist relief after the worst year ever."
"We were on the defensive for a long time. Rousseff wasn't a good president and it was embarrassing to go against her," he said. "Now we can say what we want. The right-wingers are quiet now."
Brazil's left had been ascendant since the 2003 inauguration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who oversaw an economic boom mixed with leftist social policies that raised the living standards of millions.
But the boom went bust under his chosen successor, Rousseff. Amid falling living standards, rising unemployment and soaring personal debt, the political mood has further soured with revelations of a sea of corruption centered on the state oil company that has tarred politicians left, right and center.
That's fed a powerful anti-politician mood across the country. While Rousseff was deeply unpopular when she was ousted by congress for budget law violations, Temer is at least equally disliked in the streets, even if he has support among lawmakers.
Temer was spending Carnival at a naval base in the northeastern state of Bahia, not far from some of the larger protests against him.
At a Saturday night concert in the state capital of Salvador, thousands chanted demands for the president's resignation as Grammy-award winning singer Caetano Veloso pointed to the crowd.
"This is so beautiful," he said.