Rediscovering Brazil: An outline of what is happening in Latin America's largest country
South American Ambassadors collaborated to produce this analysis on Brazil's current political situation.
In the past two years, Brazil has experienced one of its biggest political crises. President Dilma Rousseff has been facing impeachment since October 2014 when she was re-elected with 54.5 million votes, amounting to 52% of the valid votes in the second round of the direct elections.
This is because opposition supporters led by right-wing movements took to the streets chanting for the removal of the president the day after the election.
The fact is that Rousseff was never a popular president. Unlike her predecessor, Lula da Silva, who was acclaimed by the people for lifting millions out of poverty and by the G7 for raising the consumption from the middle class, Rousseff looks more like a technocrat, a heiress without political talent in a position that is usually occupied by prominent figures.
Bolstered by her personal experiences in the 60s and 70s when she joined the movement for democratisation of the country and the end of military dictatorship, Rousseff always seemed to worry about consistency and coherence. Her government raised the voice of minorities and human rights in the country, although it muffled the sound of climate change to maintain approval ratings from developmentalist audiences.
Her main decisions regarding public policies and billionaire investments with real impact in the long-term, however, never seemed to interest the general public as much as her difficulty in speaking publicly did. Her blunders as head of state were always decried by social media users, minimising the political participation of citizens in the country. And it was as if the Brazilian electorate was behaving as an audience of soccer fans.
It was with the outbreak of a major anti-corruption operation in the country - led by legal and police authorities called Lava-Jato - that people took fewer supporting positions then ever before in Brazilian political history. They began to position themselves, often polarized and weakly grounded in shallow media coverage. Citizens' issues with their country surfaced more then ever before in family gatherings and whatsapp groups. As minimal as it might seem, it was the start of very frequent conversations on the topic.
Although the Lava-Jato operation was not directly related to the impeachment investigation, it served as the background of the "rediscovery". It is the biggest corruption investigation that has occurred in the country, focused on contracts executed by Petrobras. More than 400 people and companies have been investigated so far, and about 120 temporary or preventive arrests have occured, 39 people have been prosecuted and approximately 2.4 billion BRL has been recovered.
And while Rousseff is not intervening in the process, opponents have used the opportunity to confuse the audience. The impeachment process in accordance with the democratic system established in Brazil can be initiated by any citizen who has evidence and witnesses. In order for the the proceedings to be taken forward by a parliamentary committee, they must be considered by the President of the Chamber of Deputies.
In Rousseff's case, the process is related to disapproval of the 2014 accounts from the government by the Federal Audit Court. These accounts appear to have sufficient legal elements to support the existence of the impeachment process, once the main argument for the request are related to breaking budget laws (art. 85, VI, da CF/88), that supposedly occurred with the practice of "pedaladas fiscais" (maneuver to purposely delay the transfer of funds of the National Treasury to the banks). However, in defense of the president, her lawyers are arguing that these "maneuvers" were only "accounting gimmicks" and did not cause losses to the public treasury.
On December 2nd, 2015, the process was accepted by Eduardo Cunha, who used to chair the Chamber of Deputies (House of Representatives) and who conducted the approval of the impeachment by 367 deputies (from 513) on April 17th, forwarding the case to the senate. The most curious thing is that Eduardo Cunha has now been removed from his role in the Congress, after being charged in five investigations by the Supreme Court, as well as in a criminal case in Lava-Jato for bribe-taking. And it does not end here. He is also accused for crimes of money laundering, active and passive corruption.
With such claims and defenses, and apart from corruption actors in all political spheres, the Senate should vote on the future of the president on May 12th. If 41 of 81 senators vote in favor of impeachment, Rousseff will be removed from her role as president for 180 days, while the Brazilian Supreme Court takes the lead on the process. At the final judgment, if 54 senators vote in favor of impeachment, then it will be definitive.
While many people confuse the impeachment process with the emergence of corruption scandals, politicians and the most corrupt parties of the country go undetected, using their few minutes of fame in front of TV cameras to vote for impeachment "in the name of God", for “their own families” and even torturers of the dictatorship, directly attacking Rousseff, her supporters and hundreds of victims of the darkest times of the recent history in Brazil.
Whether on merit or not, with or without charisma, well or ill-advised, Rousseff was democratically chosen to hold the presidency and with no crimes proven against her as of now, nor any charges relating her name to the corruption scandals.
Although the reason for the vote of more than 50 million Brazilians should be her greatest alibi at a time when Brazil bleeds for the effects of centuries of corruption, it is too late to expect a resurgence in her defense from a nation that only now begins to ripen citizenship and democracy. On the streets, there are conversations about new elections, even with no legal basis. This is because the output of this secular atmosphere of corruption seems increasingly complex and no one in Brazil appears to be a potential and decent president for the coming years.
In short, what we have is a source of inspiration for fictional political entanglements. On the one hand, a directly elected president facing a wave of unpopularity and even without proof of an accountability crime, goes through an impeachment process. In the other, a large portion of politicians, involved in several scandals and dozens of millions of dollars in bribes on their resumé, freely voting for removing the president.
If the people of Brazil want to end corruption, impeaching Rousseff will not help. But by putting efforts and pressure on the trial of cases in which prosecuted are politicians currently on mandates and ask for a cleaner representation, effective results could be reached, at least in the short term. In two years, education can promote miracles, especially when it has a lot to mature. For now, we have more than 100 million people being more prepared for 2018 elections, and other 100 million of children and youths being well engaged by example. It’s called hope.