The Olympic Games in Brazil were supposed to symbolize the awakening of the South American giant. Instead, they risk embodying the fall of the country, currently stroking because of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and facing a political scandal that can be compared to the Nixon’s Watergate.
This week a special commission in the Brazilian Parliament is investigating whether the President of the country, Dilma Rousseff should be impeached of corruption charges. This political storm is just another in a series of crises that crush the country. The current situation of Brazil is also evocative of difficulties of the whole South American continent where although military coups are a memory, political and economic institutions are still fragile.
The impeachment of Rousseff
The process of the impeachment shows how the star of the former guerillera and on the most powerful politicians tarnished. Rousseff, who largely won the presidential elections in 2010 is currently very controversial in her country and recent popularity polls indicate barely 10% of public approval.
Since yesterday, a special commission in the Brazilian parliament is debating whether Dilma Rousseff manipulated State’s account in order to be reelected in 2014. The president is accused of using funds of national banks to make up budget shortfalls, which would in consequence undermine investors’ trust and raise costs of credits for Brazil. Rousseff’s opponents want her thus to be brought to justice for “the crime of responsibility” punishable by the Constitution. Rousseff however announced that she would never resign and her defenders claims that the practice was established a long time ago and it is only a political attack of the opposition, a masked coup d’état.
How does the process of impeachment work in Brazil?
In March 2016 the Special Commission was created on the demand of the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha. Until the end of April its members are supposed to examine the situation and give a recommendation to the Parliament (stop the process or continue at the lower chamber). It is already expected that the commission votes for hearings in the full chamber as the majority of the Commission’s members is against Rousseff. It is also noteworthy that more than the half of them, Cuhna included, is facing charges for corruption.
If the hearing in the full chamber takes place, the lower chamber votes. If any of the charges presented by the Special Commission receives a minimum of 2/3 of votes, the case moves to the trial. Possible results of such a vote are currently difficult to predict. The Rousseff’s support has just weakened as one of her party’s allies, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, has left the coalition and joints the opposition’s banks. The president is thus negotiating with other parties to gain their support. In a case of losing the vote she would face a trial held in the Senate and would be suspended and replaced by her Vice-President. The current vice-President is Michel Temer, a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and currently processed himself for buying illegal ethanol. Meanwhile the Senate, headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Federal Tribunal will have 180 days to vote (at 2/3 of votes) for the removal and reinstatement of Rousseff.
Political and economic crisis
The process of Rousseff is just another sign of Brazil’s troubles. The first decade of the 21st century was effervescent for Brazil, the 7th world’s economic power and the leader in South America. The country won the organization of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. However, soon Brazilian economy suffered from a recession, so severe and long-lasting that Goldman and Sachs called it a “outright economic depression.” 1,5 million jobs were destroyed and inflation reaches 10,7%. The Brazilian currency lost the half of its value since 2011, when Rousseff takes power.
Brazil relapses nowadays to the cycle of the economic instability. The country that has one of the most unequal wealth distributions in the world has lost 6 million of middle class (out of 20). Public opinion, exasperated by the economic and political situation aggravated went on the streets to protest against the corruption of the political class and omnipresent bureaucracy.
Moreover, Brazil lives currently an enormous corruption scandal called Carwash and involving the state-controlled oil giant, company Petrolão. Dozens of executives and politicians have been arrested since the beginning of the operation launched by the Federal Police of Brazilia in 2014. In February 2016 Rousseff’s spin doctor João Santana is arrested in February for being presumably paid with money of the company and Lula is charged with wrongdoing and hiding assets. Determined to protect the former president, Rousseff nominated him as her chief of staff in rang of a minister (acquiring thus immunity), however the Supreme Tribunal ruled out this decision. Lula de Silva is facing thus a process and possible sentence. The scandal completely dominated media and public agenda and overshadowed the issue of economic difficulties, the epidemic cause by the virus Ziko and even the Olympics, celebrated so loudly some years ago.
At around hundreds days to the Olympics, it seems that the blaze of enthusiasm is turning off in Brazil.