More than three quarters of Brazil’s Senate voted to impeach Dilma Rousseff Aug. 31.
If you haven’t been watching for the last three years, go down the rabbit hole before reading my pedestrian take. Start here:
Brazil is outside my sphere of competence, but in the wake of the end of the pink tide (and my call to stop talking about it), I couldn’t help sounding off after seeing Rousseff’s comments following her impeachment.
Selected passages below. Full comments at Democracy Now:
They’ve just overthrown the first woman elected president of Brazil, without there being any constitutional justification for this impeachment. But the coup was not just carried out against me and my party or the allied parties who support me today. This was just the beginning. The coup is going to strike, without distinction, every progressive and democratic political organization.
We are all going to fight. [We] will be, against them, the firmest, most tireless and energetic opposition that a coup government can face. I repeat, there will be, against them, the most determined opposition that a coup government can face. …
Rousseff was impeached for what amounts to accounting fraud in the state finances to hide ballooning deficits during her 2014 election campaign, in which she squeaked by with 51% of the vote to defeat investor-favorite candidate Aecio Neves.
There are valid criticisms of the impeachment process on the grounds that the accounting fraud is not an impeachable offense, similar to many Americans who felt that perjury was not an impeachable offense for Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The impeachment technically had nothing to do with the Petrobras scandal, which may be the world’s largest corruption case in history with total graft somewhere between $3 and $5 billion. But in reality it had everything to do with the Petrobras scandal, which played a key role in sustaining the Workers’ Party (PT) in power and is at the heart of Brazil’s largest economic recession in a generation.
The accounting fraud was an excuse to depose the president who had literally overseen Brazil’s entire fall from grace. The valid criticisms would say that impeachment shouldn’t be taken lightly or employed any time there is an unpopular president impotent before a national crisis.
While it is legitimate to question the means in ousting her, Rousseff’s allegations of a “coup” and “overthrow” is absurd and she is undermining the country’s international esteem more than she already has. Given everything that’s happened, the decent thing would have been to bow out and let others play the coup card.
76% of senators voted to impeach
A large majority of the democratically-elected congress voted to impeach through the appropriate process outlined in Brazil’s constitution. Rousseff’s approval ratings have hovered around 15% for over a year.
The only “undemocratic” straw to reach for, and be careful you don’t dislocate your shoulder it’s such a stretch – is a complex legal argument about what constitutes an impeachable offense. That aside, everything about the impeachment was a model of a functioning democracy deposing a leader who was unfit to serve.
Thirteen years of Workers’ Party rule
Rousseff’s impeachment marked the end of 13 years of political domination by the Workers’ Party, which in retrospect we see was helped by the corporate largess of the state.
Thirteen years is more than the maximum amount of time any one political party controls government in any of the world’s oldest democracies. Any more than that and you’re getting into suspicious territory of influence peddling, state corruption and graft, all of which abound in the 13 years of PT rule.
Exchanging power among political interests is actually a feature of stable democracies, not one-party rule.
You were chair of the board of Petrobras
Good God, Dilma, you were chair of the fucking board for 2003 to 2010. Fine, there has been no evidence that you were aware of the largest corruption scandal in history.
But again, you were chair of the fucking board! Even if you are innocent of a crime, you are guilty of gross incompetence. Have you no decency, woman?
You’re #2 in the Workers’ Party
In addition to being the chair of the board of the state oil firm at the heart of the biggest corruption scandal in history, you were the second-in-command (and later, first) of the political party which gained the most politically and financially as bribery and kickbacks funded PT politicians’ campaigns and lifestyles and showered state subsidies on corporations and other allies.
Again, even if you are innocent of corruption, you are guilty of gross incompetence. Have you no decency, woman?
Brazil’s economy is fucked thanks to you
Brazil is suffering its deepest recession in a generation (since 1981) as the economy shrank 3.8 percent last year and GDP forecast to shrink another 3.8 percent this year. Throw in 10 percent unemployment, 10 percent inflation and declining foreign investment and you have the PT economic legacy defined by the epic hangover after the spendthrift policies of the commodity boom.
Dilma played a leading role in managing Brazil’s economy and policies during the entire saga as mining and energy minister, chief of staff and president.
You appointed Lula your chief of staff
The icing on the cake was when Rousseff appointed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, ostensibly to help broker consensus in congress for needed austerity cuts, but in reality to shield the former president from an advancing investigation into his take from the Petrobras game.
Lula’s appointment came the very day federal investigators intended to subpoena him for testimony, and Cabinet ministers are afforded immunity under Brazilian law. A judge later annulled his appointment, and he’ll likely be charged for corruption.
Latin America’s left is in serious need of some common decency. So this is dedicated to you, Dilma.
Lack of decency in the fall of Latin America’s Left
There is a serious lack of maturity and decency in many of the outgoing leftist governments in Latin America. Venezuela is, well, Venezuela. In Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner “has appointed ambassadors and signed decrees that will drain federal coffers. Her political appointees refuse to resign. She has even antagonized her successor with stinging remarks at public appearances.” Bolivia’s Evo Morales jailed his mistress (a teenager when they were lovers) and mother of his lovechild for her role in an alleged influence-peddling scandal involving a Chinese firm that got $500 million in state contracts.
Ecuador’s Rafael Correa may be the only one who looks like he’ll simply bow out and retire. But there is speculation that even he won’t go quietly.
If I have to say something nice, check her out in this pic. Not bad?