Roberto Pompeu de Toledo, Veja Magazine, 7/22/2015
1. Let’s not rock too much the ship “Brazil”. Elections held at regular intervals and terms in office that are interrupted only in exceptional circumstances are the marks of a mature and solid democracy. Frequent interruptions of mandate characterize immature, unstable republics. If President Dilma is removed from office, she will be the second president impeached out of a total of four (Collor, FHC, Lula and Dilma) that Brazil has had since the end of the dictatorship, or fifty percent of the total. This mirrors the years of 1946-1964, when, during a fragile democracy, out of the four presidents elected in that period (Dutra, Getúlio, Juscelino and Jânio), two (Getúlio e Jânio) did not make it to the end of their presidential terms.
2. There are no signs of a political arrangement that could lead to a reasonably smooth presidential succession, such as the one that took place with Itamar Franco, when Collor was ousted. The opposition party PSDB, which has been competing for the presidency with the PT (Workers Party) for almost twenty years now, discredits itself as an alternative as it bets on a worsening of the situation as its best bet, as the PT used to do when it was in the opposition. For the PT, at the time, the tactics made sense, as it positioned itself against capitalism, and to a larger extent, against “formal democracy” or “bourgeois democracy.” The PT opposed the congressional election of Tancredo Neves for president in 1985 and the [adoption of a new] constitution in 1988. [In contrast], the PSDB supports the capitalist system and has contributed to the construction of the democratic institutions in place. Today, it is reneging on its own past by voting down the Social Security reforms it introduced, supporting fiscally irresponsible proposals in Congress, and in many situations joining the bandwagon of the unstable Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha.
3. The PT and the so-called “social movements”, having lost the streets to anti-Dilma demonstrations in recent months, will have the opportunity to gain them back by embodying the victim’s role. The PT appears now in the political horizon as the only visible beneficiary of Dilma’s fall. Retuning to the opposition would be a heaven’s sent opportunity to get rid of its current miserable embarrassment. PSDB’s Senator Aloysio Nunes Ferreira acknowledged this hypothesis in an interview to Bernardo Mello Franco, from Folha de S. Paulo: “Dilma’s impeachment may be ideal for Lula. The opposition becomes the government and Lula is free to become opposition and run as a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.” If Lula today is already making disguised opposition to Dilma, one can only imagine the voracity with which he will do it without pretense. And it will be easy to be on the opposition, with the power equation unresolved and the economy in tatters.
4. Dilma’s legacy will be extremely heavy to whoever succeeds her. The economy, according to all predictions, will continue to falter for a good couple of years, as will the effects of the incompetent PT management of other sectors. If Dilma was responsible for the damage, it is up to her to undue it.
5. Last week, the threats of impeachment were confused with simple political revenge by politicians accused in Operation Carwash [as the corruption investigations of Petrobras scandal are known]. The search and seizure operations carried out by the Federal Police left politicians nervous and opened the way for accusations that the government would be behind the initiatives against senators and congressmen. The president of the Chamber [of Deputies], Eduardo Cunha, promised a difficult second semester for the president. An impeachment process led by Cunha, fed by his own motivations funneled by the questionable methods he has been employing in Congress, is more than the country can bear.
6. In lieu of the “crimes of responsibility” required by the Constitution as the basis for an impeachment process, so far we have seen only deceitfully empty charges. Presidents cannot be removed from office simply because they are bad or un-liked. On the matter of government accounting, that if rejected would eventually characterize a crime of responsibility, the Federal Accounting Tribunal (TCU) has been going back and forth, thus weakening its credibility. Now, the TCU itself embroiled in investigations involving two of its members – one of them the president of the institution.
7. The period following impeachment could be even more tumultuous then the current situation. Whatever the outcome may be, the country will enter a dark tunnel, with high risk for the rise of a government of scarce legitimacy that would, in turn, be promptly assailed. The radicalization observed in society will reach new heights. Instability will be the dominant note for a long period, maybe a fatally long one.
This article was originally featured in Veja. It was translated by Talita Franco, who is a Staff Assistant at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars as well as rising Senior at The School of International Service at American University.