Dilma’s disasters

The Economist, 12/3/2015

IT WAS just what Brazil needed. With a vast corruption scandal in full swing, an economy in free fall, public finances in tatters—and a self-serving political class in no mood to tackle any of it—the country has now been served up a constitutional crisis. On December 2nd Eduardo Cunha, Speaker of Congress’s lower house, initiated impeachment proceedings against the president, Dilma Rousseff. “I take no pleasure in this act,” Mr Cunha told a press conference, stressing that his decision was of a purely “technical nature”. Its consequences will be anything but.

The arguments that apparently won Mr Cunha over had been laid out by three respected lawyers, including Hélio Bicudo, a champion of human rights and former member of Ms Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), which he helped found. The trio’s main allegation is that by failing on time to stump up cash to state-owned banks paying welfare handouts on its behalf, the administration let itself be funded by entities under its control. This practice is barred by the fiscal responsibility law. Yet it occurred in 2014, the accusers claim, and, crucially, also this year. Mr Cunha had thrown out Mr Bicudo’s earlier motion because it referred only to Ms Rousseff’s first term in 2011-14, agreeing with most jurists that a sitting president can only be pursued for actions committed in the current term in office.

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