Brazil is on the brink of unraveling

Editorial Board – The Washington Post, 03/25/2016

AS PRESIDENT Obama traveled from Cuba to Argentina this week, he literally passed over Latin America’s most momentous political developments — which are not the U.S. rapprochement with the Castro regime or the abruptswitch from leftist populism to center-right liberalism in Buenos Aires, but the huge crisis of corruption and political legitimacy in Brazil.

For more than a year, the world’s fifth-largest nation has been stricken byrecession and convulsed by investigations into kickbacks involving the state oil company, the country’s largest construction companies, and scores of high-ranking politicians. Last week, the drama rose to a new level. First, more than 3 million Brazilians turned out to protest the corruption and demand the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff. Then Ms. Rousseff, already facing a congressional impeachment initiative, resorted to a desperate and unscrupulous political manuver.

Ms. Roussef appointed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff. The move might have made sense a year ago, when he remained a hugely popular national icon, but Mr. da Silva has recently become a target of the ongoing corruption investigations, suspected of accepting bribes and hiding his ownership of a beachfront condominium. His appointment had the effect of shielding him from the federal and state judges and prosecutors pursuing him — and one of them released wiretapped phone conversations that appeared to show Ms. Rousseff and Mr. da Silva conspiring to obstruct the investigation.

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