The Guardian, 04/18/2016
Ever since Stefan Zweig, writing in 1941, dubbed it “the land of the future”, Brazil has been reproached for failing to live up to the promise that its size, its resources and its insulation from the wars and troubles afflicting other parts of the world seemed to hold out. There have been moments when that promise seemed on the verge of becoming a reality, but such hopes have again been repeatedly dashed. The most recent came with the accession to power of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003. Lula and his Workers party, or PT, brought new ideas, new energy and a new style into a Brazilian politics disfigured by corruption, patronage, and persistent procrastination in the face of the pressing issues before the nation.
The PT was a real party, with a mass base across the country, a coherent ideology, an apparently strong moral sense – characteristics that other political formations largely lacked. Lula’s social policies brought him and the PT immense popularity, re-election for a second term, and helped his successor, Dilma Rousseff, to convincing victories in 2010 and 2014. Since then the story has grown darker and darker until it reached a dismal low point on Sunday when the lower house of Congress voted to impeach her. And it could get worse, because the impeachment, far from helping to resolve Brazil’s political and social polarisation, has already exacerbated both.
The steel wall erected along the length of the Esplanada, the parkland strip in the centre of Brasilia, to prevent anti-Dilma and pro-Dilma supporters from physically clashing during the impeachment vote was symbolic of how far such polarisation has already gone. The historian José Murilo de Carvalho said recently thatradicalisation and intolerance in the country have reached a very dangerous point.