Daniel Buarque, Folha de S. Paulo, 05/15/2016
The removal of president Dilma Rousseff is not considered a coup d’etat by the researchers who created one of the most complex database about governments which are illegally overthrown.
Even though Dilma believes the impeachment process is a coup against her government, scholars argue that the absence of an infringement in the constitution classifies her removal as legal under Brazilian law.
“Impeachment is not a coup. The idea that there is a coup in Brazil is nonsense” said the political scientist, Clayton Tyne from the University of Kentucky to Folha de São Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper.
He is one of the authors from the database which collects information about all the coup d’etats (and coup attempts) in the world since 1950. He said that Dilma’s impeachment does not classify as a coup.
Thyne started his study, “Coups in the world” with his colleague Jonathan Powell, from the Central University of Florida. The collection of data started originally in 2011 in the academic article, “Global Instances of Coups from 1950-Present” and has been updated since then.
In total, more than 1,200 probable coups were evaluated in 94 countries since 1950. The majority of them occurred in Africa (36%) and in the Americas (32%) and only 2.6% in Europe. The majority of the coups d’etats in the world took place between 1960 and 1970.
Among the most current cases, the study did not consider the overthrow of president Fernando Lugo, of Paraguay – where they consider four coups occurred in the country since 1950, given that the last one took place in 2000.Yet, the fall of Manuel Zelaya, of Honduras in 2009 is considered as an illegal overthrow.
Even though there is not an universal consensus about the definition of a coup d’etat, its association to an illegal process is one most frequently mentioned characteristic.
The political scientists conducted a study of the 14 most relevant explanations in the academic bibliography adopted as a concept of “illegal attempt by military or other state elites to overthrow the Executive power.”
“I don’t see sufficient evidence of any illegal activity taking place in the impeachment process in Brazil,” explained Thyne. “ Some Jurists might argue that the rules are being forced in some sense, but it is a necessary rupture from the constitution to have something considered as a coup. There has to be an objectively illegal activity.”
The evaluation that the impeachment process is legal does not imply the support for impeachment. “ I am not saying that the Brazilian government should or should not impeach the president, I am simply saying that if the process is conducted inside constitutional laws, it is not a coup.”
He emphasized that impeachment is not something bad or good, but it is one way to remove governments from power. “It is in the constitution. It is part of the democracy”. According to the researcher, the accusation of the coup is frequent in cases of governments that are removed from power, even if the proceedings are legal.
The historic study of coup cases indicates that they tend to have devastating consequences for the countries since it can generate an authoritarian rule.
In rare cases, however, Thyne says it is possible that the overthrow of a government open new opportunities for democracy, which is seen in the 2009 putsch case in Honduras.
The database is not going to consider Dilma’s impeachment, but has evaluated 20 coups attempts in Brazil, where six have been recognized as illegal ruptures.
According to research, there has been a coup in 1955, failures in attempts to power in 1959 and 1963, two coups in 1964 and another one in 1969.
Translated by Julia Fonteles