Meet Brazil’s Unexpected President

Ben Raderstorf and Michael Shifter – Slate, 05/25/2016

On April 11—as lawmakers began to weigh impeachment charges against Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff—the country’s vice president sent a curious recorded message to a group of legislators. In a 15-minute “address to the nation,” Michel Temer spoke as if he had just taken office as president. In a somber tone, he implored all Brazilians to pull together and face the challenges ahead.

 

The speech was comically premature. Aides would later claim that he had just been practicing on his cellphone and accidentally hit “send.” In any case, to many Brazilians it was clear evidence that he was conspiring to take his boss’ job.

 

Almost exactly a month later, that’s exactly what he did. The Senate opened the impeachment trial against Rousseff on charges that she violated budgetary and fiscal responsibility laws; in the meantime she has been suspended from office for 180 days. In accordance with the constitution, the vice president takes over on an interim basis.

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Lessons of the fall

Bello – The Economist, 05/21/2016

ON A bright and breezy morning in Brasília on May 12th, hours after the Senate had voted to start her impeachment for budgetary misdemeanours and thus suspend her as president, Dilma Rousseff walked down the front ramp of the Planalto palace to address a few hundred supporters of the Workers’ Party (PT). As she vowed defiance, behind her left shoulder stood Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, her predecessor as president and the PT’s founding leader. He looked downcast and pensive, several times wiping his brow and his eyes with a handkerchief. No doubt he was contemplating the probable end of more than 13 years of PT rule.

Behind Ms Rousseff’s impeachment lies a double political failure. The PT once claimed a monopoly on ethical politics; in the public mind, it is now identified with leading a scheme to loot Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, of more than $2.4 billion to fill its own campaign coffers and the back pockets of allies. And Ms Rousseff, whom Lula sold to the country as a top-notch manager, proved to be an incompetent steward of the economy.

So what went wrong for Latin America’s biggest left-wing party? The answer starts with the PT’s ideological ambiguity. Formed in 1980 by dissident trade unionists (such as Lula), radical priests, grassroots social movements and Marxist intellectuals, the PT claimed to be a new kind of party, of radical democracy and the dispossessed.

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Brazil’s Suspended President Dilma In It To Win It, But Probably Won’t

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 05/22/2016

Brazil’s recently suspended two-term president, Dilma Rousseff, told Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept on Thursday that she was going to fight impeachment until the bitter end. That end will most likely result in her being removed of her political rights for 10 years.

No date has been set for the Senate hearing on her impeachment. But when that day comes, she will have just 20 days to defend herself. The Senate will then have a maximum of 180 days to vote whether or not to officially remove Dilma from office. It’s not looking good. Supporters, who have seemingly come out of the woodwork in the days leading up to her impeachment in the lower house and even more so since her unpopular vice president Michel Temer took over, will be in for a harsh reality check. Warning: this story does not have a happy ending.

In the interview for The Intercept, Workers’ Party president Dilma reiterated that she would not resign and that she had some judicial recourse. She could, in theory, challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court. But considering the fact that Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski will oversee the Senate trial, her argument would only be won if the Supreme Court ruled against their own chief. It’s possible, but highly unlikely. She also failed to get an injunction to block the Senate vote and, worth nothing, over half the judges on the bench were appointed by her party.

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Brazil turns a page – What to expect of a Temer government

Thomas Kamm – Brunswick Group, 05/12/2016

After a wrenching battle and a last-ditch attempt to derail the whole process, Brazil has removed President Dilma Rousseff and is set to install Michel Temer in her place. Now comes the hard part: getting the country back on track. Mr. Temer is facing a wave of conflicting pressures that amount to a triple challenge to him and his government.

Brunswick Partner Thomas Kamm looks at these challenges faced by a Temer government and the likely steps to expect from him and Finance Minister-designate Henrique Meirelles.

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What next for Brazil? Long to-do list for new interim President

Tiffany Ap – CNN, 05/13/2016

Few would envy Michel Temer, who stepped in as Brazil’s acting President after the Senate voted to oust Dilma Rousseff.

While the next 180 days will be rough for Rousseff — she will have to face up to accusations that she broke budget laws — Temer has the immensely difficult task of winning back the trust of Brazilians.
Aside from juggling the precarious state of the Brazilian economy, Temer must deal with a Zika virus epidemic and a fraught 2016 Olympics.

Brazil and the Left’s Latin Comeuppance

The Wall Street Journal, 05/12/2016

Jubilant Brazilians took to the streets Thursday to celebrate Dilma Rousseff’s suspension from office for the next six months. Whether this means the end of her presidency will depend on the outcome of an impeachment trial, where she is accused of violating Brazil’s budget laws. But her political comeuppance is more evidence that a sad era of progressive Latin American politics is ending.

Ms. Rousseff’s legal troubles stem from allegations that she used bookkeeping tricks to disguise the size of Brazil’s budget deficit on the eve of her closely fought 2014 re-election. She denies this, but there’s no denying the parlous state of Brazil under her left-wing government. The economy shrank 3.8% last year, the jobless rate is above 10% and inflation is running north of 7%.

Now caretaker President Michel Temer will try to assure markets that he’s more competent than his predecessor. The conventional analysis of Brazil’s economy is that it is a victim of falling commodity prices, which is true. But Brazil’s economic woes are also a textbook case of the consequences of runaway spending and government bloat.

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A Final Defense of Dilma Rousseff

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 05/11/2016

Back in March 2014, when the Petrobras scandal was just getting started, some of President Dilma Rousseff’s top aides saw a golden opportunity to kill the investigation – or at least badly wound it.

Márcio Anselmo, the Federal Police deputy in charge of the probe, had given an interview (which can be seen here) to Jornal Nacional, Brazil’s most-watched news program. On-camera and on-the-record, Anselmo and others laid out the main points of the case, which would soon become notorious: A former Petrobras board member who had accepted a Land Rover as a bribe, the money launderer whose plea-bargain testimony would prove key, and the sordid connections with some of the country’s biggest construction companies.

Everyone in Brasília knew the stakes were huge. The election was just six months away, and Rousseff was facing a tight race. But some ministers were convinced the TV interview was actually a blessing in disguise. They believed Anselmo had broken a dictatorship-era statute that, they argued, prohibited Federal Police officials from discussing cases in progress with the media. Fire him, they urged Rousseff. Fire him now and attack the investigators for using the media to selectively leak information damaging to the government.

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