Brazil’s largest party to leave governing coalition

Katy Barnato – CNBC , 03/29/2016

Brazil’s political system is set to spin further out of control Tuesday as the biggest party in the Senate quits the ruling coalition, a move that will hike the odds on President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.

The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) announced Tuesday, as expected, it would pull six ministers from Rousseff’s Cabinet, ordering them to either resign or face ethics proceedings, Reuters reported Tuesday. If Rousseff is impeached, it would put Vice President Michel Temer, leader of the PMDB, next in line for the presidency, Reuters said.

Analysts are divided as to how Brazil’s economy and political situation might fare in the wake.

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Time to go

The Economist- 03/26/2016

DILMA ROUSSEFF’S difficulties have been deepening for months. The massive scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant of which she was once chairman, has implicated some of the people closest to her. She presides over an economy suffering its worst recession since the 1930s, largely because of mistakes she made during her first term. Her political weakness has rendered her government almost powerless in the face of rising unemployment and falling living standards. Her approval ratings are barely in double digits and millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to chant “Fora Dilma!”, or “Dilma out!”

And yet, until now, Brazil’s president could fairly claim that the legitimacy conferred by her re-election in 2014 was intact, and that none of the allegations made against her justified her impeachment. Like the judges and police who are pursuing some of the most senior figures in her Workers’ Party (PT), she could declare with a straight face her desire to see justice done.

Now she has cast away that raiment of credibility (seearticle). On March 16th Ms Rousseff made the extraordinary decision to appoint her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to be her chief of staff. She portrayed this as a shrewd hire. Lula, as he is known to all, is a canny political operator: he could help the president survive Congress’s attempt to impeach her and perhaps even stabilise the economy. But just days before, Lula had been briefly detained for questioning at the order of Sérgio Moro, the federal judge in charge of the Petrobras investigation (dubbed lava jato, or “car wash”), who suspects that the former president profited from the bribery scheme (see Bello). Prosecutors in the state of São Paulo have accused Lula of hiding his ownership of a beach-front condominium. He denies these charges. By acquiring the rank of a government minister, Lula would have partial immunity: only the country’s supreme court could try him. In the event, a judge on the court has suspended his appointment.

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Brazil descends into chaos as Olympics looms

Patrick Gillespie, Paulo Sotero – CNN Money, 03/21/2016

An increasingly uncertain political backdrop is sparking widespread, and sometimes violent, protests. The country is in the midst of its worst recession in 25 years. A massive corruption scandal involving its biggest company has engulfed numerous executives and politicians. Add to that the deadly Zika virus, and you have a country in crisis mode

Concerns are rising over whether Brazil will be adequately prepared for this seminal global event. The International Olympic Committee told CNNMoney Friday that it is “very closely” watching the political events unfolding.

The Summer games begin August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, and the world spotlight will turn on a nation at a crossroads.

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Brazil’s Lula ‘to be President Dilma’s chief of staff’

BBC News – 03/16/16

Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will become the new chief of staff for President Dilma Rousseff, a senior lawmaker says.

The move shields Lula from possible prosecution by a federal judge investigating a massive corruption scandal named Operation Car Wash.

Under Brazilian law, cabinet members can only be tried by the Supreme Court.

Lula was questioned two weeks ago over allegations of money laundering connected to Operation Car Wash.

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Brazil Institute director Paulo Sotero on Lula charged

Paulo Cabral, Paulo Sotero – CCTV America, 03/10/2016

In Brazil, it has been nearly a week since ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was questioned and then released by police.

Now he’s facing charges in connection with a corruption scandal at the state oil company “Petrobras”.CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Paulo Sotero about the political turmoil in Brazil. He is the director of the Brazil Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar.

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The interrogation of Lula

The Economist, 03/04/2016

For nearly two years Brazilian sleuths investigating a bribery scandal centred on Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant, have followed a trail of evidence that has led ever deeper into ranks of the country’s business and political elites. On the morning of March 4th it led them to the door of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president from 2003 to 2010. Lula, as he is universally known, was taken in for questioning (and later released). His house near São Paulo was raided, along with the homes and offices of several others targeted in the latest phase of the probe.

To many, it was only a question of when, not whether, police would come knocking. The corruption scheme, in which big construction firms allegedly funnelled billions of reais to Petrobras executives and their political masters in exchange for padded contracts, appears to have been started while Lula was in office. Surely, cynics have long muttered, it was too vast for the then-president not to have known about it, or indeed profited from it.

Prosecutors now say they have evidence that Lula, members of his family and the Lula Institute, an NGO that he heads, received “undue benefits” worth 30m reais ($8m) in 2011-14 from builders embroiled in the Petrobras scandal. Lula was “one of the principal beneficiaries of the crimes” committed at the oil company, prosecutors claim. He vehemently denies any wrongdoing, and reportedly greeted the federal police officers at his door with calm, if not his usual folksy charm.

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Don’t let Brazil become Venezuela

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 03/04/2016

The next 72 hours will be critical to the future of Brazilian democracy. The temporary detention of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for questioning related to the Petrobras probe is indeed a sign that no one in Brazil is above the law. But it also brings the risk of extreme polarization and even violence – with the leader of the Workers’ Party in Congress already calling for “war,” trade union leaders denouncing a “coup” and Lula’s supporters and opponentsplanning huge nationwide marches throughout the weekend.

Brazil is not Venezuela – it is a large country with robust and functioning democratic institutions, a strong appreciation for pluralism and little recent history of political violence. But it’s also true that Lula is no ordinary politician. He is, rather, a unique symbol in a way that is often difficult for foreigners (and some Brazilians) to appreciate.

Indeed, Lula was the first working-class president in a country where inequality is still the central fact of daily life. His election in 2002 was so poignant because it marked the first time someone from Brazil’s socioeconomic majority ascended to such a position of power. He left office in 2010 with an approval rating of nearly 90 percent, and the belief that Brazil had taken an important step toward becoming a more equal society. Today, Lula’s image has been greatly tarnished by multiple scandals and the collapse of the economy after he left office. Yet, even now, he remains the only relevant politician in the lives of many Brazilians, especially the poor and those outside major cities. They remember him, rightly or wrongly, as the leader who brought them into the mainstream economy and political life for the first time.

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