Brazil’s Senate Begins Debate on Ousting Dilma Rousseff After Months of Turmoil

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/11/2016

BRASÍLIA — After months of tirades, secret maneuvering and legal appeals,Brazil’s Senate began debating on Wednesday whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, suspend her from office and put her on trial.

The debate, followed by a vote as early as Wednesday evening, is a watershed in the power struggle consuming Brazil, a country that experienced a rare stretch of stability over the last two decades as it strengthened its economy and achieved greater prominence on the world stage.

Now, those gains are unraveling. Brazil is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, huge corruption cases across the political spectrum and a bitter feud among its scandal-plagued leaders — just months before the world heads to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics.

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Corruption is not new to Brazil, so why is it threatening the presidency now?

Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo – The Washington Post, 05/05/2016

Ronald Reagan was famously called “the Teflon president” for his ability to deflect scandals that might have sunk his popularity. So why couldn’t Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tap into this same protection?

Following the lower house’s overwhelming vote on April 17 to impeach Rousseff, Brazil’s government sits on the brink of collapse. An onslaught of corruption charges against the president and her Workers Party (PT) has emboldened her political opponents. In response to allegations of an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled bribes to politicians via the state-run oil firm, Petrobras, Brazil’s elites — including the government’s largest coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) — and the public have abandoned Rousseff’s government. Her approval stands at a historically low 9 to 10 percent.

Media coverage of these scandals has been scathing and unrelenting. Yet high-level corruption is hardly new in Brazil. In fact, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, also from the PT, was himself at the center of several scandals. In 2005, the expansive mensalão investigation of PT payoffs for legislative support threatened to derail his bid for reelection. And yet Lula proved to be a Teflon president and cruised to an easy victory in 2006 — and then helped his chosen successor win the presidency in 2010.

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Brazil’s Vice President, Michel Temer, won’t face inquiry over Petrobras

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s vice president, Michel Temer, who is preparing to take control of the country’s embattled government as early as next week, will not face an investigation over testimony implicating him in the colossal graft scandal engulfing Petrobras, the national oil company, federal investigators said Tuesday.

Rodrigo Janot, the prosecutor general, determined that the accusations against Mr. Temer were not substantial enough at this point to merit an inquiry, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Janot’s office in the capital, Brasília. Mr. Temer, 75, has been maneuvering to replace President Dilma Rousseff if the Senate votes next week to suspend her and put her on trial.

The decision bolsters Mr. Temer’s standing at a critical juncture when powerful figures across Brazil’s political class are battling accusations of corruption and abuse of power, including various top allies that Mr. Temer is considering for cabinet posts as well as officials in Ms. Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party.

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Populist policies let Brazil’s tomorrow slip away

Eduardo Porter – The New York Times, 05/03/3016

Not too long ago, Brazilians might have been counted as the most optimistic people in the world. From 2008 to 2013, as the United States and Europe grappled with the aftermath of a crisis wrought by blind trust in unfettered finance, Brazil’s income per person grew 12 percent after inflation. Wages soared. The poverty rate plummeted. Even income inequality narrowed.

Brazil remained only a high-middle-income country, in the technospeak of the International Monetary Fund. But for the first time in forever, the eternal “country of tomorrow,” as Brazilians often ruefully described their nation, saw itself instead as a rampant member of the emerging cohort ofBRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) — maybe even closer than China to making the jump into the ranks of the world’s richest nations.

And then it didn’t happen.

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Dilma Rousseff, facing impeachment in Brazil, has alienated many allies

Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 05/01/2016

BRASÍLIA — They were idealists, united in the struggle against Brazil’s military dictators.

As democracy flourished, so did their careers. One of them, Paulo Ziulkoski, became the leader of an association of Brazilian cities. The other, Dilma Rousseff, rose even higher, becoming the president of Latin America’s largest country.

But their friendship soon fell apart. During a contentious meeting with the nation’s mayors in 2012, Ms. Rousseff rejected pleas for a share of Brazil’s soaring oil revenues. After the room erupted in jeers, Mr. Ziulkoski said, she stormed up to him, poked a finger in his face and humiliated him with a string of expletives.

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The campaign to impeach Brazil’s President is viciously sexist

Marc Hertzman – The New York Magazine, 04/22/2016

On Sunday, Brazil’s lower house (the Chamber of Deputies) voted to proceed with impeachment hearings against Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s first female president, by an overwhelming 2:1 majority. The case now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on Rousseff’s ouster by May 17. Much like in the U.S., both houses are overwhelmingly male. And just like in the U.S., the treatment of the country’s most prominent female politician is largely a function of sexism.

The stated reason for Rousseff’s impeachment is her alleged misappropriation of funds in an effort to cover budget gaps and boost confidence in the economy (and her administration). The accusations come from a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), that has uncovered a dizzying array of malfeasance at nearly every level of government.

So the proceedings against Rousseff might not seem so remarkable, if not for the mind-blowing contradictions involved. Brazil’s previous two presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Rousseff’s mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both faced numerous similar — in some cases, more serious — charges (17 counts against Cardoso, 34 for Silva), none of which prompted impeachment hearings.

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Brazil’s Vice President, unpopular and under scrutiny, prepares to lead

Simon Romero –  The New York Times, 04/21/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — One recent poll found that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for him. He is under scrutiny over testimony linking him to acolossal graft scandal. And a high court justice ruled that Congress should consider impeachment proceedings against him.

Michel Temer, Brazil’s vice president, is preparing to take the helm of Brazil next month if the Senate decides to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial. A simple majority would suspend her for six months while she battles claims that she illegally covered budget shortfalls with money from state banks.

That would leave Mr. Temer in charge of Latin America’s biggest country as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades, a Zika epidemic, seething political discord and the 2016 Summer Olympics — all at the same time.

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