Impeachment and Brazil’s ‘Que Se Vayan Todos’ moment

Brian Winter – Americas Quarterly, 04/06/2016

When Argentina’s economy collapsed in late 2001, everybody was absolutely sure whose fault it was. Aloof, hermetic and increasingly prone to slurring his words in public, President Fernando de la Rúa had managed to trash the government’s fiscal accounts in just two years in power. Steakhouses and nightclubs were empty, unemployment was nearing 20 percent and cash was so scarce that much of the economy reverted to the barter system – trading haircuts for groceries, family heirlooms for rent. As Christmas approached, looting broke out at supermarkets and anti-government protests turned violent. Finally, on the evening of December 20, De la Rúa hand-wrote a resignation letter, muttered something to his secretary about collecting the soaps from his private bathroom, climbed the stairs to the palace roof and flew away in a helicopter.

Perfect, Argentines said. Now we can get out of this mess. But the next president was so overwhelmed by the challenge that he quit too, setting off a chain reaction that would ultimately see five different presidents in only two weeks. Appalled, Argentine protesters adopted a new slogan – ¡Que se vayan todos! or “They all must go!” Banging pots and pans, millions took to the streets to demand that the entire political class – the president, Congress, everybody – step aside to allow for a top-to-bottom renewal.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Brazil is now having a similar moment. The economy is not as bad as Argentina’s was, and nobody has yet boarded any helicopters. But the Brazilian public appears to be arriving at the same conclusion – that nobody currently on the political stage is competent or clean enough to address the enormous crises facing the country.

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Opinion: If Impeachment, Then Who?

Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda – Folha de S. Paulo 04/06/2016

The most bizarre fact of Brazil’s political crisis is also its most important one: almost every major political figure advocating the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff faces corruption allegations far more serious than those directed at her.

From Michel Temer and Eduardo Cunha to PSDB’s Aécio Nevis and Geraldo Alckmin, Dilma’s most influential adversaries are implicated in shocking corruption scandals that would be career-destroying in any healthy democracy.

Indeed, the towering irony of this crisis is that while Brazil’s major parties (including PT) are rife with corruption, President Rousseff is one of the very few politicians with plausible claims to the Presidency of the Republic who is not directly involved in corruption schemes for personal enrichment.

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Don’t wear red in Brazil as Rousseff crisis divides public

Sabrina Valle and David Biller – Bloomberg, 03/30/2016

Raquel Varjao, an advertising professional in Sao Paulo, had just picked up her 7-year-old daughter from school when three passing motorists cursed her. The offense: wearing a red shirt.

“They felt entitled to verbally attack me and in front of her,” the 35-year-old mother said after dressing recently in the color associated with President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. “Why do ideological disagreements need to get to this point?”

Rousseff’s impeachment saga is disrupting the rhythm of everyday life across Brazil, a nation with a largely peaceful history and political tolerance since its return to democracy in 1985. In barrooms, chat rooms and above all on the streets, the debate over her possible ouster is growing more hostile and bringing latent class and partisan divisions back to the fore.

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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 protests: Rousseff and Lula supporters rally amid corruption claims

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 03/18/16

At the end of a week of extraordinary political drama, constitutional chaos and massive anti-government protests, supporters of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, will rally in cities across the country on Friday.

The Frente Brasil Popular, a network of trade unions, social movements and other organisations sympathetic to the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) said it would hold events in 45 cities in defence of democracy and the rights of the working class.

It will mark the first major show of strength by Brazil’s pro-government factions since an estimated 3 million people took to the streets on Sunday to demand the president’s resignation.

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More than a million Brazilians protest against ‘horror’ government

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 03/13/2016

More than a million Brazilians have joined anti-government rallies across the country, ramping up the pressure on embattled president Dilma Rousseff.

Already struggling with an impeachment challenge, the worst recession in a century and the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil’s history, the Workers party leader was given another reason to doubt she will complete her four-year term.

The demonstrations on Sunday – which reached all 26 states and the federal district – were expected to be bigger than similar rallies last year. The largest took place in São Paulo, where the polling company Datafolha estimated the crowd at 450,000, more than double the number it registered last year.

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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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Brazil’s justice minister quits in internal row over graft probe

Lisandra Paraguassu – Reuters, 02/29/2016

Brazil’s justice minister has resigned amid a firestorm in the ruling Workers’ Party over his failure to curb a corruption probe that has targeted prominent figures including the country’s popular former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Jose Eduardo Cardozo, who had served as justice minister since 2011, will be replaced by Wellington César Lima e Silva, a prosecutor from the state of Bahia linked to the Workers’ Party, President Dilma Rousseff’s office said in a statement on Monday.

His resignation came amid growing discontent within the party over a wide-reaching bribery and kickbacks investigation that landed some of its officials in jail and has now spread to include its founder, Lula.

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Brazil justice minister to quit as Lula probe tension grows: papers

Jeb Blount, Anthony Boadle, Michael Perry – Reuters, 02/29/2016

Brazil’s Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardoso plans to resign, fed up with rising attacks from his Workers’ Party over a police probe into the activities of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, two Brazilian newspapers reported Sunday.

Cardoso will quit this week, Folha de S.Paulo said. Cardoso, who took office with Lula’s PT successor Dilma Rousseff at the beginning of her first term in 2011.

Leading members of Cardoso’s party, known by its Portuguese initials PT, have raised pressure on the minister in recent days after Lula was notified that Brazilian courts plan to subpoena his bank, telephone and financial records, Folha and the Estado de S.Paulo reported.

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