By Mariana Diaz Montiel
Following the corruption scandals all over the world, it was just a matter of time for Brazil to host one of them. On the evening of Sunday 17th, 513 Brazilian politicians, from the lower house of congress, voted to decide whether they should impeach Dilma Rousseff, of the Worker’s Party (PT) and current president. The poll ended with 367 in favour of impeachment. It is now the senate’s turn to decide, but it seems the senate will also vote to expel the president.
In 2002 Lula da Silva, also a member of the Worker’s Party, was elected as the first left-wing president in 40 years. During his political term, he pledged to eradicate hunger and promised political and economic reforms, reinforcing his popularity among the working class, securing his re-election and Dilma’s election in following years. The party survived a corruption scandal in 2005 with a simple televised apology. Thanks to his popularity and the country’s economic improvement, the citizens forgot about the corruption, and re-elected him in 2006. Despite the corruption scandals the party had to overcome, in 2010 Dilma Rousseff was elected first female president in Brazil, securing another eight years, with Rousseff’s re-election, for the Worker’s Party to rule.
At the beginning of Rousseff’s term, the country still enjoyed the economic prosperity they experienced with Lula, but by 2013, the political landscape changed. Brazil was living a time of economic recession, an increase in unemployment, and a hard time financing the social welfare that Lula introduced. The Worker’s Party, who had been known as one of the country’s least corrupt parties, chose to solve its financial problems by dipping into a trough of money diverted from Petrobras, the national oil company. Apparently they acted the same way as any other political party had been acting.
The Petrobras scandal is one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s history, which has been going for almost a decade, and where 5.3 billion dollars came into play. Rousseff was the chair of Petrobras’ board from 2003 to 2010, thus the scandal occurred under her eyes. After the Petrobras scandal, Brazil’s inequality was more obvious. Citizens had a negative response towards it, and along with the economic recession the country was experiencing, people’s dissatisfaction towards Rousseff’s government started to increase.
The opposition took advantage of the increasing citizens displeasure towards the current government and, lead by Eduardo Cunha spokesperson from the lower house, decided to impeach Dilma Rousseff on a Sunday. As the poll was televised, a first for the country, a steel wall was raised in the centre of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, in anticipation of a potentially violent clash between pro-government and opposition protesters.
Some Brazilians labelled the poll as a ‘bizarre circus’ where they could actually watch, for the first time, how their politicians were acting in the congress. The opposition, guided by an extreme conservative policy and composed of wealthy reactionary politicians, business magnates, and parts of the media, voted in favour to impeach Dilma Rousseff appealing to moral rules, God and their family. They were able to exercise a coup against democracy, as there is no real evidence for her imputation, and managed to impeach her under the accusations of involving loans from public banks to the treasury.
Jair Bolsonoro, a political deputy, compared the current political moment Brazil is going through with the one the country lived in 1964 after the military coup victory. For him, Brazil is now living under a coup.
There were some key aspects leading to Dilma’s impeachment, her unpopularity with the citizens, consequence of her personality and the economic recession; the Worker’s Party embrace of a corrupt system to finance their party; and the dysfunctional relationship of the Brazilian executive and legislature.
Ironically, those wanting to expel Dilma from the government are confronted with corruption charges. Eduardo Cunha, the house speaker, is facing charges of up to 184 years in prison if condemned.
If Rousseff is expelled from the government, the vice-President Michel Temer will be leading the country. Temer could also face impeachment himself under the same accusations as Rousseff. The next possible successor would be Eduardo Cunha, who is, as mentioned before, also facing charges for the Petrobras scandal. This situation would leave the country with an uncertain future, and an urge to change the current political landscape.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian press specified that their current political situation will not affect the Olympics Games in Rio, despite the country going through an economic recession and a possible coup d’etat.