If the US wants a glimpse into its future, it need only look at the state of Brazil after over a decade of populist rule. The same is also true for Brazil – the ascendancy of a right-wing populist backlash there is increasingly making the country look like Trump’s America.
As Brazil’s president is looking more and more unlikely to complete his term in office, the country is divided as to how he should be replaced. Some are arguing to move up direct elections – a process that would require amending Brazil’s constitution. This would be a long, contentious and most likely pointless, if not potentially dangerous, exercise. Better to just follow the currently outlined constitutional procedure and wait for the next scheduled elections, which are only a little more than a year away. Instead of “Diretas Já” (direct elections now), how about “Diretas Já Já”(direct elections soon)?
Forget Odebrecht. JBS is the new king of Brazilian corruption, and revelations from the company's founders, the billionaire Batista brothers, threaten to take down President Michel Temer. But the real scandal is that despite admitting to some egregious crimes, the Batistas themselves have been granted full immunity and will continue to run their multi-billion dollar empire from abroad.
The acrimonious nature and bizarre ending of Dilma Rousseff's impeachment almost makes you nostalgic for the impeachment of Fernando Collor de Mello, in 1992. Back then, Brazil was united in its disdain for a corrupt president and the process to remove him was relatively swift and uncontroversial. Indeed, perhaps the best way to make sense of the current impeachment and gain some perspective on it is to compare it with this previous episode.
A Brazilian prosecutor has found that the “fiscal pedaling” for which suspended Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff faces impeachment does not represent a crime. However, this interpretation probably won’t affect the outcome of the impeachment proceedings against her. This is because while conclusion of the prosecutor in this case refers to criminal charges, the "crimes of responsibility" cited as the basis for impeachment are civil in nature.
This is Part V of a five-part series entitled "What now? The trade-offs and budget cuts needed to fix Brazil’s finances." Part V looks back to determine what lessons Brazil can learn from its past as it attempts to move forward, beyond political and economic crises.
If we consider the current local context, in which Brazil has robust if flawed democratic institutions; the international context, in which terrorism has replaced communism as the global threat du jour; and the regional context, in which leftist regimes all over Latin America are collapsing on their own, it becomes clear that the Brazilian military is not primed to intervene on this occasion.
It’s time for the media to reconsider the narrative that has been used to describe the Brazilian crisis and to turn a more critical eye to President Rousseff, as well as her predecessor Lula and the Workers’ Party in general. They have, after all, been in charge for the past 13 years, and the economic and political crises and corruption scandals currently tearing Brazil apart have happened on their watch.
The Brazilian left, led by the beleaguered Workers’ Party, has furiously and justifiably condemned recent praise for Brazil’s past right-wing dictatorship. Indeed, the Brazilian far right should absolutely be criticized for its reactionary views. But the left should not get a free pass and deserves just as much scrutiny. In fact, given their history of supporting dictators in other countries, the selective nature of the left’s outrage is intellectually dishonest. Likewise, Workers’ Party claims of persecution by the corrupt political establishment belie the party’s own history of malfeasance.
Perhaps the most fitting metaphor for how the political situation in Brazil is developing is not House Of Cards, but Game of Thrones. In any case, it is important for the crisis to be resolved soon, because winter is coming, and with it the Rio Olympics.
Why do a lot of smart people wholeheartedly support the rise of a right-wing opposition movement against Brazil’s leftist government? Because they have come to realize that while idealistic politics are great when applied to the US or Europe, in the drastically different political context of Brazil, more conservative pragmatism is the way to go.
Looking ahead, it is chilling to think about Brazil's political future. It is hard to know what is scarier, right-wing extremism or left-wing populism, both likely to be corrupt. Lula’s appointment as a government minister and the backlash against it, including the release of the wiretap audio, highlight that we are just beginning to plumb the depths of cynicism and corruption in Brazilian politics.
The evidence presented thus far has made it nearly impossible to believe that Lula is not guilty of wrongdoing. The fact that he said “I doubt there is anyone more honest than I am in the country” only helps to make him look guiltier.
In the midst of a public health crisis, Brazil's health minister resigned last Wednesday, only to be re-hired on Thursday. This was done to potentially help decrease the chance that President Dilma Rousseff will be impeached.