National Security & Defense

Will Brazil’s Leftist President Fall?

Dilma Rousseff (Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty)

On Sunday, Brazil’s lower house of congress, the Chamber of Deputies, approved the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, in what may be the first step in a long process attempting to address the political and economic crises in the country. The outcome of the legislative battle is a significant defeat for Dilma’s populist Workers’ party, one of the key pillars of the Left in South America.

The opposition needed the votes of two-thirds of the chamber — 342 out of 513 deputies. After ten hours of heated debate, 367 lawmakers decided to support the impeachment. The result was enthusiastically celebrated in the chamber and in some of the largest cities in the country, where thousands of people gathered to watch the session on jumbotrons.

In two weeks, barring a dramatic turn of events, the Brazilian senate will confirm the lower house’s decision by a simple majority. That will temporarily suspend Dilma from the presidency for up to 180 days, until the senators give the final word on the issue. A vote of two-thirds of the senate will be needed to definitively remove the president from office and replace her with Vice President Michel Temer, who is as moderate as a politician can be in Brazil.

Among the many illegal acts committed by Dilma Rousseff, the charge that led to her impeachment was the manipulation of the budget in order to hide huge deficits. But the crisis in Brazil is much deeper than what that may suggest.

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To put Brazil’s political turmoil in perspective, imagine if Harry Reid, upon being arrested in a bribery scandal involving a federally owned company, had decided to cooperate with investigators by providing details of how Barack Obama (and Bill Clinton) had played central roles in the kick-back scheme. On top of that, imagine if several of the largest campaign donors in the country — that also happen to make billions from government contracts — admitted they gave an impressive amount of dirty money to Obama’s election and reelection campaigns.

#share#Dilma, a former Communist guerilla, and her auxiliaries have chosen to repeat ad nauseam the narrative that the impeachment is a “coup” and that no crime was committed. They continued leveling that charge just minutes after the vote on Sunday.

The allegations of a coup, however, are ridiculous. The fact is that the respected Brazilian Bar Association formally supports the impeachment, and the supreme court — of its eleven members, eight were nominated by Dilma’s party — has found no irregularities in the impeachment process so far. It is also revealing that the government hasn’t utilized any of the legal provisions designed to avoid an actual coup.

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Dilma’s allies also claim that the impeachment is illegitimate because many of the Brazilian lawmakers, including the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, are themselves under investigation for corruption. However, since most of them were Workers’ party allies until a few weeks ago, the only thing this shows is just how effective were the efforts of the emerging conservative and libertarian grassroots movements. Afraid of not being reelected in the midst of the massive upheaval throughout the country, most lawmakers capitulated and abandoned the government.

Politics in Brazil usually has a high level of unpredictability: Many things can happen before the last vote in the senate. But, for the first time in a decade and a half, anachronist leftism is losing ground and the anti-populist forces have the momentum.

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