Brazil took a new step toward institutional normality on Thursday, as its senate approved the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and suspended her from office for up to 180 days. The senators will have a final vote on her fate in office by the end of that period. Most likely, she will join the other 11 million unemployed people in the country (10.9 percent of the work force), a number boosted by her failed socialist policies.
This might be a turning point for a country shaken by a political and economic crisis and outraged by a corruption scandal that sent some of Rousseff’s closest allies to jail.
Brazil’s political history contains a sad record of corruption, collectivism, and amateurism. Usually, presidents have been guilty of one or another of these offenses. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who governed from 1995 to 2002, was a collectivist social democrat whose government was implicated in several corruption accusations, but at least it can’t be said that Cardoso, a former lecturer at Columbia University, was not reasonably prepared for the job. Fernando Collor, who served from 1990 to 1992, was unfit for office and ended up impeached because of rampant corruption, but he at least professed free-market ideas.
Dilma Rousseff, however, is a full representation of the worst of Brazilian politicians: a populist socialist in whose government corruption scandals popped up almost weekly, and as a result of whose ineptitude the country now faces its worst recession ever.
The fact that Rousseff has been suspended from office should be celebrated as a crucial defeat for the Left in South America.
The new president, Michel Temer, is 75, an experienced politician, and a respected constitutionalist. His political party, the PMDB, has not seemed to care for ideas as much as it has for positions in the administration; when the populist leftists were in control, the PMDB held some of these offices. But, now that public opinion is moving in another direction, so is PMDB. There is unprecedented public pressure for a smaller, more efficient government whose diplomacy will not align with leftist dictatorships and that will not try to suppress the traditional values of the country’s mostly Christian population.
Right after Rousseff’s suspension, Temer announced a new cabinet with a mix of moderates, social democrats, and a few conservatives. He has already shut down nine ministries (from the 32 of his predecessor) and promised to implement an orthodox fiscal policy. He also said he intends to give more autonomy to states and municipalities, reversing the centralization trend of the 13 years of Workers’-party rule.
It is yet to be seen, however, whether Temer will be able to dismantle the left-wing machine Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, built in Brazilian institutions.
#share#Public universities were turned into indoctrination centers. Portions of the press were coopted with public money. Unions, students’ associations, and the semi-military Landless Workers Movement (which in theory fights for agrarian reform, but actually works full-time to advance socialism) act as arms of the Workers’ party and now vow to spread chaos to fight the “illegitimate” Temer administration.
Brazil is improving. It is changing from terrible to somewhat mediocre.
As a reminder of the radicalism Brazil was freed from, Rousseff gave her last speech this Thursday with the confessed illegal abortionist Eleonora Menicucci, who was in charge of the extravagant Secretariat of Policies for Women, at her side. A few steps from Rousseff, journalists were threatened by leftist militants, and three reporters were assaulted by anti-impeachment “demonstrators.”
Temer’s administration may not turn out to be all that impressive; many of his political allies have benefited from corruption during the Rousseff years. But this must not obscure the fact that Brazil is improving. It is changing from terrible to somewhat mediocre.
Anybody who wants to understand what is changing in Brazil should look not at the Presidential Palace, but at the streets. The surge of a consistent, nonpartisan opposition rooted in libertarian and conservative movements was crucial to the impeachment of Rousseff. Since 2015, the country has had the largest street demonstrations in its history. These were crucial in convincing the lower house and the senate to depose the president. The next steps the nation will take will also depend on the influence of these new forces.