National Security & Defense

Dilma’s Fall Is Brazil’s Gain

Rousseff speaks during final debate on her impeachment, August 29, 2016. (Reuters photo: Ueslei Marcelino)
The president’s removal by constitutional means leaves the nation stronger and less socialist.

Brazil started a new chapter of its history this Wednesday, as the Senate voted to permanently remove socialist president Dilma Rousseff from office. And the Left lost more than that: It also no longer controls the narrative.

Sixty-one of the 81 senators supported the removal of Dilma, who had been suspended in May. Vice President Michel Temer, a centrist who succeeded to the presidency upon Rousseff’s suspension, will stay in office until January 2019. The result surprised no one, since Dilma’s approval rate had fallen below double digits in the last months.

There are many reasons why Dilma deserved to be impeached. After lying about the condition of the economy during the 2014 election, she led the country into a deep recession; billions were stolen from state-owned companies during her administration (part of the money was used to pay for campaign debts); she used illegal maneuvers to hide the consequences of her reckless management of the budget. For pragmatic reasons, the impeachment was based only on the last of these. Still, Dilma and her supporters called the impeachment a “coup.”

Were they right, it would have been the slowest and most peaceful coup ever. Not one shot was fired. There are no political prisoners. Dilma and her lawyers spent dozens of hours in Congress making the case for her absolution. She is still living in the presidential palace, and can stay there for 30 more days if she wants. The Supreme Court, in which 8 of the 11 judges were appointed by Dilma’s Workers’ Party, saw no reason to stop the proceedings. In fact, following the Brazilian constitution, the final phase of the trial in the Senate was presided over by the president of the Supreme Court, who was appointed by Dilma’s mentor and predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

RELATED: Brazil Has Had Enough

The reason why the leftists in Brazil call the impeachment a coup is simple. For old-school socialists, a “coup” is anything that blocks their path to absolute power. “Democracy” or “revolution” is everything that goes in the other direction, even when the rule of law is suppressed.

The coup narrative, echoed by part of the Left in Europe and America (the list includes Bernie Sanders), is not new. What is new is that this kind of discourse, embodied by Dilma and her image as an old left-wing guerrilla who fought the dictatorship in the 1970s to bring “democracy” to Brazil, doesn’t work anymore.

Dilma’s impeachment is not a story of political persecution. The fragmented Brazilian Congress started the impeachment trial reluctantly, only after public demonstrations repeatedly brought millions of people into the streets. In São Paulo alone, 1.4 million people protested for Dilma’s removal on March 13.

The whole impeachment trial took nine months and passed through one vote on the floor of the House and three votes on the floor of the Senate. In all of them, the required two-thirds majority was surpassed. So benevolent (and corporatist) were the senators that, right after removing Dilma Rousseff from office, they even found a way to soften the punishment and allow her to be eligible to hold public office again.

Dilma’s impeachment is not a story of political persecution.

Despite its periods of instability, Brazil’s political history has a long tradition of accommodation, with both good and bad consequences. On the one hand, it has resulted in a high level of tolerance for corruption and inefficiency. On the other, it has avoided the bloodbaths and civil wars that affected many of its neighbors. Even in the 21 years of the military dictatorship, for example, the regime killed 424 people, including armed guerrillas in combat. In comparison, Chile’s dictatorship executed 40,000 people in 17 years. Argentina’s left 30,000 dead in eight years. Both countries have only a fraction of Brazil’s huge population.

The fact that Brazilians aren’t inclined to sudden ruptures also means several corrupt politicians will take part in the new administration. What changes, then, with the impeachment? Many things.

First, the “classic” corrupt politician who cares only about his Swiss bank account is still less harmful than the one that uses dirty money to subvert public institutions, as the Workers’ Party tried to do.

Second, the socialist agenda that attacked economic freedom and pushed for abortion on demand and radical LGBT policies will be stopped, at least for a while. President Temer is not a conservative, but he and his party are way closer to commonsense ideas than Dilma and her allies.

#related#Third, the international consequences are not to be ignored.  Although the Workers’ Party has been painted by the international media as a moderate force in South America, the truth is that it used the presidency to offer political and economic support to authoritarian regimes such as those in Venezuela and Cuba. Three years ago, for example, the U.N. found out that a harbor built in Cuba with Brazilian money was used to smuggle weapons to North Korea.

Brazil still has a myriad of problems to solve. But the Brazilian people should celebrate the first, huge step in the right direction.


The Latest