The impending impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in a nutshell
On Sunday evening, April 17th, as Brazilians had their eyes glued to their TV sets or gathered in large groups to watch the ceremony on big screens set up in public spaces, the lower house of Congress approved, by a majority of more than two-thirds of the deputies, to continue the investigation into President Dilma Rousseff's alleged manipulation of the budget to hide a fiscal deficit. Now the process has gone on to the Senate, which must itself vote to continue the investigation. If it does, Mrs Roussef will have to step aside temporarily – up to 180 days – during a trial.
Dilma Rousseff started her second term as president of Brazil for the leftist Worker’s Party in January 2015. From the very beginning, Brazilians realized that most of the promises she had made during the campaign were not going to materialize, as Brazil was entering its worst economic recession since the 1930s – mainly caused by Mrs Rousseff’s lack of managerial skills and inability to negotiate with members of other political parties during her first term. Her mismanagement had been cunningly covered up by creative accounting, a practice that she continued to apply in 2015.
At the same time, a graft scandal of gigantic proportions involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras was uncovered. Investigations are still taking place, although the arrests of politicians, campaign gurus, construction company magnates and even a senator have already occurred. Most members of the Worker’s Party and their allies seem to be somehow involved in the huge scheme of money funneling to support the party’s campaigns and personal bribes.
Technically, the impeachment process is only taking into consideration the accounting manipulations employed by Mrs Rousseff during 2015 to cover up for budget deficits. However, all the deputies, in the back of their minds, may have considered the corruption scandal of Petrobras and the possibility that she tried to obstruct its investigation – which has not yet been proven – as they cast their votes last Sunday. To make matters worse, the lower-house speaker, Mrs Roussef's nemesis, Eduardo Cunha, and 60% of the members of Congress who are passing judgment on the president are being investigated for even more serious crimes, which, to many Brazilians, undermines their credibility and right to perform their duty.
Many Brazilians support Mrs Roussef's impeachment. Recent polls indicate that her popularity level is lower than 10%. The biggest demonstration that ever took place in the country’s history happened in São Paulo on March 13th: 500,000 people protested against the federal government on Avenida Paulista, one of the city's landmark streets.
Some 25% of the population, however, still support the Worker’s Party, claiming they have done more than anyone else for the lower classes of the country. So far, the war of differences between the two sides has taken place mainly on social media channels, as each side’s demonstrations in the streets occur on different days or at different sites in the city to avoid confrontation. Brazilians, however, have never been so angry and polarized, which is worrisome, as no one knows what will happen should the president be ousted.
The best solution for everyone would be Mrs Roussef's resignation, which she obstinately refuses to submit. We hope Brazil will have a new leader by the time the Olympic Games kick off in less than four month's time. Fingers crossed.