Brazilian President Rousseff

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff fell – or did she? In the article “The decline and fall of Dilma Rousseff” in Newsweek (17/05/2016), Brian Winter describes her gradual downfall until the moment the Brazilian Parliament suspended her from Office on 12/05/2016 and replaced her by Vice-President Michel Temer until a future hearing that can impeach her. A large crowd celebrated her fall but I wonder for how long. Still, people celebrated because many hope that corrupt politicians can finally fall and indeed, I think her fall may start to clean Brazil’s politics. However, many who removed her from power were celebrating even more as finally, the politician who refused to stop the corruption investigations was finally removed from power and I think that they believe many people were celebrating her fall in the hope the corruption investigations will end with her removal. 

A flag falling apart?

The past

As a woman in her early 20s, she joined left-wing guerrilla groups who fought against the military dictatorship and for this she endured jail and torture. After her release, she lived a life as an economist and public servant. Later, President Lula da Silva made her Minister of Energy before she succeeded him as president in 2010 and she was re-elected in 2014. During the re-election campaign, a scandal over Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras and some large construction companies erupted when the Federal Police deputy Márcio Anselmo spoke about corruption in a news program. Immediately President Rousseff was advised to fire Mr Anselmo but she refused and later even continued to defend him because the corruption needed to be known and investigated. This would eventually topple her government when some of the President’s top aides noticed an opportunity to stop the investigation—or at least damage it (probably because they were investigated).

The article suggests that she is not completely innocent as she was energy minister when the corruption was ongoing and the article ask the question why she didn’t see the sheer scale of the robbery at Petrobras as minister and chair of the company’s board and suggests she was simply not good enough. Earlier in the article, the author also describes how she is the primary responsible for Brazil’s worst recession in at least 80 years and that she has very few friends at home or abroad, again suggesting the reasons are because she is not that good. However, everywhere elected politicians who are not part of the elite while try to improve the lives of the less-fortunate are considered not good, left-wing and responsible for the bad financial positions of countries and thus need to be removed and this in the America’s (Brazil but also Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro) to even Tony Blair in the UK (although he became part of the wealthy). And of course, errors were made such as allowing top employees at companies to strip assets to pay themselves unimaginable wealth. But today the errors made are worse as now we know but still allow those at the top to continue as before and even claim it is good for the economy, against all evidence.

The article describes how the president is responsible for the downfall of her government and herself because of her arrogance and refusal to listen to others. But, the “others” were advising her to replace Mr Anselmo as Federal Police deputy as he had broken the rule of the previous dictatorship-area that corruption should not be discussed in public; she even re-instated him while also appointed other investigators, making enemies. Indeed, President Rousseff refused to fire Mr Anselmo by claiming “I’ll never do that, I’m not afraid of this investigation. It has nothing to do with me!”, suggesting she was not involved in the corruption. Later she told the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo “I have to emphasize the fact that Brazil needs this investigation”, suggesting the investigation is more important than her own career in order to stop corruption, something many people can’t understand so they would intervene, certainly to protect friends. Her fight against corruption led to the resignation of six ministers in her first year in office because of corruption charges, increasing the numbers of enemies.

Although I don’t know whether she knew what she was doing or she was simply honest, she may understand the path she has to take to finally stop corruption in Brazil and thus end the dictatorship-era. I think she had to become president to expose and stop the corruption because, although she may not like it being removed as President, this removal made headlines worldwide as corrupt politicians tried to prevent the investigations. If she had known of and tried to expose the corruption as energy minister, it would have been much easier to block the investigation and remove her as minister without much troubles. By appointing her vice-president, someone from another party, he was the main driving force to oust and replace her. Often, whatever elected “people of the people” try to do when they go into politics, very powerful people and organisations try to prevent them from making life better for ordinary people in favour of a more equal world so the elite can remain privileged. The Newsweek article agrees that Mrs Rousseff seemed genuinely focused on tackling Brazil’s legendary poverty and inequality instead of enriching herself and relatives. And whether or not Mrs Rousseff knew what she was doing, fact is that the corruption became more exposed by this infighting to topple her. And these powerful people are so influential that even people as President Obama don’t realises they oppose people who want to liberate their people from slavery (e.g. Venezuela) and thus President Obama opposes those governments while defend those who would enslave those populations although I credit him for acknowledging Cuba.

What may the future hold?

Maybe the elite may again try to convince President Rousseff to stop the corruption investigations. She may or may not accept. If she agrees to stop the investigations than the public will notice how she too became corrupted to keep her job and this will anger people. On the other hand, I think it is very likely she will continue to refuse to stop the investigations so her impeachment will continue and she becomes a victim of the establishment. Then her trial will continue or there was no reason to oust her for what they claim she did: obstruction of justice for appointing her mentor and predecessor Mr Lula da Silva as a minister at a time when prosecutors were seeking his arrest on corruption charges while she is also accused for not having obeyed the financial markets by breaking budget laws and thus they claim she is responsible for Brazil’s economic chaos. But remember, a worldwide financial crisis was caused by the financial markets that are now again gaining power. During the trial more may be revealed. And as many Brazilians are fed-up with the corruption and inequality in their country, this trial against President Rousseff may liberate the country from its corrupt past or it may never heal – the future will decide. As the article mentions, President Rousseff deserves some credit for one of Brazil’s main achievements: the consolidation of rule of law under its young democracy and the notion that corruption can be investigated. But to achieve this, people may suffer because the corrupt will battle back to save their position and Mrs Rousseff may show that, to end corruption, even a president can fall. Of course, it may also be possible that many ordinary people are themselves so corrupt they will continue to oppose President Rousseff, even when it becomes clear she supported the corruption investigations. Still, the exposure by President Rousseff scared the Brazilian elite sufficiently so she had to leave.

And thus, now Mr Temer is the new president, a 75-year-old man who appointed only other old and mainly white men to solve Brazil’s economic problems and then hopes this group will be accepted in such a diverse country while already people are protesting. This group of people may or may not be corrupt and may or may not stop the corruption investigations to remain in power. It is possible Mr Temer will allow that the corruption investigations continue and already one minister had to resign; but this may result in enemies who may topple him too. Or he may focus on stopping corruption by poorer people so they no longer demand these investigations continue. But whether people in government are clean or corrupt, probably the poor will suffer as already the new government is reversing social programs while favour (big) businesses to restore market confidence and thus gain the market’s support in return. Nevertheless, the new procedure to impeach Mrs Rousseff and any possible trial will reopen the corruption claims. Of course, they may silence her but in that case, people may become angry and demand answers. And thus, I think that, whatever the political and economic class will try to do, the corruption will continue to be exposed and anger may continue to grow, certainly when the elite will continue to reward themselves and the international markets while take from the poor and middle-class. Another possibility is that the Brazilian society is so corrupt and thus blinded that people will continue to be angered by people who expose corruption because in a corrupt society, corruption maintains itself as people need corruption to reach a deal; however, in that case people may turn against each other in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others when the elite continues to favour the elite against the poor. Because always powerful people bully the weak who have to cheat to survive to justify their own wrongdoings.

In conclusion, to be continued, certainly when also the Zika virus may continue to scare people while the government is more focused on pleasing the markets.

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