Brazil’s Senate is due to vote on Wednesday on whether to take the next steps to impeach its president, Dilma Rousseff, for violating budget rules, charges that The Washington Post explains here. Ordinarily, you don’t expect a president to be impeached for accounting practices, unless there’s embezzling or outright corruption involved. None of that has been alleged, as NPR explains. And what’s more, some of those who have pushed for and are expected to vote on Wednesday to suspend her from office and put her on trial are accused of corruption that’s much worse.
So what’s going on? The Monkey Cage has offered analysis on the events leading to the unraveling of Dilma Rousseff’s administration, which started in March when police took into custody Brazil’s former president — and Rousseff’s mentor — Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva as part of the Lava Jato investigation into corruption at Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company. “Operation Car Wash,” as Matthew M. Taylor explains here, “could be the single largest corruption investigation ever undertaken, anywhere.” Lula was allegedly involved in a multi-billion dollar kickback scheme to his (and Rousseff’s) party. So far, so good. But as Taylor explained,
So far, the case seems to be leading to important revelations and the incarceration of powerful elites. But it is likely to trigger important partisan confrontation in coming months. … Rousseff has replaced her justice minister, reportedly because he did too little to control the Federal Police under his command.Brazil is deeply polarized, which may contribute to considerable volatility: Lula called Friday for the Workers’ Party to take to the streets, a few days before anti-government protests scheduled for March 13. The new evidence in Lava Jato has resurrected discussion of an impeachment motion against Rousseff. Brazil’s democratic institutions are strong, but passions are running high.
Then the judge overseeing Lula’s investigation released wiretapped conversations that may or may not have implicated Rousseff in trying to shield Lula from prosecution.
Soon after, Brazil’s House began impeachment proceedings against the unpopular Rousseff. Daniela Campello and Cesar Zucco explain here later in March that “the release of wiretapped conversations in Brazil threatens its democracy”:
Although the corruption charges and the impeachment proceedings are technically distinct, they have become inseparable….The conversation between Lula and Rousseff that has received the most attention is ambiguous at best in support of claims that she was appointing Lula for the sole purpose of helping him escape prosecution. It was taped two hours after Judge Moro had ordered a stop to the wiretap. It was transcribed, certified, included in the proceedings, and made available to the press in haste, with no oversight, and with no consideration of the implications of wiretapping a conversation of a sitting president.… These materials, even if accepted in court, would not help convict Lula of any crime. They were, nonetheless, politically devastating for the government, and Rousseff’s impeachment process was put in motion the next day.
Their post further explains the complicated and potentially dangerous politics behind the release of those wiretaps.
Ryan Lloyd and Calla Hummel then explain the politics of Brazil’s impeachment process for us, noting that Rousseff is profoundly unpopular but that Brazil’s party system doesn’t have strong loyalty from its members or require them to vote along party lines.
Lula and Rousseff have both called this process a coup. Whether it is or not, Héctor Perla Jr. explains that what we’re seeing in Brazil has been happening across Latin America:
[W]hat’s happening in Brazil is part of a broad right-wing campaign to tarnish the PT and bring down Rousseff, as well as Lula.Using a range of tactics, right-wing parties seek to tarnish left-wing politicians in power through institutional, as well as non-electoral and undemocratic means….But what happens in the coming weeks in Brazil has longer-term implications for elected socialist governments throughout Latin America.
Amy Erica Smith explains that what’s happening in Brazil isn’t exactly a coup — but that it is a troubling misuse of democratic procedure. And Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo explain why, although corruption has been endemic in Brazil for years, the same scandals that did not bring down Lula when he was in office are now threatening a president who’s not even accused of being involved. Here’s a glimpse at their research:
Looking at data from 84 presidential regimes across Latin America, we find that presidential approval ratings are very sensitive to charges of corruption, but only if the country is experiencing high inflation, high unemployment, or both.
What does this all mean for the durability and quality of democracy in new and developing countries? Well, the economic crisis and corruption scandals are pushing Brazilians to demand a more accountable and representative government. That’s the optimistic view — and perhaps that’s where democracy is headed in Brazil. For pessimists, however, the events in Brazil showcase a troubling trend of conditional accountability that does not bode well for democracy. The public is willing to forgive or ignore graft and corruption in good economic times and is only prepared to mobilize against corruption when the economy tanks.
Read the original posts here:
Why was Brazil’s ex-president detained as part of the “Operation Car Wash” corruption investigation?