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Tag Archive for Michel Temer

President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment is no coup – but Brazil’s best chance of saving itself

dhcityamFirst published in CityAM

Late on Sunday evening, the lower house of the Brazilian Congress voted by a two to one margin in support of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the former Marxist guerrilla who has served as the country’s President since 2011.

The proceedings, conducted against the backdrop of a spiralling public debt crisis and rising unemployment, are a stunning turnaround for a President who had enjoyed approval ratings of up to 70 per cent just two years ago. The allegations she faces centre on claims that, in the run-up to the 2014 elections, money was diverted from state-owned banks into the government’s coffers in order to bolster perceptions of the strength of the country’s economy.

With impeachment proceedings having passed the lower house, the Federal Senate must now decide by simple majority whether to progress the case. If it agrees to do so – as seems almost certain – then Rousseff will be formally suspended from office for 180 days while the Senate examines the charges against her. A two-thirds vote in favour of impeachment would see the President expelled from office.

Regardless of the outcome, the country faces a profound political crisis.

While roughly 70 per cent of the public support impeachment, a sizeable proportion of the 54m people who voted for her in 2014 buy into rhetoric that the proceedings constitute a “coup” on the part of the country’s rightist forces.

In reality, the vote was fully constitutional, conducted in plain sight of the media and with the blessing of the country’s Supreme Court – a body largely comprised of nominees from Rousseff’s own Workers’ Party. Nevertheless, millions of Rousseff supporters are expected to take to the streets in the coming days, in protests that are likely to further inflame tensions between poorer Workers’ Party voters and the country’s burgeoning middle-class.

The allegations against the President aside, her supporters have a point when they argue that many of the parliamentarians sitting in judgment over Rousseff are alleged to have committed crimes far greater than her own.

The two men who have the most to gain from Rousseff’s removal, Vice-President Michel Temer and Parliament speaker Eduardo Cunha, both face serious legal challenges. The Supreme Court has already ruled that Temer must face impeachment proceedings for the same charges as Rousseff, while Cunha is accused of accepting $5m in bribes.

Other MPs casting “yes” votes included former Sao Paulo governor Paulo Maluf, who risks falling foul of an Interpol arrest warrant for money laundering if he leaves Brazil, and Nilton Capixaba, who faces charges of misappropriating public funds designated for the purchase of ambulances.

The identity of the country’s next President – most likely Temer – is arguably less important than the nascent sense of recognition among Brazil’s political elite that the country needs political and economic reform.

If polls are to be believed, Brazilians would like to see not only a new President but fresh elections. Such a move, however, would require constitutional change – a forlorn hope in such a fractious political climate.

Instead, due constitutional process is all Brazil has. That is why, for the sake of Brazil’s democracy, impeachment proceedings against Rousseff must succeed.

That means, until 2018, a “caretaker” presidency led by Temer.

On economic issues, a Temer presidency would also represent a marked improvement from the present malaise. While part of Rousseff’s coalition, his own Democratic Movement party (PMDB) is centrist in nature and had a heartening track record of supporting tighter fiscal austerity and privatisation programmes that rescued the country’s economy in the mid-90s.

While ethically challenged, Temer is an able man and a consummate deal-maker. The vote he and his supporters orchestrated to oust Rousseff relied upon cross-party consensus – just as he would have to in government to secure his own position and avoid a further constitutional crisis.

With protests massing on the streets and a powder keg of class divisions set to explode at any time, Brazil could do a lot worse than having a creature of compromise and moderation at its helm.

Dilma government refuses to back Syrian opposition

It came as little surprise to me to read this morning that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has refused join the steadily-increasing number of governments who have recognised the Syrian opposition coalition formed in Doha last week as the country’s legitimate government.

The Brazilian government has instead expressed issued a statement expressing its concern at the worsening violence in the country and called for an enlarged role for the United Nations in solving the conflict.  This stance is sadly entirely characteristic of Brazilian foreign policy over the last decade: abdicate responsibility and continue calling for multi-lateral solutions even when, as in this case, the time for UN-led negotiations has long since passed. Decepcionante…

What makes this decision all the more difficult to understand is that there is a significant number of senior political figures of Lebanese descent currently serving in the upper echelons of the Brazilian government who will no doubt be extremely familiar with the Syrian occupation of Lebanon that was in place for thirty years from 1976 to 2006.  Lebanese-Brazilians a enjoy significant influence of Brazil’s economic, cultural and political life – their ranks including Vice-President Michel Temer, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin and outgoing Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab.  Widespread protests by the influential Lebanese community could prove vital to forcing President Rousseff to change tack.

Last December I wrote an article for The Commentator expressing my outrage that Brazil had abstained from a vote on United Nations Security Council voted on Resolution 1973 ordering Muammar Gaddafi to call a ceasefire against opposition rebels and imposing a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya.  What was the Brazilian government’s solution to stop the carnage?  They issued a press release calling for “dialogue” between Gaddafi and the rebels.

In the piece, I argued that the Rousseff administration ought to refocus its approach to international relations in order to achieve a leadership role on human rights issues amongst countries in the new global democratic order.  In light of the country’s refusal to back the Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the barbaric Assad regime, I’d say the article is as relevant today as it was then:

Brazil’s long-held belief in a foreign policy which actively avoids military conflict in favour of diplomacy need not fundamentally change. What must change, however, is the country’s willingness to sacrifice its own passion for the defence of human rights and democracy in the pursuit of a high-minded yet spineless policy of non-interventionism at almost all costs.

An aversion to sending troops into combat need not result in a refusal to impose trade barriers, cut off Brazilian government aid or to back the international community in UN resolutions condemning tyranny.

President Rousseff must ask herself a simple question: does Brazil want to lead a new global democratic order or continue as a quisling state that stands idly by while the same hatreds and injustices that once plagued Brazil rage on its border and overseas?

You can take a look at the extended piece by clicking here.