Monday, 18 April 2016

What’s going on in Brazil? #05 - The Impeachment


Alright, so some of you might have seen us Brazilian screaming through the internet and sharing a few more memes than usual last night, and some of you may know why (an impeachment process voting starting), but I felt like, for the sake of everyone’s understanding (and because some of you asked me) I should try to detail last night and our Impeachment law for foreigners (and for all of us inside the country who are also kind of lost with all this new information). 

If you’re totally lost on Brazilian politics and the protests right now I’d recommend that you read my previous post on this explaining all that went down in march that kind of led to this and giving a bigger panorama of our politics, and  this article here that is quite on point. 

First of all, let’s understand the law in Brazil. By our latest constitution, a president can only be removed from office if involved in a serious crime (like, murder) or in a responsibility crime (defined as crimes specifically committed by people who hold high offices regarding their jobs, decisions, and how that influences the powers, the constitution, the finances of the state and so on). An Impeachment process might be filled by parties, organizations, etc, and has to be authorized by the President of the House of Representatives (basically the congress leader, 3rd in line for presidencial succession, in our case, Eduardo Cunha). Once authorized and voted by a especial commission, it follows to be voted in congress, and there the deputies have to decide if an official investigation and judgment will be opened, you need 2/3rds of the votes for that. If that happens, the process is taken up to the Senate where the senators will judge the case and decide if the process continues to the supreme court. They need 50% +1 of the votes for it to pass. If it happens, the president takes a leave of up to 180 days while the Supreme Courts president (Ricardo Lewandowsky) judges the case and again submit his input to the Senate, where it will be voted again - this time, it needs 2/3rds of the votes to be finished. That having happened, the president is officially off office and the vice-president (Michel Temer) (unless investigated as well, which is not the case now), takes over.

Whats is our president, Dilma Rousseff, accused of? It’s being called pedaladas fiscais, and it can be summoned basically by purposefully delaying payments to banks to make state’s finances look a little better and keep people investing.

Now, let’s take down the reasons this process is dubious and why the country has been divided in condemning her (and especially at why some people are referring to the process as an equivalent to a coup d’etat):

- The pedaladas have never been considered a responsibility crime. We know it was used in the last two presidents (Lula and FHC) governments, and in over a dozen Governors in office right now (none of which are being investigated or suffering consequences because of it). It could be a responsibility crime, but it seems a little too convenient to consider it just now, and just on her government. 

- The President of the House of Representatives, Eduardo Cunha, only declared himself as opposition to the government after investigations on him started happening, and he is the one that authorized the process to start. He currently faces charges for having hidden accounts in Switzerland (and therefore illegal money from bribes), but the judgment always seems to have been belated… He becomes vice-president if Rousseff falls. The current vice-president is also accused of being involved in corruption scandals for personal enrichment. Funnily enough, Rousseff is one of the only politicians who have not been accused of accepting bribes or embezzlement.

What happened yesterday?

The second step of the process was completed. Congress voted on whether it should follow to the Senate, and it passed. It was a little wild, though, and clearly demonstrated that our problem is far from being just the presidency. Besides the historical event that was congress working on a weekend (and on a Friday! and on a Thursday! wow! and people showed up! lots of people!!!! I’m serious, they tend to make every weekend a long weekend), there were some funny and some terrible situations, not to mention the suspicious ones. For starters, 80% of the investigated in the latest corruption scandal voted “yes”. A couple of weeks ago, when Cunha opened the process and submitted it to a especial commission, 35 out of the 38 people who voted in favor where being investigated. The deputies had about 10 seconds to give their votes, and they made the best of it by making maybe the weirdest short speeches the world has seen. Although my favorite of the night was one congresswoman who praised her husband in the fight for corruption as mayor and woke up the next morning to the news that said husband had been arrested for corruption, the most important point was watching investigated people thanking god and claiming to end corruption for “the future of their children and families”. Near to nobody used their 10 seconds to actually defend their opinions as to Rousseff’s guilt, which tells us a lot. One person stood and sadly put that she’d vote “yes” because her party demanded it.  Another important highlight was Jair Bolsonaro’s (PSC, very conservative person about whom i’ve spoken on the blog before) disgusting speech praising and thanking one of the biggest torturers of our dictatorship as “Dilma’s terror” (she was tortured) before voting yes. He later got spit on by another deputy, which was the cool part of the night

So now the process follows to the Senate, and it will likely pass, according to the latest pools. Now that you know what happened, my personal views:

Our problem, as demonstrated by everything that happened last night, lies deeper, and taking down a government that is allowing investigations to put up a president and a vice president very much involved in corruptions is not only far from ideal, but dangerous. While Rousseff might be guilty, and an eventual trial against her could be fair - this is not a defense to her clearly poor management (although you can’t Impeach a president for being bad at their job here) or to her actions - to think that we will rise above corruption once she is out, or to think that we can overthrown the rest of the corruption once Temer and Cunha hold office is, to say the very least, naive. Blindsided by hate and manipulated by big media outlets, Brazilians are on their way to miss the biggest opportunity to fight corruption we ever had: Rousseff’s government.

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