Brazil’s Senate voted on August 10, 2016 to hold an impeachment trial for the nation’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff, a process that could see her permanently removed from office. The vote in favor of trying Rousseff, who was suspended from the presidency in May, was 59 in favor, 21 against.
The Senate suspended Rousseff, the South American nation’s first female president, on May 12 over accusations of illegal accounting practices and fiddling the budget to mask a slumping economy.
Rousseff, 68, has likened the impeachment drive to a putsch by her political enemies.
The impeachment trial is set to open around August 25 – four days after the Olympics closing ceremony – and is expected to last five days, concluding with a Senate judgment vote.
David Miranda of Guardian wrote in April last that Corruption is just the pretext for a wealthy elite who failed to defeat Brazil’s president at the ballot box.
Citing the New York Times article of April 14, 2016, Miranda wrote: “60% of the 594 members of Brazil’s Congress” – the ones voting to impeach Rousseff – “face serious charges like bribery, electoral fraud, illegal deforestation, kidnapping and homicide”.
By contrast, said the article, Rousseff “is something of a rarity among Brazil’s major political figures: she has not been accused of stealing for herself”.
Simon Romero and Vinod Sreeharsha of The New York Times quoted Mario Sergio Conti, a columnist for the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo as saying: “She didn’t steal, but a gang of thieves is judging her.”
The New York Times provided detail of some of the corrupt Brazilian politicians who enjoy immunity because of their seat in Congress. The paper pointed out that the sweeping legal protections are enjoyed by about 700 senior officials, including cabinet ministers and every member of Congress.
Brazil’s corrupt politicians as named by the New York Times
– Eduardo Cunha, the powerful speaker of the lower house who is leading the impeachment effort, is going on trial at the country’s highest court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, on charges that he pocketed as much as $40 million in bribes. Mr. Cunha, an evangelical Christian radio commentator and economist who regularly issues Twitter messages quoting from the Bible, is accused of laundering the gains through an evangelical mega church.
– Vice President Michel Temer, who takes over when Ms. Rousseff was forced to step aside, has been accused of involvement in an illegal ethanol purchasing scheme.
– Renan Calheiros, the Senate leader, who is also on the presidential succession chain, is under investigation over claims that he received bribes in the giant scandal surrounding the national oil company, Petrobras. He has also been accused of tax evasion and of allowing a lobbyist to pay child support for a daughter from an extramarital affair.
– Ms. Rousseff’s opponents in Congress include Éder Mauro, who is facing charges of torture and extortion from his previous stint as a police officer in Belém, a crime weary city in the Amazon.
– Another congressman aiming to impeach Ms. Rousseff: Beto Mansur, who is charged with keeping 46 workers at his soybean farms in Goiás State in conditions so deplorable that investigators say the laborers were treated like modern day slaves.
– Paulo Maluf, 84, the former mayor who supports the president’s removal, spent weeks in jail a decade ago on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. But he was released under a law allowing people older than 70 to face such accusations at home. Then Maluf won a seat in Congress, giving him the privileged judicial standing that keeps nearly all senior Brazilian politicians with such privileges out of jail.
Despite Maluf’s claims in recent days that he could travel outside Brazil without being arrested, he remains wanted by Interpol for the case against him in the United States, according to the United States Justice Department. France also has an outstanding warrant for his arrest in a separate case involving organized money laundering.
– As tempers flare over impeachment, some cite the example of Ivo Cassol, a senator from the Amazon. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2013 by the Supreme Federal Tribunal on corruption charges related to contracts granted more than 15 years ago. Despite the ruling, Mr. Cassol remains in the Senate, keeping the high court’s decision at bay with appeals.
After so many Worker’s Party victories under heavy media bombardment, the political right in Brazil has realized that the popular vote is their greatest enemy, Joao Feres Jr, a professor of Political Secience at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, says adding:” So far they have succeeded in ousting Rousseff, thus cancelling the results of the 2014 presidential elections, a major deed. That is not enough, however. Now they are going to move on and try to maim Brazilian democracy in its structural elements.”
Noam Chomsky has described it a soft coup against Rousseff. He told the Democracy Now Radio: The elite detested the Workers’ Party and is using this opportunity to get rid of the party that won the elections. They’re not waiting for the elections, which they’d probably lose.
Pablo Vivanco, Director of teleSUR says, since 1998, numerous left-leaning governments have been elected to redistribute wealth and decision-making power. Not only has this led to inequality and poverty being slashed, but the political dynamics in those countries has shifted and the region has become more unified and independent. He says, the new strategy to stem the Pink Tide builds from the same objectives as those employed by the dictatorships of Pinochet, Videla and others: stop the left from being able to implement its program.
Rousseff’s impeachment is a blow against the BRICS
According to Eugene Bai, an expert in Latin America, the political drama in Brazil could result in the demise of the BRICS concept and troubles ahead for Russia’s economic relationship with its biggest trading partner in Latin America.
“The basis of all this are the political and economic interests of the Americans, who are not particularly pleased with what has been happening in Brazil over the last fifteen years, when the government was headed, and still is run, by Dilma Rousseff from the center-left Workers’ Party,” Vladimir Travkin, chief editor of Latin America magazine, was quoted by Eugene Bai as saying.
During the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama, Latin America was overshadowed by the Arab Spring, problems in Afghanistan and Ukraine, Travkin says. During that time, Brazil became an active member of the BRICS, and established long-term relationships, including economic and political ones, with Russia and China. The BRICS had become a new platform for discussions, which was an alternative to the current financial system based on the U.S. dollar. According Travkin, this seems to have caused great irritation in Washington.
In 2015, Rousseff paid a visit to the U.S., during which she was able to restart bilateral relations, significantly expanding mutual trade and cooperation in investment and infrastructure projects, Eugene Bai said adding: This trip alleviated the tensions between Brazil and the United States, which originated in 2013, when Rousseff had canceled a planned state visit to Washington after the U.S. intelligence agencies had been eavesdropping on her telephone conversations and reading her correspondence.
However, the political crisis in Brazil does not threaten only these projects, Bai says. It could turn into a strong blow against the BRICS, whose member states are also experiencing serious difficulties, due to the economic downturn in Brazil, as well as slowdowns in China and Russia.
The BRICS, an association of five major emerging national economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) was seen as one of the most promising global economic and trading unions a few years ago.
BRICS countries account for 46 percent of the world’s population – over 3 billion people, as of 2015 – making it the single largest bloc in terms of human capacity among global alliances. The scope of BRICS, combined with its increasing assertiveness as an economic power unto itself, has undoubtedly ruffled a few feathers in Washington and elsewhere in the West.
Eric Draitser of Mint Press argues that it should come as no surprise that major moves have been taken in the last 12 to 24 months to undermine each BRICS member nation and destabilize them through political and economic means. And it is no coincidence that those leaders shown smiling and shaking hands at recent BRICS summits are now either the targets of destabilization efforts and subversion – as in the cases of Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – or are a target of a military and political charm offensive, as in the case of India. In each case, the United States and its allies benefit significantly from the latest developments.
One of the U.S. empire’s tried and true methods of destabilizing a targeted country is through manufacturing and promoting political scandals and/or political movements that appear oppositional but whose interests, whether consciously or not, align with the ruling establishment in the West, Eric Draitser says adding: Both of these elements are at play in Brazil, which has been moving toward increased economic, and consequently political, independence in recent years.
In Brazil, the government of Dilma Rousseff is facing a major destabilization campaign orchestrated by powerful right-wing elements in the country and their U.S. backers. Under the always convenient banner of “anti-corruption,” millions have turned out in the streets to demand the ouster of the twice-elected Rousseff government on the heels of a series of revelations about alleged corruption pertaining to the quasi-state, quasi-private Petrobras oil company.
According to the allegations, a number of leading political figures, some of whom are connected to President Rousseff and the Workers’ Party, have skimmed at least 3 percent of the billions in oil revenue from Petrobras, illustrating the still active tradition of corruption in Brazil.
The latest target is former President Lula da Silva, who was forcibly removed from his home in an ostentatious show of force by law enforcement authorities meant to humiliate the 70-year-old founder of the Workers’ Party. Because of his working class background, the former president was seen as the hope and pride of the left in Brazil, and the public removal from his home earlier this month sparked the latest round of protests.
“In short, despite all the fancy anti-corruption rhetoric, the assault on Rousseff’s leftist government is the result of a coordinated campaign by business interests tied to the U.S. Washington and Wall Street that see in Brazil a dangerous precedent in which a left-wing government sympathetic to and allied with Bolivarian movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and until recently, Argentina, was able to gain power and preside over an economic boom,” Eric Draitser concludes.
El Salvador refuses to recognize
President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador announced on May 14 that his government would not recognize the government of Senate-imposed president Michel Temer in Brazil.
El Salvador is only the latest government to speak out against the parliamentary coup in Brazil. Other countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela have criticized Rousseff’s ouster, with the latter officially withdrawing its ambassador in protest as well.
Both the Union of South American Nations, known as UNASUR, and the Organization of American States have spoken out against the decision by the Brazil’s Congress to remove Rousseff from her post.
While the new government faced increasing isolation in Latin America, only Argentina’s Mauricio Macri publicly stating his support.