Professor of Media Studies Joao Feres Jr. says a recent report exonerates Rousseff but the constitutional procedure will likely be used to remove her from office anyway.
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The 2016 Summer Olympics may be just around the corner in Rio. They are to take place between August 5-21. There is also growing unrest in Brazil about the state of the economy, labor, and the continuing saga of the interim government plagued by corruption. The suspended president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process is still underway, in spite of the fact that the Senate committee report responsible for her impeachment says that there are no indication of direct or indirect action by a former president as far as budgetary maneuvers are concerned. With us to provide an update on the latest developments in Brazil is Professor Joao Feres, Jr. He is a political science professor at the state university of Rio de Janeiro, where he also heads the Laboratory for Media and the Public Sphere Studies. Thank you so much for joining us, Joao. JOAO FERES, JR.: Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here with you again. PERIES: So Joao, let’s begin with the case against the suspended president, Dilma Rousseff. What is happening to the case against her, and will she be restored as president? FERES: Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s kind of hard to understand. Because on the one hand, the impeachment process has a constitutional basis. What happens is that in the end, the first, you know, the representatives of the chamber, the lower chamber, voted on it, and then it went to the Senate. And in neither stage of the process–actually, you know, they are obliged to comply to the quality of evidence that’s being presented, or anything of that sort, or the quality of the arguments of the accusation. So they can’t, you know, they voted based on their political interest. And there is a majoritarian veto coalition against PT. So you know, it passed the chamber of deputies, went to the senate, was accepted by the senate, and then there is this procedure of investigations in the senate where the parts also present their reasons and their argument, and then it’s going to come down to a vote in early August. And she was exempted from the crimes she was accused for by the investigation. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the senators will consider that in their vote, and the likelihood is that she will be impeached. So it’s going to, it’s basically a political ploy, [inaud.] disguised as a constitutional procedure. PERIES: And when will this vote take place? Will it happen before the Olympics? FERES: I think right at the beginning of the Olympics, I think scheduled for the 6th of August. It might be, you know, the state might change, but–might be postponed or not–but it’s going to be at the beginning. PERIES: Nevertheless, Michel Temer’s government is also plagued with corruption scandal after corruption scandal. Will it survive its interim status here? FERES: It’s a good question. I mean, if Dilma is impeached he will become the lawful president of Brazil. But since the beginning, his government has been plagued with corruption. As a matter of fact, one of his, the main articulators of this coup against Dilma, who became a minister of Temer’s cabinet, was actually caught on tape saying that, you know, the whole impeachment had a purpose of stopping the corruption investigations, in which he and a number of other prominent figures in the Temer government were involved. So, you know, this was a big scandal, but–this guy resigned eventually, but many others that were accused of corruption are still in the government. PERIES: Now, the public is very aware of this, and the Michel Temer government currently has about 13 percent approval rate, according to a poll that was done on July 1. Are they going to be able to legitimately carry on? FERES: That’s a very good question. But you see, you know, Brazil has been a stable democracy for decades now. So you know, the public is very important in an electoral context. Other than that, I mean, I think that parliamentary politics and party politics becomes more important. Unless the public goes to, you know, systematically and massively goes to the streets protesting against the government, nothing is going to happen. PERIES: And speaking of protests, there has been quite a bit of protest recently leading up to the Olympics. In particular, people are protesting the kinds of money that’s spent on the Olympics while there’s serious austerity measures going on in the country, and the police [itself], I understand, in Rio de Janeiro, is protesting as people are getting off the plane in preparation for the upcoming Olympics. FERES: Well, I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, if you see the regular–in the regular course of Brazilian democracy there is always protests, so that’s normal. So I don’t think the level of protest is either, you know, frequent or massive in order to characterize a change of patterns. So I don’t think there is a lot of protest against Temer in the streets, as one could expect, by his lack of legitimacy. You know what I’m saying? As, also, there wasn’t massive protests against Dilma. There was one or two that were very organized by a couple of groups and with strong support of the media. But other than that, you know, people were not in the streets asking for her to resign, either. So you know, there hasn’t been massive public, you know, protests in Brazil since 2013. That’s the truth of the matter. PERIES: Now, Dilma Rousseff has said, particularly after the report came out, that if she’s restored as the president, and then soon after that she will hold elections, and she suggested that the president, former president Lula, might be standing for elections, will that come about? FERES: Well, you know, there is a probability that the impeachment case won’t pass the senate. Yes, it’s not very probable. Small probability, I think. Because the number of senators she needs in order to stop it is very, I mean, it’s like, two or three. So if she manages to turn two, I think three, votes, she will block the whole process and come back to power, be restored in power. And she has talked about new elections, definitely, and Lula, too. But you have to see that in order for that to happen, they must pass a constitutional amendment in the senate, in the congress. And that will demand some negotiation with the representatives and senators, so it’s not something that you can just decree, you know what I’m saying? And I’m not so sure what would be the consequences of an election right now. I mean, if you ask me, I would prefer to have the elections in the due date which is in 2018. PERIES: Now, when Lula left his office, he was the most popular president the country had ever seen, somewhere in the high 80s in terms of approval ratings. Do you think that this would be an option for Brazilians once again? FERES: Well, I think that Lula is the strongest politician now available to run for presidency, definitely. I mean, he’s still very popular, and he’s always, you know, a force to be counted with. The problem is that, you know, there is a lot of people trying to beat him from running. So you know, the judges of the [inaud.] to investigation are, you know, they’re bound on [arresting] him. And also the prosecutors, too. They are very politicized and politically motivated. And you now, they’ve been like that since the beginning of the investigations. I think they haven’t arrested him now, or you know, because they can’t–you know, a judge can’t order the arrest of anybody they think–. PERIES: I also want to know–I think the judges received a 41 percent pay hike this month, which is an interesting move on the part of [inaud.]. FERES: It was scandalous. It was scandalous. During the impeachment process, in which the Supreme Court of Brazil was actually presiding the process. The president of the Supreme Court went to talk to Dilma, who was about to be, you know, removed from power, in order to negotiate this hike in their, in the overall salaries of the judiciary system, which is the power, the branch of the Brazilian government that has the highest salaries already. So it’s really scandalous. It’s really something unbelievable. PERIES: Professor Joao Feres, thank you so much for joining us today. FERES: Okay, thank you for having me. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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