Brazil’s President Faces Impeachment

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According to Professor Saad-Filho, President Rousseff is facing a coup in the form of an impeachment process and her chances of surviving it are not good

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Story Transcript

GREGORY WILPERT, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilbert coming to you from Quito, Ecuador.

Brazilian politics keep making the headlines. Following weeks of revelations about bribery and money laundering among the country’s most important politicians, the opposition in Brazil has now launched an impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff. This is a new headache for Rousseff who is also facing an economy in recession, a major outbreak of the disease known as Zika and almost daily revelations in the Lava Jato case our car wash corruption scandal that is embroiling practically the entire political class of Brazil.

With us today to talk about the latest developments in the Brazilian saga is professor Alfredo Saad Fiho. Who teaches Development Economics at London University and is the author of The Political Economy of Brazil. Just a few days ago Professor Saad Filho published an article in Jacobin Magazine replaces the recent developments in Brazil in a larger context of Brazilian politics. Thanks for joining us Alfredo.

ALFREDO SAAD FILHO: Thank you Greg.

WILPERT: So let’s start with the most recent news coming from Brazil which has to do with the impeachment process. First of all just give us a quick explanation as to who is leading this impeachment process and how would it work? What are its chances of succeeding?

SAAD FILHO: Impeachment is a constitutional political tool that can be used against presidents who commit particular crimes. These crimes are specified in the constitution. It is a process that goes through both houses of congress in Brazil. Back in 1992 President Fernando Collor was going to be impeached. It was an imminent process but he resigned first because of corruption. So this is already, in the case of Brazil, a tried and tested procedure. In the case of President Rousseff she’s accused of having violated state finance law with excess spending a couple of years ago. This is the accusation that is leading to this process at this point in time.

WILPERT: Do you think that it has any chance to succeeding? It seems to be a rather complicated process where they need to get 2/3 of the vote of the lower house of the Congress. Is there any chance of actually getting this 2/3 vote?

SAAD FILHO: Oh yes there is. Because the accusation against the President is both banal and absurd. It is not like President Rousseff stole any money. No one has ever suggested that. It is not like President Rousseff even moved money around in the state budget. What the public sector did was to borrow from banks in order to pay a public commitment particularly for socially transfers. And the banks were refunded later on. This was a budgetary maneuver that private funds do all the time when the end of the fiscal year is coming and they want to show better figures. This is the entirety of what happened. What is happening in the Brazilian Congress however, is a deliberate political attempt by a coalition of the center right to try to remove a President who they dislike and this is absolutely transparent in the political debates in Brazil. But it may succeed because Dilma Rousseff is very heavily isolated politically at this moment in time.

WILPERT: Yes, it seems like one of the reasons of course for the isolation is this ongoing scandal about the corruption investigation. How would you assess the seriousness of that? Is what judge Moro who’s leading this investigation, what is doing good or bad for Brazil? He implicated now Dilma Rousseff herself, of course Lula de Silva has been now implicated and led into many many other people who are close to both of them. Is this a contribution towards a coup or is Moro putting himself above the fray and the opposition taking advantage of the situation?

SAAD FILHO: The Lava Jato investigation started about 2 years ago and it evolved. Started very very small, and it it evolved into a massive scandal of corruption around the state owned oil company Petrobras. 3 Directors of Petrobras who have been in the company for the past 20 years or so accused of having stolen and reallocated money to themselves, to their friends, and to a whole host of political parties in Brazil; amounts in the billions of dollars having moved from the state oil company. It is a gigantic scandal. One of the biggest corruption scandals to come to light in Brazil. Judge Moro has investigated this scandal and it has already found several hundred prominent politicians and businessmen. Is this the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil? No it is not. But it is a corruption scandal that has been used politically by Judge Moro himself and by this center right political alliance that I mentioned before. The political use against the PT and President Rousseff is blatant accusations involving the PT are being investigated. Accusations involved the other political parties are not being investigated. Everything is being torn to articulate a situation where the President loses legitimacy and the PT loses, Worker’s Party that supports the President, loses political support and the President is impeached. But the problem is not the investigation itself. This is not the priority. The priority is to isolate the President and if possible isolate Lula, the previous President, and put him in jail.

WILPERT: You described this also in your article in being perhaps a coup. Can you explain that a little bit more? In what sense is it a coup? And what factor that you might want to introduce that you mentioned also is the role of the media? It sounds to me in some way reminiscent perhaps and I don’t know if you want to make this comparison, to the situation in Paraguay where the President was impeached also under very spurious circumstances.

SAAD FILHO: This is a coup because the list of crimes, political crimes to the President can be impeached in Brazil does not apply to President Rousseff. He has not violated the constitution. This is absolutely clear. It is a coup because there is a deliberate attempt by the right wing competition who lost the elections in 2014. They rejected those elections and they’ve been trying since then to overthrow the President. They’ve tried several legal and not so legal avenues to do that and now they’ve latched on to this impeachment process. There is at the same time as you mentioned correctly, enormous pressure from the mainstream media in Brazil. The mainstream media in Brazil is very very strong, extremely heavily concentrated and it is totally in opposition to the [ ]. It’s been in opposition to the [ ] for a decade. Now they have found their hero in the figure of Judge Moro and the media has been pushing forward the investigation being led by Judge Moro, against the PT, against the President. It is a completely unbalanced and unfair political process. It has a lot in common with what happened in Paraguay in 2012, President Lugo was impeached in a process. Went through the Supreme Court with no right of defense and no meaningful political debate. This is the attempt in Brazil except that the political system in Brazil is very heavily fragmented and there are very important social forces defending the President and there are very important social forces against the President and seeking to overthrow. So the political deadlock in Brazil is very very severe, very serious and it unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

WILPERT: Well that was actually going to be my next and last question. What is the way out? You say it’s not going to be resolved anytime soon but what do you think is going to be the most likely scenario for the future of the PT government and Dilma and considering also Lula’s future is involved in this as well?

SAAD FILHO: I think there’s a strong likelihood that the President will be either impeached or forced to resign. President Rousseff is very isolated. The PT, her party, does not function anymore in Congress as a real political party, with a leadership that could command respect and support. The support the President has received outside of Congress is still strong but it is patchy, partly because of the media pressure. Now the President may be impeached or may be overthrown in other ways or forced to resign. Lula who is the most important political figure in the PT may be put in jail for any number of allegations that have been made against him. But this in itself may terminate the government’s outward PT. But will not create a social peace, social consensus, social concord in Brazil. The coup will be seen as a coup and it will be supported by the media of course. It will be supported by the upper middle classes. It will be supported by a large section of the Brazilian elite. But it will be contested at other levels of society. So in this sense, it is likely that political discord will continue to exist in Brazil for a significant period of time.

WILPERT: Well we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on these developments and we’ll get back to you for further analysis. So thanks so much again for giving us your take on the situation in Brazil, Alfredo.

SAAD FILHO: Thank you very much.

WILPERT: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.

End

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