Endemic Corruption and Political Turmoil in Brazil
By Christina Bartzokis
Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s embattled Workers’ Party (PT) president, faces a crippled economy, plummeting approval ratings, and now the credible threat of impeachment. A majority vote for her impeachment in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazil’s lower house of Congress, means that impeachment proceedings will move forward into the Senate later this month. The basis for her impeachment is the accusation of hiding the budget deficit prior to her 2014 reelection campaign, a “crime of responsibility” and the most serious presidential offense under Brazil’s constitution. Rousseff also faces condemnation in the court of public opinion: only 8% of Brazilians approve of her presidency, and she is blamed for Brazil’s economic recession and rampant corruption.
However, Rousseff’s supporters have called the impeachment movement a “coup.” They alledge that Rousseff’s opponents in Congress are attempting to leverage her political vulnerability to create a public spectacle that will overshadow their own corruption. In fact, 60% of the 594 members of Congress are under investigation for criminal offences, including bribery, electoral fraud, and even kidnapping and homicide. Transparency Brazil, a corruption-monitoring group, noted that Rousseff’s greatest critics are members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which has been plagued by the highest number of corruption investigations of any party. For example, House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, the PMDB member leading the impeachment campaign, is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes as part of a corruption scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras.
Many Brazilians thus fear that Rousseff’s trial will obscure necessary and sweeping political reforms. Rousseff has echoed those concerns, and vowed to fight in the courts if her impeachment passes the Senate. Only time will tell whether the public rejection of corruption will be appeased by Rousseff’s martyrdom, or if a continuing demand for reform will see her accusers ousted from power as well.
Christina Bartzokis is a junior Global Affairs major in Jonathan Edwards college. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.