Dilma Rousseff has to leave the Brazilian presidency. A Senate majority vote of 61 to 20, no abstentions, ousted her under the accusation that she “used illegal means to hide holes in the federal budget, exacerbated a recession and high inflation.” The impeachment procedure established under Brazilian law ended with her second term as president.
Another vote to ban Rousseff to participate in elections and be elected was defeated, so if she wants she could be a candidate in 2019.
Michel Temer, acting president during the time the impeachment has lasted, became the formal Brazilian president on Aug. 31, and his term will end on Jan. 1, 2019.
Rousseff, who was imprisoned during the country’s dictatorship in the 1960s, said she broke no laws, and argued that she was forced to make tough choices on the budget in the face of declining revenues, and accused that her problem was the refusal by opponents in Congress to work with her.
Rousseff had sharp words on Monday for her former vice president, Temer, who took over when she was suspended and will finish the term as president. She called him a “usurper” and “racist.” Temer, whose family is from Christian Lebanese origin, is trying to face the very difficult economic situation Brazil is going through with high rates of unemployment and inflation.
A large number of members of Congress and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have been implicated in a number of corruption scandals. It is another front that Temer has to face. Watchdog groups estimate 60 percent of the 594 lawmakers in both chambers are being investigated for wrongdoing, many for corruption.
Rousseff and her predecessor Lula Da Silva ruled Brazil for more than a decade. Together with former Presidents Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina; Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; Rafael Correa in Ecuador; Evo Morales in Bolivia; the Castros´ in Cuba; and Jose Mujica in Uruguay (2005-2010), there was created a wide net of populist governments, which engaged with Iran and utterly anti-Israel and anti-American.
Today the political map has changed. Argentina voted for another type of ruling when they elected Mauricio Macri last year; Rousseff has been ousted by impeachment; Venezuela is economically and politically ruined; Cuba is trying to approach the United States and Uruguay changed in last year´s election for a most moderate leftist like Tabare Vazquez for president.
These changes have created a serious political division in the region.
Presidents like Temer, Macri, Horacio Cartes (Paraguay) have joined the new President of Peru Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia to face and reject the violent populism of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
With regard to Israel, it once again has democratic governments in Latin America with which to deal, to conduct business and to receive proper designation as the only democratic country in the Middle East.
The immediate future of Brazil is still uncertain. The economic crisis is the most important challenge that Temer has to face. If Brazil gets some improvements in its economy, the region will feel relieved and democracy will have a better chance to be sustainable.
Populist Presidents like Maduro and Morales have accused the Brazilian Congress of attempting a coup against Rousseff. That is absurd, legally speaking, because impeachment is a procedure established in the Brazilian constitution, and there has been no shadow of any coup. On the other hand, the confrontation between democracies and populists will go deeper, so not only the political relations will suffer, but the economic links too.
This is “the framework of uncertainty” for the immediate future in Brazil and its neighbors. Time is of the essence, so we will have to wait no less than until the end of the year to watch if Brazil can recover, and if the dangerous instability in Venezuela does not create another regional unrest.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
It is not the best for any democracy to impeach a president who has been elected by the book. But there is no doubt that the impeachment process that Brazil has started, which is going to take six months, is according to the constitutional law of Brazil.
The rhetoric of an “institutional coup” comes from populist leaders of the region who believe any politics are above the law and the constitution.
When Dilma Rousseff says “I never imagined that it would be necessary to fight once again against a coup in this country,” she is inciting to unrest, something that also populist rulers have used very frequently in the last decade.
Corruption brought political and economic distress, and corruption has dragged Brazil to the current situation.
Since the calls began many months ago, millions have rallied in the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio and other major cities to demand Rousseff’s impeachment. Responding to this social unrest, Rousseff compared the attempts to impeach her over corruption to the Nazi persecution of Jews. Mauro Wainstock, editor of Alef News, Rio’s Jewish newspaper, wrote of the statement, “Comparing peaceful democratic rallies to the Nazi genocidal machine is an unfortunate and ridiculously absurd insult to all the victims and their families.” The cavalier use of the Nazi regime as a point of comparison serves to desensitize the public to the unique horrors of the Holocaust. Brazil deserves better.
The weakness of the impeachment as a political move is that the charges are limited to budget technicalities instead of the Petrobras scandal and investigation of this state-owned oil company, which is tainting almost the entire political class.
It is a time of uncertainty, not only for Brazil, but for all South America.
The Brazilian situation produces a great damage to South America as a whole. Brazil is the giant, the largest territory, the largest population, the largest production. South America needs a strong and prestigious Brazil, otherwise MERCOSUR will be paralyzed and the rest of the countries will suffer.
Brazilian Foreign Policy in the last decade since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came first to power has supported leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; Cristina Kirchner in Argentina; Raul Castro in Cuba; Rafael Correa in Ecuador; and Evo Morales in Bolivia. And beyond the region, Brazil started the relationship with the Arab League, with Iran and the ongoing criticism to Israel in every U.N. agency, in MERCOSUR, in OAS.
It was Brazil that rejected months ago the appointment of Danny Dayan as Israeli ambassador in a very uncommon diplomatic act of contempt against Israel sovereignty.
It is very uncertain if Brazil will make any changes in its foreign policies in the next six months while Rousseff is suspended. Michel Temer is the interim president, and Jose Serra a center right politician who has been governor of Sao Pablo and senator will be the foreign minister.
At least, we can hope that the policies vis a vis the Middle East will be warmer with Israel and should be critical with terrorism and states sponsoring terrorism.
Argentina immediately recognized the interim president. Uruguay has said that it will keep working side by side with the “Brazilian Government.” Chile has underlined that “there is concern before the situation in Brazil, but we hope that the democratic institutions prevail.” Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, will work with Temer too.
Venezuela, which is suffering the worst economic crisis ever known in that country, and is under a very serious political unrest, “supports” Dilma Rousseff. Ecuador and Bolivia are still cautious
In 60 days we will know if Interim President Temer has been able to start recovering the Brazilian economy and then the political stability.
In 60 days we will know if Interim President Temer and his ministers have been able to show a different face in international affairs, getting closer to democracies and putting aside populist governments that have brought pain and misery to the region.
And in a short time, Rousseff will have to show if her party and herself are able to recover and face the impeachment with a strength they do not have today.
It is a time of uncertainty, not only for Brazil, but for all South America.
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