In defence of democracy in Brazil

File 16-05-16 00 10 35EFAy is concerned over the recent events in Brazil, where democratically-elected President Dilma Rousseff has been ousted from office, by means of a controversial parliamentary impeachment. In front of these events, EFAy condemns the undemocratic means by which this process has been carried out, and calls for the reinstitution of elected President Ms. Rousseff, ousted by what seems another right-wing driven coup in Latin American politics.

Since the early 2010s, Brazil entered into an economic slowdown which started to hit the middle-class, which had significantly grown under Lula’s and Dilma’s governments. Protests arose previous to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the presidential elections in October were seen by many as the opportunity of the opposition to take power after 12 years of PT rule in Brazil. However, Dilma won against all odds by a 2% margin. It was the closest presidential election result since 1989, but nevertheless, it was a democratic mandate.

The election results left the right-wing opposition unhappy, and all the establishment media saw a chance to start a campaign claiming the “destabilisation” that the re-election of Dilma had brought. Ironically the main source of this destabilisation was the media itself.

Many opposition supporters came out to the streets, to protest over alleged corruption under Lula’s and Dilma’s administrations. The point, disgracefully, is that, while corruption in Brazil is extended all over the political spectrum, protests where only focused on an alleged role that Dilma would had played in the “Petrobras” corruption network. No major protests were held to protest over corruption on the opposition benches; while more than 60% of Senators in Brazil (both from the government and opposition) are currently being investigated over corruption allegations.

The turning point was early 2016, when the opposition filed an impeachment on Ms. Rousseff to be voted by the Brazilian Congress. While all the protests and media attention where focused on the “Petrobras” corruption scandal, Dilma Rousseff was accused of violating the “Fiscal Responsibility Law”, as she had ordered the National Bank to put forward the payments of the “Bolsa Familia” social care system (a system which managed to reduce poverty rate by 75% since 2001). Therefore, Dilma Rousseff was actually accused of committing a minor penalty, but treated as if her impeachment was related to her “alleged responsibility” in the “Petrobras” scandal. By March, Rousseff’s possibilities of overcoming the impeachment were over, as her government partners PMDB and its leader – the then-vice-president Michel Temer – decided to support the impeachment and let the government fall; effectively upgrading party leader Mr. Temer to acting President.

One may like or dislike Dilma Rousseff’s policies while president, but popular sovereignty and democratic rule must always be respected. Dilma won the 2014 presidential election, and therefore, she has the constitutional mandate to rule until 2018. The current accusation for the impeachment is not only childish, but actually quite common throughout the world – it is a reprehensible policy, but certainly not as severely as for the president to be impeached and ousted.

Finally, this impeachment has to be seen within its regional context: Latin America, where only in the last decades several democratically elected presidents have been ousted by right-wing (and often American-backed) political forces. Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012, or Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009 were successfully toppled and Hugo Chavez in 2002 and Rafael Correa in 2010 where threatened by unsuccessful coups.

Once again, a Latin American democratically elected government is ousted from office through unclear means and with flawed accusations; therefore, EFAy stands with Dilma Rousseff government, not just because of her particular policies, but rather because she still is the democratically elected President of Brazil. We must not allow another right-wing “parliamentary coup”, which undermines democracy in Latin America. Dilma must be restored to power, and the opposition must wait until the next general election. That is how democracy works.

Adrián Fuentes / Vice-president for International Affairs

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