Brazil: Democracy overturned as Dilma ousted

August 31, 2016

Brazil's de facto president Michel Temer was sworn in on August 31, after the country's Senate voted to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff.

Many international critics have described the trial of Rousseff, who was re-elected president for the Workers' Party (PT) in 2014, as a farce and a parliamentary coup.

So sure ahead of time that Rousseff would be impeached, Temer had scheduled an address to the nation and meetings with officials.

In May, Rousseff was temporarily suspended from office while the Senate carried out an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement. The allegations involve a budgetary technicality over a measure used by various governments, rather than corruption.

On the other hand, Temer, a member of the right-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement Party who had served as Rousseff's vice-president, has been implicated in major corruption allegations, including bribery. He has been banned from standing for office for eight years.

Protests by Brazil's social movements and popular sectors have opposed the coup. At the Rio Olympic Games last month, Temer was booed and security was busy ejecting the many attendees of the Games with “Fora Temer” (Temer out) placards.

The Senate voted 61 to 20 in favour of Rousseff's ousting, installing Temer in office until the 2018 election. There were no abstentions among the 81 Senators, who easily passed the two-thirds majority threshold needed to confirm the impeachment.

In a separate vote on whether or not to ban Rousseff from office for the next eight years, Senators voted 42 in favour and 36 against, with three abstentions — falling short of the threshold required to pass.

In the immediate lead-up to the vote, Supreme Court President Ricardo Lewandowski ruled to separate the vote on whether to impeach Rousseff from a vote on whether to suspend her “political rights” to hold any public office. Lewandowski announced the decision after the PT requested the votes be split.

Speaking from the Presidential Palace after the final decision, Rousseff reiterated her innocence in the face of what she said were baseless charges. She vowed not to give up the political struggle against poverty and inequality.

“I will fight tirelessly for a better Brazil,” she said, thanking her supporters, particularly Brazilian women, for their support during the impeachment process that she slammed as a discriminatory and misogynistic coup. “We will be back. We will come back to continue our journey towards a Brazil in which the people are sovereign.”

“I wouldn't want to be in the place of those who think they're the winners,” she continued. "History will be relentless with them.”

Rousseff is charged with spending money without congressional approval and using an accounting sleight of hand to make the government's budget appear better than it was ahead of her 2014 re-election. The technique has been used by many previous presidents. Critics of the impeachment say it is not an impeachable offense as defined in the constitution.

Opponents of the coup point out that many of the lawmakers who have ousted Rousseff are implicated in corruption cases far more serious than accounting tricks. Public interest group Tranparencia Brasil said 60% of the 594 members of the Congress face major criminal charges — ranging from corruption to electoral fraud.

Rousseff and her supporters have, from the start, called her ouster a coup. Social movements, trade unions, campesinos, youth, Afro-Brazilian and youth groups have erupted in huge street protests across the country to support democracy.

The largest country in South America with a population of nearly 200 million, Brazil only rid itself of a military dictatorship 31 years ago.

“We are 54 million Dilmas,” read signs at many of the protests, referring to the number of votes Brazil's first woman president won in 2014.

Rousseff's dismissal consolidates a political shift to the right and ends 13 years of left-leaning PT rule that helped lift about 30 million Brazilians out of poverty through social programs and other measures.

In testimony to the Senate on August 29, the 68-year-old former guerrilla and political prisoner said the impeachment process was aimed at protecting the interests of the economic elite. She comparing the trial to her persecution under Brazil's military dictatorship, when she suffered tortured.

A recent poll by Datafolha found that 60% of Brazilians wanted a snap presidential election if Rousseff was removed. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2018. Recent polls have repeatedly shown that Rousseff's PT predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the favoured candidate in the next election.

In the months since he was temporarily installed as president, Temer has rolled back many of the social programs aimed at lifting marginalised communities out of poverty. Food subsidies, health care measures and education policies have been overturned. Temer has promised more austerity measures.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.