What’s going on in Brazil?

Brazil is a major player in the global economy. There is a great deal of political turmoil going on there right now with the president under impeachment proceedings. The US media is reporting on it as a corruption story, that the current president and her party are corrupt and that this move is a cleansing operation. But Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, says that while corruption is undoubtedly there, behind the scenes it is being used to remove a government that is supportive of the poor with one that the oligarchy wants in power.

It’s not easy for outsiders to sort through all the competing claims about Brazil’s political crisis and the ongoing effort to oust its president, Dilma Rousseff, who won re-election a mere 18 months ago with 54 million votes. But the most important means for understanding the truly anti-democratic nature of what’s taking place is to look at the person whom Brazilian oligarchs and their media organs are trying to install as president: the corruption-tainted, deeply unpopular, oligarch-serving Vice President Michel Temer (above). Doing so shines a bright light on what’s really going on, and why the world should be deeply disturbed.

So to summarize: Brazilian financial and media elites are pretending that corruption is the reason for removing the twice-elected president of the country as they conspire to install and empower the country’s most corrupted political figures. Brazilian oligarchs will have succeeded in removing from power a moderately left-wing government that won four straight elections in the name of representing the country’s poor, and are literally handing control over the Brazilian economy (the world’s seventh largest) to Goldman Sachs and bank industry lobbyists.

This fraud being perpetrated here is as blatant as it is devastating. But it’s the same pattern that has been repeatedly seen around the world, particularly in Latin America, when a tiny elite wage a self-protective, self-serving war on the fundamentals of democracy. Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been an inspiring example of how a young democracy can mature and thrive. But now, those democratic institutions and principles are being fully assaulted by the very same financial and media factions that suppressed democracy and imposed tyranny in that country for decades.

You should read the whole thing.


  1. fozollie says

    I also live in Brazil and the situation isn’t quite as simple as Glenn Greenwald would like to think.
    Undoubtedly this is a power-grab by opposition politicians and though the impeachment grounds might be legally shaky, the president did have her 2014 accounts rejected repeatedly by the TCU (the national auditor) for being illegal. The impeachment is following constitutional processes though it is the case that they are prosecuting a fiscal “crime” now that has been commonplace for decades without prior prosecution.
    After 13 years in power the PT (Worker’s Party -- Dilma the president’s party) has led the country into a serious recession and can have only themselves to blame for enriching themselves during the times of growth and not funding the infrastructure needed to survive times of shrinking. To avoid impeachment Dilma had only get the support of a third of congress not to be impeached and a president who cannot muster that many supporters in congress cannot govern. It is also true that she campaigned and won re-election on a platform to not impose austerity measures and immediately after winning did a massive u-turn and imposed them. This has seen her popularity drop to as little as 8% in polls.
    Supporters of Dilma like to say that 54 million voted for her, well many more millions voted for the congress that voted to proceed with impeachment.
    Equally Dilma is probably the least corrupt and most honest politician currently in power (though I won’t say the same for members of her party) and there is an ugly stench of misogynist machismo in the impeachment process. Also as the OP says the PT (Worker’s Party) probably out of all the parties do the most for the poor and underprivileged in society (although they have also overseen a massive increase in the prison population -- as in the US disproportionately incarcerating blacks).
    Perhaps only the communist party has better left credentials. The best, most decent town councillor in our town is from the communist party and I would vote for them over any other.
    So it is a big old mess and is not going to get resolved by an impeachment. If Temer (vice-president and potential successor) isn’t himself impeached immediately after Dilma, and Cunha (speaker of the house) after him, there is still a good chance that the PT will be voted back in 2018 because of the sense of injustice that this impeachment is rousing in various segments of society.
    Anyway come and visit if you have a chance -- I thoroughly recommend coming to Foz do Iguaçu and seeing the Iguaçu Falls if you have the chance.

  2. abear says

    Greenwald’s defense of socialist corruption: let’s just ignore it because the capitalists are corrupt too.
    More evidence that he is a propagandist and not a journalist.

  3. pjabardo says

    The situation is complicated and there are several issues. First of all, the popularity fozollie mentions is really meaningless. Just to get a sense of that, in May 2013, Dilma had an approval rating of 60-70%. A couple of months later, in August, this number fell to 20-30%. What happened in between? A few protests triggered by police brutality (against peaceful protesters) in a state governed by an opposition party, grew to represent the frustration that everyone feels -- against all politicians.

    But she still got reelected in late 2014. Why? Not very different from what happens in the US: the alternative was much worse (in every sense). The presidential race gets a lot of coverage there is a campaign that everyone sees, the media covers it and even if the quality is very low there is some sort of debate where at least some issues get discussed. On the other hand I have no idea how most congressmen (they are mostly men, only 11% are women) get elected. There is a main difference in relation to the US because elections are proportional. You can vote for any candidate in your state. There are no districts. The leading party controls less than 15% of congress. PT (labour party) has a little less. To get anything done, coalitions are necessary and in Brazil this means selling out posts in government. When PT took the presidency in 2003 they could have changed this or at least tried. It is plausible that if they had tried to change this a coup would have happened. But they continued to do politics as usual and after a couple of years (or a couple of months) they were just another party.

    In this situation, corruption continued as usual. But there is one difference: for the first time the government had opposition from the media. And corruption cases that had always been ignored came to light. And by the way, only politicians from PT get punished (someone else might have been punished). You guys complain about main stream media in the US? You have it great! I would dream to have your media here. Just to get an idea, the largest media conglomerate, actually an empire, is Globo. They control almost half of TV stations, a large share of radio and printed media. They grew out of an important newspaper during the last military dictatorship. They served the torturers well and were handsomely paid. Our largest print newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, which calls itself progressive, during the military dictatorship used to provide transportation to paramilitary death squads in the 70s. About 10 years ago, this “progressive” newspaper called the dictatorship “dictatorsoft”, in portuguese dictatorship is ditadura and dura means hard so they called it “ditabranda” (as in soft) just because more people died in Argentina. They are plutocrats, of the Latin American type. They haven’t changed or improved much in the last 30 years.

    With her popularity low, Dilma turned left to get reelected. But as usual, after the elections, she did what the opposition was demanding: austerity measures and put a banker to head the treasury. What was a tricky situation with the economy in bad shape but with very low unemployment became a disgrace. Has austerity ever worked anywhere? Add to that the courts (first instance by the way), in the name of fighting corruption, stopping most of the largest companies in the country from doing any work for more than a year. And don’t forget the drop in prices of commodities. You have the perfect storm.

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