Im­peach­ing Dilma Rouss­eff could be detri­men­tal to Brazil’s democ­racy

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY LAURA BONILLA CAL

Brazil­ians clam­or­ing for Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff’s over­throw should think twice, an­a­lysts say, warn­ing that the trauma of im­peach­ment could un­der­mine 20 years of build­ing democ­racy in the Latin Amer­i­can gi­ant.

The depth of anger against Rouss­eff was un­de­ni­able Sun­day when al­most a mil­lion peo­ple poured into the streets across Brazil chant­ing “Dilma out!”

There are many rea­sons why Rouss­eff, 67, be­came so un­pop­u­lar less than a year into her sec­ond term.

The econ­omy

is ex­pected

to re­main in its 2015 re­ces­sion through 2016, in­fla­tion is close to 10 per­cent, and the real has lost a quar­ter of its value against the dol­lar.

In re­sponse, Rouss­eff has en­acted aus­ter­ity mea­sures, but that has left her left­ist po­lit­i­cal base feel­ing be­trayed.

At the same time, the sprawl­ing graft scan­dal cen­tered on state oil com­pany Petro­bras has dragged down the Work­ers’ Party’s rep­u­ta­tion while fu­el­ing a gen­eral sense of de­cay at the heart of pol­i­tics.

But is im­peach­ing Rouss­eff or forc­ing new elec­tions the an­swer? An­a­lysts urge cau­tion.

“It’s very good that peo­ple go out and protest and even call for the pres­i­dent’s exit, but who would come in her place?” asked An­dre Per­feito, chief economist at Grad­ual In­ves­ti­men­tos.

Per­feito pointed out that the man who has the power to trig­ger im­peach­ment, House Speaker Ed­uardo Cunha, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for al­legedly de­mand­ing a US$5 mil­lion bribe, while the le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for forc­ing Rouss­eff from of­fice is far from clear.

She’s un­pop­u­lar, with her rat­ings at just 8 per­cent, but what has she done illegal?

De­spite the huge scope of the Petro­bras scan­dal probe and de- spite the fact that she headed the com­pany be­tween 2003 and 2010, she has yet to be ac­cused of any crime.

She is the tar­get of a sep­a­rate, much less vis­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Brazil’s Fed­eral Ac­counts Court into al­leged gov­ern­ment ac­count­ing ma­nip­u­la­tions.

The gov­ern­ment says it did noth­ing out of line with past prac­tices, but the case is the most solid can­di­date for trig­ger­ing even­tual im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings.

Bit­ter Medicine

But “im­peach­ment would be a very bit­ter medicine with heavy side ef­fects,” said Michael Mo­hal- lem, a pol­i­tics ex­pert at the Fun­da­cion Ge­tulio Var­gas Univer­sity.

Another po­ten­tial av­enue is a probe into Rouss­eff’s 2014 re­elec­tion cam­paign fi­nanc­ing, which could in the­ory lead to an­nulling her vic­tory and re­quir­ing new elec­tions. That would be no eas­ier for the coun­try, Per­feito said.

“The mid­dle classes want to bring her down by any means, but again, to what end? Is it to call new elec­tions? The busi­ness com­mu­nity and the elite are of the opin­ion that things would get even worse if she left. They aren’t for Rouss­eff, but they con­sider that get­ting rid of her would only add to the risk,” he said.

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