Brazil Beyond Impeachment
Brazil is on an unpredictable path. One of the world's biggest democracies seems about to impeach its president. More than the largely self-inflicted political travails of the world's eighth-largest economy, Brazil is worth following for the lessons it may hold for other countries during this tumultuous period, including in the United States and Europe. In these cases too, grassroots frustration and protest could transform political landscapes, without a clear sense of what will come next and without enough conversation about the civic responsibilities necessary for positive change.
The charges against President Dilma Rousseff are serious. But they might have been given a pass under different circumstances. They include manipulation of government accounts to understate the fiscal deficit in the run up to her reelection in 2014. But the backdrop is a perfect storm of epic corruption, involving multiple investigations of many of the country's top business and political leaders (including once-beloved former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) over a massive kickback scheme involving the national oil company Petrobras. Moreover, a sinking economy has laid bare the shallowness of Brazil's one-time economic boom and Rousseff's woeful mismanagement of Brazil's economy, resources and infrastructure.
Corrupt politics, ineffective governance and boom-and-bust economics in Brazil are nothing new. But this time the mixture of risks is volatile. Brazilians are saying "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." Polls indicate strong support across society for legally removing Rousseff from office. But what would come next to rebuild public confidence is unclear, especially given the extensiveness of the ongoing corruption investigations.