From the Editor-in-Chief: The travails of President Dilma Rousseff

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, April 21st, 2016
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A few days ago, the lower house of the Brazilian parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach President Dilma Rousseff on graft charges. One can now be certain that the upper house, the Senate, will go ahead with a simple majority to try her and reach a judgment. The move by the lower house brings to an end, at least for now, a political process that has for months kept the president under pressure. In all this time, Rousseff has been doing everything she can to prove her innocence and to argue that her government has not failed in carrying out its public responsibilities.


The president is right, up to a point. The impeachment proceedings have nowhere referred to any personal corruption on her part. However, the fact that her administration borrowed money from banks in order to cover up economic deficits or even to show that the economy was stable proved to be bad for her. Her sense of desperation has been acute, so much so that she even resorted to an attempt to have her predecessor, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, join the government as a minister. That move was also, of course, calculated to protect Mr. Lula from charges of corruption aimed at him. In recent times, his image has become badly dented with a slew of accusations made against him over his role in financial scandals. In short, what one observes in Brazil today is the image of an incumbent president and her predecessor being laid low over all these unsavoury details of corruption. Should the senate go along with the impeachment of President Rousseff, one can certainly expect a new state of restiveness in the country.


And that will be because a very large number of the lawmakers determined to see the president tried and deprived of the presidency are themselves people tainted with corruption. Many have charges relating to a stealing of public money and being themselves on the radar of the courts. There are others accused of taking kickbacks from public schemes. The list makes mind-boggling reading. It makes one wonder how corrupt men, themselves facing some real prospects of being tried and carted off to prison, should be so intent on seeing President Rousseff lose office and probably spend time in prison. It goes to the credit of the president that she has personally not profited from the corruption attributed to her government. But that does not seem to have worked in her favour.


The issue today is one which concerns Brazil’s future. If the president is forced to leave office, she will be replaced by Vice President  Michel Temer, who himself has an unsavoury record. Much the same is true of the senate president, who could succeed Temer should the latter be compelled to go as well. Besides, with all those lawmakers — and they have broken the law at some point or the other — now cheerfully imagining dragging the president before them for trial, there are some very real worries about what the entire impeachment process will do to Brazil’s future. It is clear that these lawmakers in their blatant partisanship have not given due consideration to the possible ramifications of their action. If today it is President Dilma Rousseff who goes, tomorrow these lawmakers will make it possible for other presidents to be impeached out of office. The cycle can only widen.


And that is deeply worrying.

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