In 2009, Brazil was riding high. It was the newly selected site of the 2016 Olympic Games and its economy was booming. But the years since then have been anything but a smooth ride. While the cameras of the world were trained on the Olympic Games, Brazil’s politicians were busy impeaching and removing the country’s first female president.
Seven years ago, Brazil had not only escaped the consequences of the financial crisis; the country was actually faring better than the United States. Rio de Janeiro beat out the cities of Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid as the Olympic host city for the summer games. The social programs which their popular then-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, initiated pushed millions of poor and suffering Brazilians out of destitution.
These celebrations were short-lived.
Since 2009, Brazil has undergone drastic economic and political changes. The massive corruption scandal encircling Petrobras, the Brazilian state-controlled oil company, left Brazilian citizens stunned, with hundreds of high-ranking officials under investigation. As the New York Times reported, the scandal “convulsed the country with fury and a stinging sense of betrayal.”
That sense of betrayal also stemmed from the fact that $200 million of the money procured from Petrobras’s overcharging and bribing was pocketed by the ruling Workers’ Party. The money was, supposedly, used to finance political campaigns.
Enter Dilma Rousseff.
Born in 1947, Rousseff was a young Marxist during the time when Brazil’s president was overthrown by a coalition of military officials and civilians. She became involved with the left-wing opposition, a group called National Liberation Command. In November 1970, she was charged by a military court with subversion, jailed and tortured.
Fast forward and Rousseff’s administration is involved with a multibillion-dollar scam of a state-owned company, has three million Brazilians who have lost their jobs as the economy continues to tank and has been accused of breaking national fiscal laws.
Rousseff was found guilty of transferring funds between government budgets and using state-owned banks in order to finance social programs—without revealing her intentions to do so.
As The Washington Post reported, a key example of Rousseff’s banking issues can be found in the program Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance). This flagship program provides cash to impoverished Brazilian families—as long as they send their children to school and receive vaccinations.
In order for this program to be effective, authorities are responsible for turning in the money to a bank, which would then distribute it to the families in need.
In 2013, the bank started noticing that it was not getting regular payments from the Brazilian government, and complained that it was having to use its own money to foot the bill—in other words, overdrafting.
The situation deteriorated in 2014 when banks ended up paying tens of billions of dollars in late payments for similar programs.
Rousseff’s critics explain her actions by arguing that she was trying to boost her chances of being re-elected for a second term in October 2014.
Impeachment proceedings began in 2015. On Aug. 31, the Senate removed Rousseff from office.
In Her Defense
Rousseff denied that her actions were illegal, claiming that moving money between government budgets was common practice among her predecessors in office.
She even alleged that the impeachment proceedings were the result of a planned coup d’etat against her, and that her enemies wanted to see her removed from office without having to wait for the next presidential election.
The Senatae debate that led to Rousseff’s formal oust as president was emotionally charged. She even stood behind her claims of innocence on her Twitter page, announcing that “I leave the Presidency as I entered: without having incurred any tort; without betraying any of my appointments.” Her comment was followed by the hashtag #LutarSempre—Always Fight.
What Is Next for Brazil?
Michael Temer, Rousseff’s former vice president, has been serving as interim president since her suspension in May. He will assume the office of president with two years and four months remaining in the term.
For the past 13 years, Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party has dominated Brazil’s politics.
As the new figurehead of his Democratic Movement Party, Temer has promised to revive the Brazilian economy, tackle the colossal, 12-million-person strong unemployment issue and clear up the country’s murky public finances.
A 75-year-old constitutional lawyer, Temer is, according to colleagues, somewhat of a quiet, intentional figure. BBC News characterized him as a “discreet politician who seems always to be hovering around the center of everything important, yet – up until now – never in the spotlight.”
The whole world is watching him now.
Brazil needs a bold, resourceful leader and Temer realizes that the country needs “a government of national salvation and national unity, we need to unite all the political parties, and all the parties should be ready to collaborate to drag Brazil out of this crisis.”