An initial motion to remove current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from office has been voted and approved April 17 by the country’s legislators with 367 voting for and 137 against impeachment. Two thirds of votes were needed to move the process forward to the Senate.
The controversy, however, is not the fact that Rousseff may be impeached, but how the process is being conducted. Hypocrisy overwhelms it, while the country’s constitution and democracy are shredded along the way.
It is hard to explain the political moment that haunts the country to non-Brazilians. Among corruption scandals and dangerous polarization, we became a nation that believes impeaching a president democratically elected through a procedure that does not apply to her is acceptable. That dissatisfaction gives us the right to disregard democracy.
Congressman Eduardo Cunha is head of the lower house of congress and in charge of the process. He capitalized on the country’s delicate moment to deviate from corruption scandals of his own and target Rousseff.
Accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes related to Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, money laundering and having undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland, Cunha was pressured.
As the only one with authority to open impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, he did so in an attempt to restore power and gain allies in the midst of the turmoil. To some Brazilians, antipathy towards Rousseff is so strong that it is worth overlooking Cunha’s alleged wrongdoings for now if that means she could be stepping down.
Brazilians’ dissatisfaction with the country’s first female president has its roots on the recession that hit the country after several years of economic prosperity. Brazil became a global power on the rise, and Brazilians got used to it.
The sudden downfall and countless corruption scandals that involved Rousseff’s left-leaning Workers’ Party colleagues were enough to turn her into a symbol of failure and dishonesty.
She has not been personally convicted of anything, but the opposition took the opportunity to draw connections themselves and lean on the already dissatisfied right-wing to disseminate the “need for change.”
Brazil’s last election in 2014 was the most disputed in the country’s history. In a nation where voting is mandatory for all, only 3.4 million people put Rousseff ahead of candidate Aécio Neves to assure her second term with 51.64 percent of votings.
The elections caused extreme polarization and Brazilians did not get over it. Ever since, the political conversation has been as intense as it gets, with manifestations and riots erupting frequently. The gray zone has been reduced to ashes.
When Cunha opened the impeachment process, he instantly went from devil to hero. Although the impeachment process has no valid grounds without considerable evidence that Rousseff committed a crime, it went on anyway.
The roughly 500 lawmakers who gathered to vote made it clear that it was all about expanding popularity by supporting the impeachment. They want to be on the right side of the conflict – literally.
There were few politicians who justified their “yes” vote by abiding to impeachment grounds. Most invoked personal dissatisfaction with Rousseff or her party as reasoning, which is a valid concern, but it does not meet the criteria for the process. An impeachment is destined exclusively to judge and convict unlawful activities of a politician, and being underqualified or underperforming does not count as such.
In addition, lawmakers used the platform for self-promotion and comedy. Their brief voting speeches voiced shoutouts to the politicians’ families, happy birthday wishes for grandkids and random considerations.
The all time low came when openly sexist, homophobic and conservative right-wing congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who served in the military during the dictatorship from 1964-1985, dedicated his “yes” vote to Carlos Alberto Ustra.
Ustra was the first Brazilian military officially declared a “torturer” by the Brazilian justice system and the man responsible for the imprisoning and torturing Rousseff when she was a young rebel against the dictatorship.
Brazil’s political future is now unsure and unstable. Beyond the question of who will be in charge of the country in the short term, the trouble lies in how and if the nation will recover from the turmoil itself. We have a very young democracy to be playing with – having exited military dictatorship only in 1985 – which also revealed itself too fragile and malleable. This is alarming.
I did not vote for Rousseff, nor do I believe she has been doing a wonderful job in power, but I would much rather have a bad president than one who arrived in office by disfiguring the constitution.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo, a junior journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.