Editorial: A tormented country

brasilobserver - Mar 13 2015

(Leia em Português)

This edition of Brasil Observer will circulate in London from Friday 13 March. A day of bad luck, some people would say. The focus, however, is on what could happen on Sunday 15, the day on which several Brazilian cities will likely experience protests, with people asking for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff (Workers Party).

It’s difficult to predict what could happen. In a country like Brazil, where the narrative of events remains in the hands of a few, the political and economic interests of a minority usually overlap facts – regardless of ideological position. Thus, it is safe to say that while some will use the demonstrations to destabilise the government, others will try to delegitimise the protests. Here, the two sides fail.

The Brasil Observer considers the right of protest and expression as a fundamental pillar of democracy – because of that we support a democratic reform of the media, so that radio and television public concessions meet the criteria set out in the 1988 Constitution. We believe, therefore, that the protests against the current government – and any other government – are legitimate.

We do not shy away. But it should be said, there is currently no legal basis for impeachment. The removal of the President is laid down in Article 85 of the Constitution and can happen in cases of crimes of responsibility, among which are crimes against the existence of the Union, the exercise of political, social and individual rights and against administrative probity. Until proven otherwise, no evidence links Dilma Rousseff to any criminal action (when there is intention).

Moreover, Brazil does not live an institutional crisis – the Operation Car Wash, which is investigating irregularities in Petrobras, proves that democratic institutions are functioning. The political turmoil is mainly caused by the economic stagnation – as well as the corruption scandals and the lack of ability of Rousseff to deal with Congress.

After Rousseff’s re-election, Brasil Observer pointed out that in defining the strategy for the resumption of growth was the main trap for the government. As predicted, adopting measures were fought during the election campaign – fiscal adjustment – to gain credibility with the market and the opposition. Rousseff lost political capital. Worse: she lost the support of those who voted for her. It was naive to believe that by doing what her opponents wanted, she could appease the spirits of those who did not give her the vote. Result: widespread dissatisfaction (read Wagner Aragão’s report).

This climate of political instability is bad for the central and immediate problem facing the country: economic stagnation. If the government cannot articulate in Congress the fiscal adjustment measures that almost all agree are necessary, what is there to say about other key initiatives to unlock the economic growth, such as labour and tax reforms. An impeachment would aggravate this, with more damaging consequences to the achievements of the last decade.

On corruption, an ancient and chronic problem in the country, Brasil Observer does not detract: in power, the Workers Party proves itself as unable to follow different path from the one adopted traditionally by all other parties. The trial and possible conviction of politicians and executives of large companies indicted by the Operation Car Wash fills the country with hope. By itself, however, this is not enough.

Companies investigated for irregularities in contracts with Petrobras are among the largest donors to political campaigns. Almost all parties receive donations from companies that obviously aim to ensure future benefits. This is one of the greatest evils of our young democratic system, as it distorts the basic concept of one person, one vote, and still generates endless possibilities of corruption. To seriously address the problem, is necessary a political reform that at least prohibits donations to political campaigns by private companies.

Finally, it is worth to say that the Workers Party is wrong to say the movements for Rousseff’s impeachment is a manifestation of white elite driven by class hatred. Undeniably, it does exist, but this does not fully explain the friction of the party in power since 2002. It’s not just the elite who are dissatisfied with the current government.

The social and economic advances of the last decade have not been accompanied by greater political and democratic awareness among citizens – and not among the parties as well. The reflection of this is what we see today: a tormented country that, months after the elections, still does not know what the outcome of the polls meant.