Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Bloodless coup

Will Operation Lava Jato cleanse Brazil, or will it turn out to be politics by other means?

Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment — which seemed to be a foregone conclusion when she was suspended from the office of president of Brazil in May — has been vocally opposed by left regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. El Salvador had joined the fray late, threatening to derecognise the interim government led by centrist Michel Tremer, who will assume the presidency. Solidarity from the Latin American left is not unexpected, since the impeachment is seen as a turn of the Pink Tide, the legacy of Rousseff’s predecessor Lula da Silva, and the end of a winning streak 13 years long for the Workers’ Party. But while the left is losing, is Brazilian — or Latin American — democracy winning?

Roussef’s impeachment is on account of a budgetary cover-up, a direct result of the lack of transparency in political funding in Brazil. The need to enrich coalition partners with cash, apart from seats and offices, causes state contracts to be skimmed. In this case, a bribery and kickbacks scandal involving the state-run oil giant Petrobras was exposed by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation. Funds skimmed from contracts were allegedly redirected to the three parties in the coalition led by Rousseff.

This is a familiar vicious cycle, and must be dismantled. But Tremer is tainted too, having lost three ministers to Lava Jato in his first month in office. The new broom may not sweep clean even as, with frozen accounts and cancelled contracts deepening the economic crisis, Brazilians may want to leave this turmoil behind. In a prolonged impasse, the Latin American left’s allegation, that this was all about ending 13 years of leftist rule without an election, could ring true.

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First published on: 02-09-2016 at 12:04:50 am
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