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Political System

Brazil currently experiences a severe political-institutional crisis. In may 2016, the federal Senate approved the suspension of the first democratically elected female President of the Republic, Dilma Rousseff. The lawsuit was based on the accusation that Rousseff had practiced the so-called fiscal “pedaladas” – accounting sleights of hand to finance the government’s social actions with resources from state banks with delayed payments to meet fiscal targets. However, the technical body of the Federal Senate itself performed an investigation in the impeachment process files one month after its conclusion and, in a 224 pages report, although identifying the president as the author of four decrees for budget credit opening, exempted her of any responsibility over the fiscal “pedaladas”. The 1988’s Federal Constitution determines that, in order for a impeachment process to occur, the president of the Republic must have committed a liability offense.

The current National Congress’s legislature, that approved the suspension process between the months of April and May 2016, has about two thirds of its members answering to some kind of accusation or investigation. The house speaker at the time of the impeachment process installation, PMDB’s Eduardo Cunha – same party of vice-president Michel Temer, who took on the presidency after Rousseff’s ousting -, accepted the demand one day after Rousseff’s party, PT, decided to vote for the opening of an ousting process against Cunha himself, in the Legislative Ethics Council. Cunha was considered guilty for the crimes of corruption, money laundry and illegal evasion of foreign exchange, and remains arrested.

Brazilian society left 2014’s presidential elections divided, when Rousseff was elected on the second shift with 51,64% of the votes (54,5 million votes), against her adversary’s 48,36%, PSDB’s senator Aécio Neves, (51 million votes). The electoral dispute did not end with the conclusion of the elections: the defeated candidate, incapable of accepting the results, accused the suspicion of fraud. The accusations and conflicts atmosphere was taken to the streets, with conservative groups being sponsored by opposition parties to organize demonstrations against the elected government. Offices and other benefits in a possible future government started being offered to parliamentarians, in exchange for support in a possible impeachment process to be opened in the National Congress.

The Federal Supreme Court (STF), the country’s highest court, stated that it would not interfere in the process, even refusing to judge any possible irregularities during the ousting voting. With the impeachment consolidated, the new government was formed with a significant participation of the opposition defeated in the 2014 elections. The intention of many parliamentarians who approved the impeachment was precisely to stop the investigations run by the Federal Police, specially the ones by the Lava Jato (‘Car Wash’) Operation. Michel Temer himself and several of his ministers are being accused of corruption, but the current occupant of the presidential seat has managed to block investigations by using his allied base in the National Congress (whose authorization is required for any investigations on the president). Romero Jucá, a PMDB senator close to Temer, had recordings revealed in May 2016, where, concerned with the fact that corrupt businessmen’s testimonies in court could affect many politicians, states that “the government has to be changed if we want to stop this bleeding” and that “the easiest solution would be to put Michel [Temer]”, in a “[…] great national agreement. With the Supreme Court and everything”.

Michel Temer, on his turn, stated, in september 2016, that Dilma suffered the impeachment for reusing the economic plan proposed by PMDB, called “Uma ponte para o futuro” (‘A bridge to the future’). This plan proposed the end of a minimum quote to be invested in public health and education, liberal reforms of labor and social security laws, the suspension worker’s and retired people’s rights, and the privatization of several areas. This program is very similar to the one proposed by the defeated opposition in the elections and has never been democratically approved.

For these reasons, a civil society organization group that includes Intervozes, identifies the political process of power takeover by Temer and the opposition that was defeated in the ballots as a Coup, executed by parliamentary forces with media support. Thus, several organizations do not recognize and avoid institutional dialogue with the government. Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, an index created by The Economist newspaper to measure the level of democracy in several countries, put Brazil, for the first time, in a position below 7 between 2015 and 2016, indicating the country’s least democratic moment since 2006.

Popular approval of Michel Temer’s government is of only 3%. Temer has guided his government with the neoliberal agenda of “Ponte para o futuro”. Counting with the Congress’s support, the government advances in measures with no popular support, such as the labor and social security reforms that loosen work relations and create barriers to workers’ retirement, pleasing the political and economical elites as well as the financial system.

Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment was the second in the country’s history. The first one was Fernando Collor de Mello’s, first president elected by the people after the military regimen that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. Elected in 1989, Collor resigned his position in 1992 to evade the ousting process and the loss of political rights. He could not. But ended up running for an office after the eight-year suspension term, being currently a Republic senator. The president that preceded Collor, José Sarney, took in the seat after Tancredo Neves’s death, who had been indirectly elected, by the National Congress, but never took office.

Sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB), on his turn, governed between 1995 and 2002, having as the main deeds of his tenure the fight against monetary inflation and the guarantee of monetary stability in the country. During his management, marked by a neoliberal agenda, specific and strategic sectors of the economy were privatized, such as telecommunications, mining and metallurgy. He was replaced in 2003 by metalworker Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), the first president of working-class origin in the history of the Republic. Enjoying a favorable international economical context, Lula looked to intensify the income distribution and the economical inclusion of the poorer. His management also increased the access to college education, intensified the assistance to extremely poor regions in the national territory and put Brazil back in a privileged position in international geopolitics. Lula also helped the election of his successor, Dilma Rousseff (PT), in 2010.

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