You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Impeachment in Brazil: Coup, Farce and Liquid Democracy

ICE Graveyard 21/04/2016 Rafael Heiber
DILMA © Bloomberg via Getty Images DILMA

Incoherence is uncountable. An independence which, less than two centuries ago, did not find in the people the will to take place. A nationalistic military coup in 1964, orchestrated by foreign countries and operated by puppets within the context of the Cold War. A process of re-democratization, originated by citizens but, above all, by the incompatibility between global neoliberalism and a dictatorial-military form of government. An established democracy where voting is mandatory and subject to civil penalties if not exercised. A hegemonic political party (PMDB) that, far from its political origins, started to rule without having ever chosen a president. The election of Lula (PT), an extremely charismatic and popular president who was rather committed to an already imposed political style and to the transformation of poverty into consumerism. A Chamber with 513 deputies of whom hardly 40 were elected by a direct nominal vote. And, yesterday, April 17, 2016, the impeachment of a president, approved by this Chamber of Deputies sunk deep into what is most backward and corrupted in Brazilian politics (this shameful session is available on Youtube).
Dilma Roussef, until proven otherwise, has not committed any crime save that she is the political protégée of Lula and that she belongs to the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers' Party), which promised to bring morals into politics and ended up being accused - and many times punished! - of the systemic corruption which practically envelops the almost thirty political parties in the country. Save that she is a tough woman who bravely endured the physical and psychological torture she was subjected to during the dictatorship (her torturer was honored during the impeachment session). Save that she is a thoroughly prepared technocrat with little political talent. Save that she challenged - with rigor and zero courtesies - deputies and ministers (even during short official flights) in a highly patriarchal and at times misogynistic environment. Save that she has also promised a political scene of social-economic recovery and to put into place a completely different political practice, especially during her second term, turning her back on the 2013 demonstrations that took the streets when her popularity was already declining. Save that she used non-transparent budgetary maneuvers practiced for decades by previous governments to artificially increase the optimism of public accounts but never in detriment of the State's budget. Evidently, none of what has been presented above constitutes a crime or warrants an impeachment. Except for the fact that she has gotten in the way of the oligarchic PMDB of Vice President Michel Temer and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, for having sent the Superior Court of Justice a request for inquiry on the crimes committed by the latter and many others (the Panama Papers, where the name of Cunha appears, would come out later).
Since the last elections in 2014 - and a messy state of affairs already full of crises, scandals, frauds and investigations everywhere ending up with Petrobrás and Lava Jato investigations - there were enough reasons for popular dissatisfaction to demoralize the representative democratic system and to neither elect Dilma nor the opposition led by Aécio Neves from the mischarecterized PSDB. Incoherences coincide even here. Two parties, PT and PSDB, which, in the 80's, stood out for being the repository of expectations for a fairer society (Lula/PT's syndicalist line and the social democratic line of Fernando Henrique Cardoso/PSDB) and which, six terms later, blended into the fisiologism of traditional politics.
Last elections suffered a dramatic turn with the plain crash that killed the candidate Eduardo Campos (PSB). And a shot at the candidacy that wound up in the hands of Marina Silva, a renowned woman of humble and activist origins who would have probably become President had there not been two factors mixed in this equation: first, traditional politics, especially PT-PMDB-PSDB, aligned against Marina Silva ever since she legitimately tried to found her own party, REDE, and who, later, would become the main target of their attacks during the first round of elections. Second, Marina Silva herself, who made things hard on herself publicly when she eluded a progressive positioning concerning issues that opposed her evangelical faith losing the trust of even her closest circles. Hence, Marina Silva ended up in third position, behind the defeated Aécio Neves and Dilma Roussef.
It is hard to define this impeachment process as nothing else than a coup (legal and parliamentary) to the democratic institution that started almost 30 years ago, or as an irreversible phase of liquid democracy where unpopularity and resentment justify the interruption of an institutional trend. Both will demand, sooner or later, a re-established republic.
The current Federative Republic of Brazil has always been two countries pretending to be one. Gilberto Freire already talked about the Masters (Casa Grande) on one side and the Slaves (Senzala) on the other. Up to present, social bonds have been programed to reject the republican principle of equality which leads to the failure of any kind of horizontal understanding of this society, divided into first-class citizens and second-class citizens.
In the last decade, it became evident that there was an articulation of a neo-pentecostal ethics which helped to re-codify the role of an emerging class. As long as the economy and social programs worked, Lula obtained enough support. With the deep crisis of an economy which was heavily dependent on depreciated commodities, a worn-out policy and lost of social privileges, it was time for a resentful elite to send Lula back to the Senzala with the support of brand new consumer masses fearful of "social" regression.
This is the only thing that can explain how two politicians, Cunha and Temer, who statistically accumulate more disapproval than Dilma, are destined to replace her. Accrued social resentment was stronger than the complacent rejection of a range of politicians who prove to be more acceptable for the standards of a mediocre elite, intellectual and moral dwarves who can only look from the top down. On the street, a slap for Dilma was a slap for Lula.
Though the yearning of part of the conservative population flirts with a sense of order and progress carried out by military bodies, the hegemonic neoliberalism discarded the dictatorial model decades ago and it is not willing to bring it back! However, these people are not forsaken as there are politicians whose minds are set on embracing the most fascist causes for the sake of votes. This will certainly make PSDB, today in the center-right, lose votes. As regards the PT, only the most loyal or those who may directly benefit from their social programs, ought to support this party in the next elections. It is paramount to work so that the void that is being created is filled by actors committed to political reform, a diversified and sustainable economy and social justice. Parties such as PSOL, when it resolves its internal divisions, or Rede, if Marina Silva reinvents herself, or any other citizen proposals bringing a fresh perspective to the political landscape, could represent progressive projects.
An analysis must be concluded by a final thought. In this case, a remembrance of anthropologist and Senator, Darcy Ribeiro (Brazil, 1922-1997), author of The Brazilian People (O Povo Brasileiro), who wrote (in a few words): "I failed in everything I tried to do in my life. I tried to teach children to read and write, I tried to save the Indians, to create a reliable university, to make Brazil grow - and I failed. But my failures are my victories. I would hate to be in the place of the person that defeated me." Dilma Roussef's fall may not come about by defeat right now, and it won't be official until September and could even be interrupted via an unlikely agreement on new elections or a repeal of the Senate. The defeats are others. First, the verification of the (low) standing of those deputies who appeared on national TV and who will bring down an unpopular President by negotiating the amnesty of political criminals as Eduardo Cunha. Second, the no-man's-land that will settle in a Republic that never stopped being a Colony, currently resentful of not being Miami. April 17, 2016, the day when Darcy Ribeiro looked towards a nation incapable of demoralizing the democratic fantasy where the massive annulment of votes would suffice, in the last elections, to generate a creative crisis of representation. That is how politicians will end up now, ignoring 54 million votes that have chosen someone they are no longer interested in. And the people applauded. In the country of soccer, soccer goers say that if you don't score goals, you receive goals!

Rafael Heiber
(Director, Common Action Forum)

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon