Transcripts of a recorded conversation between then Senator Romero Jucá, and former oil industry executive Sergio Machado indicate that what many people suspected about the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is true: some of the most corrupt and powerful politicians in Brazil are using impeachment as a means of protecting themselves and their power. It is of course deeply ironic: Dilma, who is not accused of any corruption, is being impeached by corrupt members of Congress whose power is threatened by the unprecedented capacity that she gave to prosecutors and the judiciary to go after corruption.
The revelations were best summed up by the Intercept on May 23:
“For months, supporters of Brazil’s democracy have made two arguments about the attempt to remove the country’s democratically elected president: (1) the core purpose of Dilma’s impeachment is not to stop corruption or punish lawbreaking, but rather the exact opposite: to protect the actual thieves by empowering them with Dilma’s exit, thus enabling them to kill the Car Wash investigation; and (2) the impeachment advocates (led by the country’s oligarchical media) have zero interest in clean government, but only in seizing power that they could never obtain democratically, in order to impose a right-wing, oligarch-serving agenda that the Brazilian population would never accept…
[The transcripts] are proof: proof that the prime forces behind the removal of the president understood that taking her out was the only way to save themselves and shield their own extreme corruption from accountability; proof that Brazil’s military, its dominant media outlets, and its Supreme Court were colluding in secret to ensure the removal of the democratically elected president; proof that the perpetrators of impeachment viewed Dilma’s continued presence in Brasilia as the guarantor that the Car Wash investigations would continue; proof that this had nothing to do with preserving Brazilian democracy and everything to do with destroying it.”
This could be a game-changer for a government of already very questionable legitimacy, whose standing in the international media has fallen considerably since the embarrassment of the impeachment circus that took place in the Brazilian Congress on April 17. However, Jucá, who was appointed planning minister under the interim government, resigned; and as of today, it is noteworthy that international media seems to have moved on rather quickly from these revelations.
It is important to remember that Dilma’s removal from office is not a done deal, despite the fact that the interim government is acting as though they had just won a presidential election. The Senate voted to impeach her — that is, to put her on trial in the Senate — by a vote of 55-21. This is just one vote more than the two-thirds majority that will be needed to convict her and remove her from office. So, if there is a net change of two Senate votes away from impeachment after the trial, she will remain president. There are millions of people mobilizing against the impeachment and polling has indicated that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for interim president Michel Temer. If this were the U.S., e.g. as in the attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton – which is not a bad analogy since a right-wing opposition was trying to impeach him without an impeachable offense — one would expect the elected President to prevail. However, the political system in Brazil is structurally much more corrupt, and legislators are much less accountable to their constituents, as compared with the (however oligarchic) United States. Real political reform, in addition to serious economic policy changes, is a dire necessity for Brazil, once democracy is restored.
In the meantime, international public opinion will have some impact on the interim government’s struggle for legitimacy, and perhaps even on the impeachment vote. Since the U.S. government has a major influence on the international media — more on reporting from Latin America than on other regions — the U.S. position and diplomacy will matter. Although Washington has operated quietly through “dog-whistle diplomacy,” there is little doubt that the U.S. foreign policy establishment and “national security state” currently favors the ouster of the PT government and the installation of a right-wing government that has pledged to change its foreign and commercial policy to coincide more with Washington’s own plans for the region and the world.