Rousseff Leaves But Brazil’s Problems Remain

Brazilian Workers' Party leader Dilma Rousseff is interviewed in her office in Brasília, August 2
Brazilian Workers’ Party leader Dilma Rousseff is interviewed in her office in Brasília, August 2 (Roberto Stuckert Filho)

By the end of this month, not only will the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio have come and gone; it is also likely that the left-wing Dilma Rousseff will have finally been removed from the presidency.

Neither will occur without incident. Nor will they solve Brazil’s increasingly confused, complex and confrontational state of affairs, from a messy entanglement of impeachment proceedings to the possibility of fresh elections to the worst economic recession in Brazilian history. Read more “Rousseff Leaves But Brazil’s Problems Remain”

Brazil to Muddle Through After Rousseff Suspended

Dilma Rousseff
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff answers questions from reporters in Brasília, March 11 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Brazil’s Senate voted early on Thursday to continue the impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, forcing the left-wing leader to step down for six months in favor of her deputy, Michel Temer.

55 to 22 senators voted to suspend Rousseff, who was elected to a second term in October 2014.

The charge against her is that she fiddled the budget figures in an election year to mask a deficit.

But those allegations are almost beside the point, especially when more than half the legislators deciding Rousseff’s fate are themselves under investigation for bribery, electoral fraud or worse. The real issue is the president’s inability to stem Brazil’s slide into its worst recession since the 1930s.

Low oil prices and a sprawling corruption scandal at the state petroleum company where she used to be a board member have also cut off a source of patronage for Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. This, more than anything, may have convinced the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), the country’s largest, to withdraw its support from Rousseff. Read more “Brazil to Muddle Through After Rousseff Suspended”

Rousseff’s Impeachment Might Solve Little

Dilma Rousseff
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil answers questions from reporters in Ufa, Russia, July 9, 2015 (Blog do Planalto)

Lawmakers in Brazil took the first step toward impeaching President Dilma Rousseff on Monday when a committee voted to initiate proceedings to remove her.

A full vote in the lower house of Congress is expected later this week. If a majority votes to impeach, Rousseff would have to stand down pending a trial in the Senate.

Vice President Michel Temer would then take over. Business leaders are hoping that he will restore confidence and allow Brazil to start climbing out of the economic hole it has dug for itself under Rousseff.

Maybe. But there are many reasons to be skeptical. Read more “Rousseff’s Impeachment Might Solve Little”

Rousseff’s Future Uncertain After PMDB Defection

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff answers questions from reporters in Brasília, March 11
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff answers questions from reporters in Brasília, March 11 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) pulled out of the Latin American country’s ruling coalition this week, forcing President Dilma Rousseff to scramble for new allies ahead of an impeachment vote that could be called as early as mid-April.

The president would need 172 abstentions or votes in her favor in the lower chamber of Congress to survive an impeachment motion.

Vem Pra Rua, a civil society group, estimates that currently only 119 lawmakers are firmly on Rousseff’s side. Another 128 are undecided. Many of them are PMDB deputies.

The impeachment proceedings are the public face of what is really a political struggle to push Rousseff out. The formal case against the president rest on the allegation that she used an accounting trick to disguise a budget deficit in 2014, the year of her reelection — hardly the sort of offensive that would seem to require her ouster when there has been plenty of actual abuse of power to go around. Read more “Rousseff’s Future Uncertain After PMDB Defection”

Rousseff’s Presidency in Hands of Big-Tent Allies

President Dilma Rousseff looks on as her vice president, Michel Temer, shakes hands with state officials in Brasília, March 2
President Dilma Rousseff looks on as her vice president, Michel Temer, shakes hands with state officials in Brasília, March 2 (Marcos Corrêa)

Dilma Rousseff’s presidency hangs in the balance this weekend as police in São Paulo needed to fire tear gas and water cannon to clear mass protests and the lower house of Congress starts impeachment proceedings.

Last week, as many as three millions Brazilians took to the streets to demand Rousseff’s resignation.

Her inability to lift the country out of recession and corruption scandals that have now even tainted her popular predecessor, Lula da Silva, have weakened Rousseff’s position.

Her faith rests with the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), the country’s largest political force and its perennial kingmaker. Read more “Rousseff’s Presidency in Hands of Big-Tent Allies”

Brazil’s Rousseff Threatens to Lose Key Ally

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil answers questions from reporters in Ufa, Russia, July 9
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil answers questions from reporters in Ufa, Russia, July 9 (Blog do Planalto)

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s main coalition partner is preparing to leave the government and field a presidential candidate of its own for the first time in years, a newspaper reported on Friday.

Valor Econômico, the country’s largest financial daily, said the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) will depart from the ruling coalition in November when it holds its national congress.

Without the PMDB, Rousseff’s Workers’ Party would struggle to find a majority in Congress. It currently rules in coalition with an array of left-wing parties.

Although it lacks a coherent ideology and exists rather to serve the interests of regional bosses and constituencies, the PMDB is the perennial kingmaker in Brazilian politics. Rather than seek the presidency itself, it has backed Social Democratic Party leaders before switching its support to the Workers’ Party in 2002. In return, it has won control of both houses of Congress and the vice presidency.

In recent months, Vice President Michel Temer has led efforts to push austerity legislation through Congress to reduce a 6.7 percent deficit that has put Brazil’s investment grade credit rating at risk.

But his own party has stymied liberal economic reforms that would boost Brazil’s competitiveness and delayed attempts to trim workers’ benefits.

Banks are forecasting economic contraction into 2016, making this the first time Brazil’s economy would shrink in back-to-back years since the Great Depression.

The downturn owes much to Rousseff’s reluctance to liberalize the world’s seventh largest economy in the boom years when her government used the proceeds from rising commodities exports to Asia to finance social spending instead.

Now budget cuts threaten to depress consumer confidence at a time when ordinary Brazilians are also facing higher electricity taxes and rising prices. Inflation has surged to 9.5 percent, up from 6 percent last year when Rousseff was narrowly elected to a second term.

Opinion polls show two in three Brazilians want to see Rousseff impeached because of the downturn and a massive corruption scandal over political kickbacks on contracts with state-controlled enterprises.

Over 600,000 people protested in Brazil’s major cities last week, according to police. In March, 1.7 million took to the streets when graft at the state oil company Petrobras was revealed. More than thirty lawmakers, many from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, are under investigation for their role in the scandal.

Brazil’s Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost

Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Panorama of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 14 (Beatriz Souza)

Dilma Rousseff’s failure to liberalize Brazil’s economy is finally catching up with her. After narrowly winning reelection last year, popular outrage is backing the left-wing president into a corner.

Earlier this month, more than a million protesters took to the streets of Brasília, São Paulo and other major cities, angered by revelations of embezzlement at the state oil company, Petrobras.

The inclusion of members from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) in a Petrobras corruption probe caused this biggest party in Rousseff’s ruling coalition to threaten to block austerity measures, such as tightening access to pension and unemployment benefits.

The PMDB has almost as many seats in Congress as Rousseff’s Workers’ Party and a reputation for allying itself with whomever is in government in order to reap the spoils. Read more “Brazil’s Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost”

Brazil Reelects Rousseff Despite Economic Slowdown

Dilma Rousseff
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil attends a news event in Curitiba, May 9 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Brazil’s incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff, narrowly won reelection on Sunday. With more than 99 percent of the votes tallied, she had prevailed over her liberal challenger Aécio Neves with 51.6 percent support.

Rio de Janeiro’s O Globo newspaper pointed out that Rousseff’s margin of victory was the tightest since Brazil returned to full democracy in 1989. Four years ago, she won 56 percent support.

The news agency Reuters reported that Rousseff had convinced voters that “her party’s strong record of reducing poverty over the last twelve years was more important than a recent economic slump.” Read more “Brazil Reelects Rousseff Despite Economic Slowdown”

Rousseff Leads Polls Going into Second Voting Round

Dilma Rousseff
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil in Rio Pardo de Minas, August 10, 2012 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Final polls on Sunday put Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff slightly ahead of her challenger in the country’s runoff presidential election. But support for the more liberal Aécio Neves has surged since the first voting round earlier this month, reflecting many especially middle class and wealthy Brazilians’ disillusionment with the incumbent Workers’ Party president’s inability to deliver higher growth and better public services.

Neves, a senator and former state governor from the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party, came in second in the first voting round, with 33.6 percent support against 42 percent for Rousseff, kicking the environmentalist Marina Silva from the Socialist Party out of the race. Read more “Rousseff Leads Polls Going into Second Voting Round”

Rousseff Closer to Reelection After First Voting Round

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil attends a news event in Curitiba, May 9
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil attends a news event in Curitiba, May 9 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, looked more likely to win reelection after winning almost 42 percent support in a first voting round on Sunday. But she has yet to see off a challenger, Aécio Neves, in a runoff next month if she is remain in power for four more years.

Neves, a senator and former state governor from the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party, came in second, with 33.6 percent support, kicking the environmentalist Marina Silva from the Socialist Party out of the race. If her supporters back Neves in the second voting round in late October, Rousseff could yet fail to win reelection.

Both opposition candidates had made campaign promises to return to more liberal economic policies they said Rousseff has abandoned, including strict budget and inflation targets.

But despite disillusionment with Rousseff’s inability to deliver higher growth and better public services, which fueled mass protests a year ago, many Brazilians backed her Workers’ Party. It has lifted more than thirty million out of poverty through generous social welfare spending and expanded trade.

During the boom years under Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, former president Lula da Silva, soaring commodity exports to China helped the economy grow more than 4 percent per year on average.

However, the economy dipped into recession last quarter and is on track to grow less than 2 percent by the end of Rousseff’s term in December. Structural reforms to improve Brazil’s competitiveness have stalled. Taxes are burdensome and infrastructure investments have been lackluster.

Rousseff’s administration has been prone to interventionism in attempt to stave off weaker growth, ordering state banks to slash lending rates and raising taxes on foreign borrowing to drive down the exchange rate of the real — policies that harken back to the years before Social Democracy Party president Fernando Henrique Cardoso embarked on a program of comprehensive liberalization in the late 1990s that ultimately saw Brazil briefly overtake the United Kingdom as the sixth largest economy in the world in 2011.