People who are unhappy with their governments can be found anywhere. But often, apart from demonstrations, not much happens. However, that’s not the case for Brazil. There have already been many demonstration waves over the last years. Against the world cup, against the Olympics and now against corruption and the government. Often those demonstrations are violently repressed by the police and the military. But on April 17th the street was victorious. The lower house has decided to impeach the country’s president Dilma Roussef. This means that, if the senate decides to do the same in May, she will have to leave the government. The vice president will then take her place until the new elections in 2018. Now the question is why? Who could it come this far?
Brazil is often seen as a poor country, which it surely is. People mostly think about the favelas, where poverty, unemployment and violence are extremely high. But that is a generalization. There are other districts which are just as peaceful as those in other countries. It is also important to remember that the country has become one of the economical leaders in South America, as it has the 7th biggest economy in the world and that it had the fastest developping economy until 2015. Under President Lula, from 2002-2010, reforms gave hope that the country would soon free itself from poverty. They for example, allowed millions of students to study for free. But then, after 2010, it slowed down, until the country experienced a severe blow-down in 2015. The worth of the national currency fell, unemployment rose again and the national debt grew to 347bn $ in 2015 (as opposed to 198bn $ in 2009). As in so many countries nowadays, people now have diplomas, but no jobs. In addition to that, Brazil held the 2014 Fifa world cup which cost approximately 14bn $ and will hold the 2016 Olympics which will cost about 11,1bn $. Not only do those events cost a lot of money to a state that has none to waste, the government did also destroy entire neighbourhoods in order to build sport arenas and the required infrastructures for the event. Needless to say that the current economic situation and those evictions make the Brazilian people extremely unhappy.
The Petrobras affair has been poisoning the political climate in Brazil for the last 2 years and added to the tense climate. Petrobras is the biggest company in the country and deals with oil. It is said that many officials got bribes from them for diverse things and that Lula got money during his presidency in the “bribe-for-contract” scheme. He and his party also got money to buy votes and for other bribes that benefitted them and their party. The current investigation in the matter, led by the judge Sergio Moro, charged about 50 politicians and some are already in jail. Nevertheless, because there is no evidence that Dilma Roussef is involved into this, she is talking about a coup. She is merely accused of negligence and for wanting to protect her party member and former protector Lula, by making him a government member, which gives him impunity. He was invested on March 17th as prime minister, but a judge of the Supreme Court blocked the investiture. There has not yet been an official and judicial decision in that matter. Lula, as well as Roussef, still have a lot of support by people of the working class, as they benefitted from Lula’s reforms. Nevertheless, about 69% of the population disapproves of her and wants her to leave. That’s why she was left alone by her biggest coalition partner in the government. That, together with the impeachment that’s nearly decided, leave her and Lula with not much hope for the future.
In a certain way, one can say that the streets in Brazil have won. It is a strong message to all those other corrupt politicians in the world. It shows them the people bring them to power but can as easily take them down again. That should make other democratic leaders think. But then again, how many corruption scandals have there been? What has changed? Nothing! Politicians still take and give bribes as it has always been… Even if other politicians will learn from this, it will not last very long before someone does it again. What also disturbs me is that most people admit that they want to see Roussef leave because she brought the economy down. She has surely made some huge mistakes and if she has to be punished, it has to be for the right reasons. But that’s for the people of Brazil to decide. Let’s just hope that everyone takes the right lessons out of this.