Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, has been temporarily suspended from office for up to 180 days ahead of her looming impeachment trial in the Brazilian Federal Senate.
Just over three weeks ago, on Sunday, April 17th, the lower house of Brazil’s parliament voted to move forward with impeachment against Ms. Rousseff. The process then moved to the Senate, where earlier today the Senate voted 55 to 22 (1 abstained, 3 were absent) in favor of accepting the charges against Ms. Rousseff, which initiated her suspension from office and began her formal impeachment trial in the senate.
At this point, Rousseff ‘s destiny would appear to be sealed: Now that she has been removed from office and replaced by Brazil’s former vice-president, Michel Temer, she seems very unlikely to return to power. The demise of Rousseff’s presidency seems especially likely considering that only 54 votes will be needed to convict her in the senate when the trial concludes. It is possible that Rousseff may resign before the trial even ends —as Fernando Collor de Mello, the only Brazilian President ever to be impeached, did in 1992.
In the wake of her suspension from office, Rousseff has remained defiant: She has called the impeachment process a ‘coup’.
Rousseff has not been charged with corruption for her own personal gain, a relatively common place happening for politicians in Brazil; instead, her impeachment charges stem from allegations that she has used funds from Brazil’s public banks to cover up a massive hole in Brazil’s state finances.
These allegations against Rousseff follow on the heels of an enormous scandal that emerged in 2014, centered around Brazil’s immense public oil company Petrobras, although it is important to note Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment is not a direct consequence of the scandal itself.
The Petrobras scandal involved billions of dollars in political bribes. Ms Rousseff’s leftist Workers Party has been connected to the Petrobras scandal, including Ms. Rousseff’s extremely popular presidential predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, universally known as Lula.
The flaring corruption scandal in Brazil is not just a stand-alone event between the ruling party and a massive state owned firm; it involves all major political parties, including interim president Michel Temer’s party, the PMDB, public banks, and large private firms.
It is a reflection of a corrupt ecosystem that include tragicomic elements such as entire “bribe departments” in huge construction companies, often detailing in excel spreadsheets their exact payment to politicians.
Investigations into bribery and kickbacks have resulted in serious allegations of corruption against 150 members of Congress out of 594 members — or just over one in four members of congress.
We’ll take a look deeper into the causes of the political and economic crisis in Brazil as we continue to examine the events as they unfold on the ground.
Ariel Rajnerman: Before leading the LatAm Research at Roubini Global Econmics, Mr. Rajnerman attained a master’s degree in finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to that, he worked as an economist in a macroeconomic consulting firm in Buenos Aires, with a primary focus on Argentina and other LatAm economies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in econometrics from the Univerity Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires.
Ash Bennington: Mr Bennington is Editor-in-Chief of EconoMonitor.