Be careful of Brazilian politics

BRASILIA/DF, TEMER RODA VIVA NACIONAL 11/11/2016. President MICHEL TEMER during an interview for mainstream press. Photo: Beto Barata/PR

Please, be careful of what you hear about Brazil.

What’s happening here is very different from what you may be reading in recent years.

I’m not telling you I own the truth and that everything you’ve read on newspapers or magazines like the Guardian, New York Times, or Economist are blatant and utter lies.

Things are not so black and white.

Like the devil, the disturbing truth is in the details.

And that’s the problem.

Almost all articles about Brazil are aimed at foreign readers who know very little about this matter. International correspondents have to keep it simple.

But sometimes their simplicity edges on stupidity. Or worse: untruth.

Unfortunately that’s what is going on. Correspondents, either because of their laziness, ignorance or opportunism are not telling the world the whole truth about Brazil.

The most common confusions relate to two main subjects of Brazilian politics: Operation Car Wash (“Operação Lava Jato”) and the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

There are some local non-corporate blogs, like my own, O Cafezinho, offering different perspectives on Brazilian politics. And they have a considerable amount of readers. Although, unfortunately, this is not enough to win the narrative war, it is sufficient to keep resistance alive.

Readers outside Brazil, however, are hearing just one side of the story.

I will try to keep it simple too. At least in the beginning.

Later, when I feel more confident about our communication, that is, between me and you, the readers, I’ll risk a more sophisticated analysis.

The difference between my simplicity and that of the mainstream media is that I’ve already warned you: it’ not simple. Do not swallow everything you hear or read about Brazil without doubting it.

In this post, let’s talk about the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Next Monday (Aug 14th), we’ll talk about the other big Brazilian political issue, the Operation Car Wash.

The most important thing to know about the impeachment is that was a coup, and a most diabolical one.

They’ve worked hard, it’s true, to give it airs of constitutional impeachment and fooled many people, both in Brazil and abroad.

But it is also true that they’ve fooled many more people abroad than in Brazil. And that is the very reason I am here, with my bad English, trying to explain it to you.

I would like to give an example: at the end of July of 2016, Dilma had already been removed from presidency and awaited the result of her trial at the Senate. She was still the “Constitutional President”, but no longer had power. Michel Temer, her former vice-president, had replaced her. Brazil was in his hands.

Datafolha, a polling organization which belongs to the Folha Group, the owner of the largest Brazilian traditional newspaper (generally linked to parties and movements against Dilma), released data about how Brazilians saw the impeachment. The question was: do you think Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process is following democratic rules and respecting the Constitution?

According to this poll, conducted on 14th and 15th July 2016, 49% of respondents said yes, it was respecting democracy and the Constitution.

Nevertheless, 37% answered no, I think impeachment is not following democratic rules and is not respecting the law.

As is usual with Brazilian political polls, there was a huge gap between the opinions of the rich and the poor. Among the poorest segment, 43% believed impeachment was legal and 40% that it was neither legal nor democratic, while 68% of the richest sectors of the population considered the impeachment a legal solution and 32% a non-democratic one.

In the Northeast region, historically the poorest in the country, with a population of 57 million people, a majority, 49%,  saw impeachment as an illegal procedure, against 36% who considered it a democratic process.

The same poll showed that the most ardent supporters of impeachment were likely to vote for Jair Bolsonaro, a extreme right lawmaker ranked second in the polls for the 2018 presidential elections, just behind Lula. Among them, 76% supported impeachment, against 19% who did not.

On the other hand, 61% of Lula’s voters (and don’t forget Lula has won the last four presidential elections) saw impeachment as breaking democratic rules.

Here, I would like to quote an article by Glenn Greenwald, published a day after representatives voted for Dilma’s impeachment in the Chamber of Deputies.

One prominent pro-impeachment deputado who is expected to run for president, the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro (whom The Intercept profiled last year), yesterday explicitly praised the military dictatorship and pointedly hailed Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the dictatorship’s chief torturer (notably responsible for Dilma’s torture). Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, also in the House, said he was casting his impeachment vote “for the military men of ’64″: those who carried out the coup and imposed military rule.

So, you can see the impeachment’s narrative was never consensual in Brazil. An important segment of Brazilian society did not accepted it as a democratic solution to the political crisis.

Curiously enough, that was the last time Datafolha or any other important polling institution, asked people about the legality of the Dilma’s impeachment.

Be careful, here is a common intellectual trap: Yes, impeachment is a constitutional tool which, indeed, exists in Brazilian law.

But for it to be legal, there are some requirements that were absent in Dilma’s case. The main one is that the person of the president needs to have directly committed a crime. And they never proved anything against Dilma.

What do people think about it now? Although the polling organizations have never asked about the legality of the impeachment again, we have some idea of how opinion on this matter stands.

In the same poll, in July 2016, Datafolha asked whether Temer should remain president or whether Dilma should return: 50% answered that Temer should remain and 32% said they would prefer Dilma as president. In the Northeast, however, 49% preferred Dilma over Temer.

The most recent poll (by Ibope, another respected polling company) on people’s presidential preference showed that 52% of the respondents  preferred Dilma over Temer. Only 11% said they preferred Temer. While 35% said they did not know. This poll was conducted in the second week of July, 2017.

These numbers allow us to suppose that today, a majority believe that Dilma’s impeachment was an illegal political manoeuvre.

Some activists have been collecting signatures to force the Supreme Court to cancel the impeachment process. It is unlikely this will happen, as the Brazilian judicial institutions has been deeply involved in the political conspiracies that led to the coup.

But Brazilians are dreamers and don’t give up easily.

Last Saturday, 2017 August 4th, saw a political manifestation by Brazilian residents in New York Defend Democracy in Brazil. They were collecting signatures, during a show, for the annulment of the impeachment (“Ação Popular Anula o Impeachment”). See photos below.

As in Samson’s song, the fight goes on.


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Miguel do Rosário

Miguel do Rosário is a Brazilian political blogger, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and writes in Portuguese on Cafezinho and in English on Slating News.

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7 Comments on "Be careful of Brazilian politics"

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Hans
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Hans

Thanks a lot for the insight into the reality of the situation in Brazil. It was interesting to read and informative for someone who only gets a slight perspective of politics in mainstream media. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to more great news from you. 🙂

Atineli
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Atineli

Very important initiative. Congratulations !

Adriano
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Adriano

Congratulations Miguel for such great initiative!! All the best!

Fer
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Super! I am going to share this post with my contacts. I wish that I could do more…it is a pity I don’t know brazilians in PR. It could be nice to do something similar to what people are doing in NY here too.

LittleCoffe
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LittleCoffe
It is definitely important to offer a different perspective to foreigners about Brazilians crazy political scene. However I have one contradictory comment about this passage: “But for it to be legal, there are some requirements that were absent in Dilma’s case. The main one is that the person of the president needs to have directly committed a crime. And they never proved anything against Dilma.” Actually, according to the Constitution, the Senate (directly elected by the people) is responsible to judge the President in the case of a impeachment. They found her guilty based on articles 10 and 11 of… Read more »
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