House of deputies votes to impeach Dilma Rousseff amid massive civil protests
Over the past year, Brazil has gone through political upheavals that were once hoped to be bygones of the past.
As early as August 16, 2015, thousands of Brazilians demonstrated across 200 cities against the current President Dilma Rousseff due to the unfolding of a corruption scandal among her Worker’s Party. This is coupled with an economy that is entering a state of recession and harsh austerity measures due to a credit downgrade.
The corruption within Brazil’s political parties is rampant. “Operation Car Wash,” a police investigation into corruption at the state-run oil firm Pertobras, has resulted in the arrest of dozens of leading industrialists.
More than 50 politicians are accused of having been involved in the scheme as well, including one of the founding members of the Worker’s Party, Jose Dirceu, who was arrested for being suspected of orchestrating a multibillion–dollar bribery scandal through Pertobras. A criminal investigation has also been opened against the former President Lula due to allegations of illegal influence-peddling in the years since he has left office.
Brazil’s economy has exceeded 10 percent inflation and with a contracting economy,Rousseff’s approval rating has dropped into the single digits. On March 13, 2016, over onemillion Brazilians protested against the government, with President Dilma Rousseff being seen as the primary antagonist. Protesters called her a “horror” and the Worker’s Party “a criminal organization that is robbing state resources” and “destroying” the country.
As of Sunday, April 17, Brazil’s parliament started a vote for impeachment proceedings against the current president.
Originally, she was a revolutionary figure in Brazil, being the first female president of the country and a successful economist next to being a politician. She held offices like chief of staff and minister of mines and energy. She was seen as a figure that would move Brazil forward from hard times and former political corruption and take the nation forward amid its economic woes.
On Sunday, Brazilian lawmakers gathered to pass a vote. Videos showing fiery speeches, shouting and physical scuffles surfaced on the internet as lawmakers jostled one another over plans to impeach the president. The entire ordeal lasted more than six hours and ended with massive demonstrations throughout hundreds of cities in Brazil.
In order to successfully move forward with impeachment, two-thirds or 342 votes would have to be cast in favor of the measure. Ultimately, Rouseff was handed a sobering defeat when the Chamber of Deputies (the “lower house” of Brazil’s legislature) voted 367 to 137 in favor of impeachment.
The motion will now move to the Senate where, if approved, the president will have 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial.
If the Senate votes for the proposal, President Rousseff may be impeached as early as May, which raises some major concerns as Brazil is hosting one of the biggest sporting events this year: the Summer Olympics. This was expected to be Brazil’s way of showing the world that they had left their troubled past behind, but three months before the event, the country has found itself in a turmoil again.
The people of Brazil are divided over the decision, with protests taking place while congress made their decision. Giant barricades were formed to separate the supporters of President Rousseff from the supporters of her impeachment. Giant TV screens were placed on the Copacabana beach as thousands watched in anticipation.
The opposition charges Rousseff with foul play during the 2014 elections. They also blame her for the worst recession in decades and for the huge bribery and corruption scandals with Pertobras.
“I believe that this change is just the start of a big change that all of Brazil needs,” Luiz Shinzato said, a doctor in São Paulo. “But the impeachment is not sufficient to change Brazil. I think we have to work hard to change the way that our politicians think, but this is a start. We have one mission as Brazilians, and that is to prove to people that we are trying to change. And first of all we have to change our capacity to be trustworthy.”
The future of Brazil’s political stage will be determined by the Senate as the world watches.