Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brazil Removes President, But Crisis Continues

Brazil’s senate has voted to remove President Rousseff. Her defiant testimony in the impeachment proceedings, shrugging off corruption charges at a time when the country is nearly paralyzed by political corruption, gave no political cover to senators who might have wanted to vote to retain her.

A few politicians and many journalists have portrayed today’s vote as a chance for a fresh start, but there is little chance of that. The larger corruption problem is substantially in place despite a year of indictments, resignations, and other actions. The new president is also deeply unpopular and faces the risk of a corruption impeachment himself, and as the investigation proceeds half of his initial cabinet is already gone. The state-owned oil company at the heart of the corruption scandal is paralyzed by both court orders and low world oil prices. A former president faces indictment and half of the legislature is under investigation. The underlying struggle in all of Brazilian politics this year is between those who want to bow to the inevitable and those who want to delay the inevitable as long as possible. It is a struggle with no end in sight, and in the meantime, the country’s economic crisis and other problems are not getting the attention they deserve.