The Petrobras scandal has unveiled the rampant corruption present in modern-day Brazil. It involved not only the government awarding massive construction contracts to affiliated groups, but also billions in reais for bribes given to Brazilian congressman, judges and other political officials to turn a blind eye to this activity. This continues to be a scandal of massive proportions, and has already caused various
resignations and criminal charges against high-ranking Brazilian government officials. Though the now former president, Dilma Rousseff, was never directly implicated in this massive scandal, she was nevertheless impeached on August 31st, 2016. This begs the question: was her impeachment a coup d’état or an appropriate act of justice?
The charge against Rousseff, which caused her impeachment, was due to her attempt to balance the national budget by
borrowing money from state banks. This is illegal according to the Brazilian constitution, but has been done on various other occasions in Brazil and is done routinely worldwide. Rousseff and her supporters, many of whom who took to the streets of major Brazilian cities protesting her impeachment, claim she was unfairly targeted by her opposition. For them to call her ouster a coup d’état is, however, a stark over-exaggeration.
The use of the term coup by Rousseff and her support is an attempt to place the current political situation within the known framework of Brazilian political history. Brazil has a history of non-violent transfers of political power. This history includes both the peaceful overthrow of a democratic government by a military dictatorship in 1964, and then a switch back to a democracy in 1985 with the endorsement of the military regime. Rousseff’s removal is seen by some to be just another in this sequence. This does not however, constitute as a coup d’état. It was not a violent removal, rather one that used existing laws and the constitution for her removal. Rousseff is simply a scapegoat who has had no role in the economic and social problems plaguing Brazil. She did not cause the recession that has stalled Brazil’s once-burgeoning economy and ended many social programs Brazilians rely on, programs which the new president Michel Temer will likely not reinstitute in the near future because there is no money to fund them. Rousseff also had no role in the Petrobras scandal, at least not one that has been proven.
Rousseff’s ousting was not a fair utilization of justice, but a manipulation of the constitution for a political goal. It was also not a coup d’état, despite how it appears to fit the schema for nonviolent transfers of power in Brazil, her palace in Brasília was not violently attacked, and no tanks took to the streets to declare support for Michel Temer. It is simply an unjust usage of the constitution against a guiltless woman. The move sets an undesirable precedent of impeaching a president under unwarranted rational. Her impeachment gives Brazil an unelected president, Michel Temer, who must now move the embattled country towards a better future before the 2018 elections.