Yesterday, more than two-thirds of federal deputies in Brazil voted to begin impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. Raquel Muniz, from the (misnamed) right-wing Social Democratic Party, dedicated her pro-impeachment vote to the “honesty” of her husband.
This morning, the Federal Police arrested her husband for fraud in various hospitals and charities in their home city in the state of Minas Gerais. She, too, faces various fraud charges, but her status as a federal deputy temporarily protects her from criminal proceedings.
That story alone does a good job capturing yesterday’s farce. President Dilma Rousseff from the Workers’ Party (PT) was charged by the lower house of deputies with the “crime of responsibility” for dodgy accounting maneuvers with state accounts.
This despite the fact that similar practices occurred in the 1994–2002 governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, currently in sixteen state governments in Brazil, and even by Obama in 2013 when Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling.
To be sure, PT members have been involved in various corruption schemes, but there is absolutely no evidence of legal wrongdoing by Rousseff.
Brazilians were treated to an obscene spectacle in which impeachment proceedings were presided over by House President Eduardo Cunha, currently under investigation by the House Ethics Commission and the Supreme Court for bribes from, among others, the state petroleum company Petrobras, totaling over $20 million and as many as thirteen undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland and Panama.
Indeed, more than half of the five hundred deputies, most of whom voted for impeachment, are currently under investigation for crimes ranging from bribes and kidnapping to homicide.
In a veritable carnival of reaction and hypocrisy, right-wing deputies dedicated their votes to family members, evangelical churches, the anti-abortion movement, and cutting social rights, completely ignoring the issue of the president’s supposed criminal responsibility. Indeed, fewer than a dozen mentioned the supposed crime for which Rousseff is being charged.
One deputy, Jair Bolsonaro, a homophobic ex-police officer, dedicated his vote to one of the military officials who tortured Rousseff when she was arrested during the armed struggle against the military dictatorship in the 1970s.
Many deputies from tiny “parties for rent” who were allied to the Rousseff government until a few weeks ago also voted yes after receiving promises from opposition parties of government posts and direct or indirect support in future governments and elections.
There is little doubt that what is occurring is an “institutional” or “parliamentary” coup similar to what happened in Paraguay in 2012 and Honduras in 2009. The Right is taking advantage of the economic crisis, PT corruption, and the massive unpopularity of Rousseff to kick wide open the doors of neoliberalism opened by the PT itself over the last decade.
Still banking on last-minute deals with deputies from dubious centrist and right-wing parties, the speeches by government supporters, with few exceptions, were pathetically subdued. Only the six left-opposition deputies from the Socialism and Freedom Party and a few others called House President Cunha what he is: a corrupt and hypocritical thief.
In the next month or so, the Senate, in which the government has even less support, will vote on continuing impeachment proceedings. A simple majority will result in Rousseff’s removal from the presidency while senators conduct an investigation.
The presidency will go to current vice president Michel Temer, who broke from the government two months ago. Formally, there will be no vice president, but in the event of a trip abroad, sickness, or death, Eduardo Cunha will become president while new elections are organized.
The PT government, against all logic, continues to believe that it will be able to stitch together alliances to win the vote in the Senate. Yet they have also floated the idea of new elections for president and vice president in October when there will be nationwide municipal elections.
The left opposition needs to condemn the rank hypocrisy and shamelessness of the impeachment proceedings. Yet we must not fall into the trap of supporting the PT government. Even if new elections are called, the way out of the crisis is building struggles on the ground working with or without government-supported unions and social movements.
Forty high schools are occupied by their students in Rio de Janeiro and public servants in the same state are two weeks into a militant strike. Unions and social movements across the country have promised to step up the struggle.
Against the Right and against the neoliberal federal government, the only solution is struggle on the streets.