“This Is How Coups Start!”: Brazil President Defiant As Impeachment Vote Set For April

“This Is How Coups Start!”: Brazil President Defiant As Impeachment Vote Set For April

Tyler Durden’s pictureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/18/2016

“Brazil is being governed by a joke,” political commentator Josias de Souza says. “It’s turned into an aspiring banana republic.”

What was already an unimaginably bad situation took a decisive turn for the worst this week in Brazil when embattled President Dilma Rousseff, fearing that her mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was about to be arrested on corruption charges, appointed the former President to a ministerial position.

The opposition was already at their wit’s end with Rousseff, whose opponents say doctored the fiscal books in 2014 and who has presided over a catastrophic decline in the country’s economy. Thus far, Rousseff has managed to dodge an impeachment bid spearheaded by House Speaker Eduardo Cunha but after Senator Delcídio do Amaral gave damaging testimony in a plea deal and after Lula was detained earlier this month, it became clear that sooner or later, the two-year-old car wash probe would eventually dead end at the presidential palace doors.

Rather than risk that, Rousseff decided instead to effectively eliminate the possibility that Lula would ever be prosecuted by giving him a position in her cabinet. That affords him special privileges under the law and makes it all but impossible for anyone to prosecute him except for the high court.

It was an absurdly transparent move and everyone would have seen through it anyway, but judge Sérgio Moro – who is conducting the car wash probe – decided to make sure that there would be no doubt in the public’s mind about what was really going on and so, he tapped Rousseff’s phone and released some 50 recordings, at least one of which found Rousseff promising to send Lula his ministerial papers immediately “in case of necessity.” That was almost surely a reference to the fact that Lula could use the papers as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card if anyone tried to arrest him before he could be sworn in. And make no mistake, Moro was probably going to arrest him.

Well, the tapes led to mass street protests which for all intents and purposes are still going on as pro-government rallies were planned for Friday following a swearing-in ceremony for Lula that was made comically absurd by the fact that although he’s technically a minister now, he can’t actually do anything because there are 20 injunctions in federal courts and 10 in the Supreme Court against him taking office. Here are a few images that should give you a fairly good idea of what the mood is in the streets right now:

As WSJ notes, “all the major players face accusations that they were overreaching their authority.”

“It isn’t clear whether Mr. da Silva will be able to claim his seat in Ms. Rousseff’s cabinet. After Thursday’s ceremony—which ended with the current and former presidents raising their clasped hands together in triumph while supporters chanted “There will not be a coup!”—another federal judge ordered Mr. da Silva’s appointment to be suspended,” The Journal recounts. “The judge, Itagiba Catta Preta Neto, was responding to a petition filed by a Brazilian lawyer challenging the legality of the appointment [but] the administration has appealed the order to the Supreme Court.”

(a picture taken at Lula’s swearing-in ceremony)

Moro has become a kind of hero in the country for his aggressive pursuit of corruption and while Lula remains popular among many citizens, his star has fallen among many others as is clear from this week’s protests. “They’re trying to hide that rat, that thief Lula, in a ministry,” a high-school teacher who was demonstrating Thursday said. “The government has failed the country.”

“Convulsing Brazilian society through illegal means violates [the country’s] precepts and sets grave precedents,” Rousseff seethed on Thursday. “This is how coups start.”

Sometimes. Coups also start when the economy collapses and when the government’s defining characteristic is rampant corruption. Just have a look at Rousseff’s impeachment committee, where 1/4 of the members are themselves under investigation by the Supreme Court.

The committee reportedly has 35 members in favor of impeachment, 24 against, and 6 undecided. As The Guardian notes, some 26% of Congress face active criminal investigations. 

In a sign of just how fractured the government truly is, PMDB did not attend Lula’s swearing-in ceremony. Eurasia now expects VP Michel Temer to take over as President by May. There’s no telling what would happen to Lula in that scenario. PMDB will decide on March 29 whether to split with Rousseff’s government. 

As for the impeachment vote, Cunha says the lower house will vote in April. “My previous expectation of 45 days to have a floor vote on impeachment can be reduced to 30 days approximately,” he said. Cunha is of course also being investigated – for hiding Swiss bank accounts. Here’s The Guardian to explain what happens next: 

After Rousseff presents her defence, the committee will make a recommendation to the congress, but whatever it decides, the vote to impeach will go to the floor as a whole. If two-thirds approve, it then moves on to the senate, where it requires only a simply majority to pass. Should that happen, Rousseff will be suspended from the presidency while the supreme court decides her fate.

In the meantime, the economy and the streets will continue to burn. 

On the bright side, Dilma and Lula did got an endorsement from a powerful Latin American ally late this week. “There is coup in Brazil. They decided for an operation to clear the legitimate and democratic leadership of these two leaders,” Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said, before reminding the world that “Dilma is one honest woman, known for honesty and bravery.” With Maduro in your corner, what could possibly go wrong? 

Needless to say, things aren’t looking good for the Olympics. 

While we await the next shoe to drop, we’ll simply close with the following quote from Lula himself ca. 1988: “In Brazil, when a poor man steals he goes to jail. When a rich man steals, he becomes a minister.”

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