Impeachment in context: Behind the fall of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil

Brazil's impeached president, Dilma Rousseff. Credit: Brazil's Agencia Congresso

Brazil's impeached president, Dilma Rousseff. Credit: Brazil's Agencia Congresso

History is being made in Brazil. On May 12, the senate approved an impeachment trial for President Dilma Rousseff. She was temporarily removed from office, and the country's vice president, Michel Temer, has replaced her.

Brazil is a young democracy. A lot has happened since its independence.

  • 1822-1889: Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822, but it was still a monarchy until 1889.

  • 1890-1930: The republic was declared in 1889, 67 years after their independence. During this period, called First Republic, elections were manipulated so that elites from São Paulo and Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil, could choose the president.

  • 1930-1945: Brazil was governed by Getúlio Vargas who took office without being elected.

  • 1946-1964: The New Republic era; people could vote but with some restrictions.

  • 1964–1985: Brazil was ruled by dictatorial governments, and many dissenting people disappeared.

  • 1985-present: Everyone over 16 years old could vote. In 1990, Fernando Collor became the first president to be elected in a direct vote. In 1992, he became the first president who was impeached in Brazilian history.

Brazil is a very young democracy. Though the country was discovered 500 years ago, it has been less than 30 years since the first president was elected in a direct vote, and he was almost immediately impeached. When then-president Collor left the government, the country was facing a serious economic crisis.

It seems that history is repeating itself. Dilma Rousseff, who was the first female president in Brazil, was re-elected in 2014. By 2015, the country was officially in a recession. The unemployment rate and inflation are currently above 10 percent, and the GDP has dropped by about 8.7 percent. With an approval rate of 10 percent, she is leaving office during the worst recession in Brazilian history.

Brazilian recessions. Credit: Uol.com.br (full link)

Brazilian recessions. Credit: Uol.com.br (full link)

Rousseff is part of the Workers Party (PT), which has been in power for straight 13 years. Many members of this party are involved in the bribery scandal of PETROBRAS, the Brazilian state oil company. Rousseff was also a member of the PETROBRAS board when most of the bribery scheme took place.

Evolution of the Debt between the government and state owned banks. It reached R$72.4 billion ($21 billion) in December 2015. Credit: Brazil's Estadão

Evolution of the Debt between the government and state owned banks. It reached R$72.4 billion ($21 billion) in December 2015. Credit: Brazil's Estadão

She is facing impeachment trial for crimes on her first mandate. She is accused of fiscal and administrative frauds. According to the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU), in the election year, she manipulated the balance hiding a deficit of almost R$40 billion ($11 billion). Many people argue that she won the election by committing fraud.

The process can now take up to 180 days, so we still have lots come. The fact is that in less than 30 years of a Brazil's real democracy, this is the second time that a president suffers impeachment, and is also the second time in Brazil's history.

Although this political instability is very bad for the country, it also demonstrates that now we have a democracy where people can really choose their representatives, and can also dismiss them if they don't work as they should.

This is very positive. It shows Brazil is going in the right direction to become a strong democracy.

Cover credit: Cartuminas Blogspot