If you’ve ever had a dream with an incredibly irritating, obnoxious sound that was impossible to stop only to wake up and find that it was your alarm going off, you have an idea of what it’s like to be in Brazil right now. For the past two weeks, Brazilians have been taking their political woes to the streets in protest and in favor of their government. On any given day, especially days when large manifestations are held, it is not unusual to hear Brazilians shouting their political beliefs from the windows of their apartments, banging pans and pots or honking as they drive by. Just when I thought I acclimated to the constant noise in São Paulo… Thanks, Brazilians, corruption and politics. I’m no expert, but I did my best to summarize what’s been going on in Brazil to cause all of this ruckus.
As are all politics, it’s complicated, and the more I learn, the more complicated it becomes. Although I am going to do my best to explain and condense the situation at hand, I highly encourage you to do your own research and read from diverse sources to learn more. After numerous classes discussing the current turmoil in Brazil, reading articles, watching the news and attending two manifestations (one from each of the “opposing” parties), I’ve gained a better understanding of the happenings here.
What’s at stake?
-An impeachment of current president Dilma Rousseff (almost guaranteed)
-Incarceration of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
-A potential repeat of the 1964 military coup (highly unlikely from what I’ve gathered)
-Removal of 15 or more political figures due to corruption and scandal
The surface-level story
Corruption seems to be embedded in Brazilian politics. Fortunately or unfortunately for some, a corruption scheme involving Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, surfaced recently, which uncovered various ties to political figures and groups including current president Dilma and former president Lula’s political party, Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). Like Americans now, only amplified, Brazilians are fed up with their government and have hit the streets to protest. What I find interesting is what each side of the argument wants; one side wants Dilma impeached and Lula in bars due to the outrageous corruption while the other wants to maintain democracy, thus favoring Dilma as President and Lula as the newly elected Minister of the Civil House (similar to Chief of Staff). They are not as much opposites as they are simply fighting for different values: doing the right thing vs. upholding the constitution. While I firmly believe in both of these values, I do not see how an entire country can ignore their constitution.
Currently, Dilma’s impeachment charge is that of fiscal irresponsibility, but there is potential that her 2013 presidential campaign was funded with money from Operation Car Wash (the Petrobras scandal), which is basically a backup charge if the fiscal irresponsibility falls through. Although nothing has been proven yet, it has become extremely likely that I will be in Brazil to witness the impeachment of President Dilma; whether it will be done constitutionally or unconstitutionally has become the central question. Voting will be taking place later in the second half of April to officially determine what will happen moving forward.
What’s the catch? Even if Dilma is impeached, her predecessor will more than likely be part of some political corruption or scandal seeing as 60 percent of the government falls under that category.
What it’s like to be living this moment
“This is a special time in Brazilian history,” has been a favorite quote used by my professors. It is a special time indeed, but there are so many other words to describe the happenings of late: violent, tense, entertaining, outrageous, scary, energetic, bias, confusing, complex, etc. Last week at my university, many of my fellow classmates witnessed and/or experienced the wrath of the military police here. During a coordinated manifestation behind my school, there was a group of students shouting against the military. As a result, the police in attendance began firing teargas at the crowd. In addition to this incident, I have read vile messages graffitied on buildings and crosswalks, heard incredulous comments about Brazilian politics and political figures and seen life-size dolls of Dilma and Lula lynched on the street of Avenida Paulista (the 5th street of Brazil).
The bottom line
Brazilians want change, but how to go about that change is the difficult part. Almost assuredly, president Dilma will be impeached while I am in Brazil. The two big questions I have now are 1) On what grounds will she be impeached and 2) What happens after she is impeached?
- Golpe- Coup (A common chant in favor of Dilma is “Não via ter golpe!”)
- Fora- Out with! (A common chant against Dilma is “Fora Dilma!”)
- Impedimento legal- Impeachment
- Lava-Jato– Car wash
- Sorriso- Smile (There had to be something happy in this post)