Brazil’s impeachment scandal has taken over the media in the past few weeks. The whole of Brazil has been protesting; in the capital a steel wall was erected so that the pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment did not physically clash over what should happen to the Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil.
The president is accused of violating fiscal laws by using funds from state banks to cover up where her budget hasn’t covered expenses. The lower house of congress has voted for her impeachment with 367 in favour and 137 against, now it is the senate who will decide her fate. Ms. Rousseff has denied doing anything that her predecessors haven’t done, she maintains that the impeachment is a coup, and an injustice against her.
She has a point, because the three men intent on accusing her, her vice president, the chamber of deputies speaker and the senate leader, are the ones who will profit the most. They also all have corruption charges against them.
It all starts with Operation Carwash, which is the largest corruption scandal (in dollars) in any democracy ever. Construction executives created a cartel to coordinate bids on Petrobras (the Brazilian state owned petrol company) contracts and key Petrobras employees turned a blind eye so that the executives could pocket the profit and pay the employees who ignored the corruption, including politicians on the board of the company. Whilst this was happening, the now president of Brazil was the chairwoman of Petrobras; she hasn’t been found to be taking bribes but is accused of obstructing investigations into the company.
The three men are her vice president Michel Temer (also facing impeachment) who is accused of arranging the appointment of a Petrobras director linked to his party, of receiving more than US$1.5 million from a construction company who worked with Petrobras and US$345,000 from another, as well as fiddling with government spending. Eduardo Cunha, who is the chamber of deputies speaker, is accused of corruption and money laundering, including owning secret bank accounts in Switzerland and the US that are linked to Petrobras, as well as being paid over 12 million US dollars in bribes. Finally, the senate leader, Renan Calheiros was accused by a lobbyist of being paid US$600,000 to stop the Senate investigating Petrobas’ corruption, and a former Petrobras director alleges that Mr. Calheiros threatened to withhold support if he was not paid off.
The world may be focused on what will happen to the President, but she is just a symbol, the whole system is rife with corruption. Brazil may be able to get rid of Ms Rousseff, but can the country change the whole political system?