Thousands have flooded Copacabana beach, Sao Paolo, and other major cities to call for the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff, the leader of the left wing Worker’s Party, is seriously embattled less than a year into her second term. Mass protests calling for her removal took place in March and April, and elements of the Congress have broken completely with her government, according to ABC News.
At the center of the call for Rousseff’s impeachment is a massive scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. The company has discovered huge deep water oil reserves, which could potentially put Brazil near the top of the energy player’s tree, and once raised $70 billion dollars in one of the biggest share floats in history. But investigations by Brazilian Federal Police have unearthed money laundering and bribery on a breathtaking scale in a scandal which has already unseated key members of Rousseff’s government, reports the BBC. Many people blame President Rousseff for the scandal, as the investigation has revealed that at least some of this illegal activity would have taken place when Rousseff herself was chairwoman of the company between 2003 and 2010. The scandal also implicates some of the country’s biggest construction firms, who also happen to be some of the government party’s largest political donors.
Brazil’s economy is in serious trouble, with inflation predicted by some analysts to rise beyond 10 percent. Rousseff’s woes have also made it very difficult for her to get pro-business legislation through the house. On top of all of this, harsh austerity measures have seriously eroded Rousseff’s working class support base, with figures showing the impeachment movement having its strongest support among Brazil’s poorest people. The composition of the protests this time, however, has been overwhelmingly middle class. It would seem that opposition to the Rousseff government is strongly rooted in a reactive swing away from left wing politics and policies. There is also major concern in the international community about the fragility of Brazil’s democracy. The country only freed itself from a military dictatorship three decades ago, and it is feared that the removal of President Rousseff might re-instate something very similar. Some protesters, however, seemed unconcerned about this prospect. Neide Cordeiro, a 43-year-old businesswoman attending the protest told the Wall Street Journal,
“We want the armed forces to clean up the country and take all the criminals out of power. If there is no intervention, Brazil will be dead, it may become Venezuela or Cuba.”
Rousseff herself has described the calls for impeachment as a “coup.” Dilma Rousseff is not without support, with various factions in the Senate supporting her and some pro-government rallies taking place earlier this year, but her approval ratings have dropped to a dismal 8 percent and this, combined with legislative ineffectiveness, puts her government in serious trouble.
The instability of the Rousseff government is yet another concern to add to the growing pile surrounding next year’s Olympic Games in Rio. Already, venue choices, security and facilities have presented as major problems for the country, and the prospect of a coup would seriously compromise Brazil’s credibility as an Olympic host.
[Picture via Getty Images]