An Unstable Balance in Brazil: Impeachment Proceedings Against President Dilma Rousseff Constitute Parliamentary Coup Attempt

“The situation in Brazil today is in a very profound economic, social and especially political crisis. […] There are two very important points: one is the left’s opinion that Dilma’s administration is awful, but that a coup represents Brazil’s dominant political elite’s intent to try to eliminate the PT from the government and introduce a right-wing government, similar to the Paraguayan coup not long ago that deposed Lugo.” – Ricardo Atunes, sociologist at the University of Campinas, Brazil

Translated by Danica Jorden

Source: Rebelión

[Note: Brazilian federal police raided the homes of Eduardo Cunha Tuesday as part of their corruption and money laundering investigation, Operation Carwash.]

Interview with Ricardo Atunes, sociologist at the University of Campinas, Brazil

MH: The impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff is a complex political situation in Brazil. Ricardo, I’d like to hear your opinion.

RA: The situation in Brazil today is a very profound economic, social and especially political crisis. Dilma’s administration was incapable of making a new government when she was elected last October, faced with accusations of corruption, on the one hand, and economic crisis on the other.

There is a new element, which is Dilma’s break with the PMDB [Brazilian Democratic Movement Party], which has always been a centrist party, guaranteeing the PT [Workers’ Party] power without having to demand much, only high bureaucratic posts in states and ministries, etc. But right now there is an imminent rupture between the PMBD vice president and President Dilma, which has increased tension between the Chamber of Deputies [US: House of Representatives], which minutes ago selected a committee by secret vote, where the right is very organized and very strong and achieved a majority to be part of the Impeachment Committee. So right now, the situation is the following: Dilma has 199 votes and the other group 272, a very large difference. Today, those 199 votes make it impossible to decree an impeachment, but the committee is going to start work under the control of Eduardo Cunha, a profoundly corrupt politician who oscillates between the right and the extreme right.

Dilma’s side has naturally deteriorated, the PT base lost a lot of working class support and today depends upon many who are to the left of Dilma, like the PSOL [Socialism and Freedom Party] and other leftist parties, who aren’t defending her government but are in the opposition, though against a coup.

There are two very important points: one is the left’s opinion that Dilma’s administration is awful, but that a coup represents Brazil’s dominant political elite’s intent to try to eliminate the PT from the government and introduce a right-wing government, similar to the Paraguayan coup not long ago that deposed Lugo.

An Unstable Balance in Brazil

M.H.: The majority of governors, 27 of them, have come out against the judgement, plus the governor of the Federal State of Brasília. The São Paolo Stock Exchange, however, went up 4% on Friday with the announcement of the impeachment proceeding against Dilma.

R.A.: The governors who just met with Dilma are from the Northeast and other parts of Brazil, including Minas Gerais, where the governor is PT, and Santa Catalina, but they don’t have the support of the governor of Rio Grande do Sul or of São Paolo, though they have the support of the Rio de Janeiro government. What’s happening is that in terms of state governments, the PT and its allied base has a certain majority, but there are also opposition parties in the governments of various states that are clearly opposed to Dilma.

On the other hand, among the dominant classes, in the industrial financial haute bourgeoisie of agribusiness and services, the situation is doubtful, where one part fears that an open political crisis with an impeachment could completely paralyze the Brazilian economy, which would be worse, but another part of the bourgeoisie is beginning to see the possibility of impeachment as inevitable.

So there are doubts among the dominant classes. An economic review in England wrote a few days ago that it would be very risky to depose Dilma. On the other hand, the Brazilian banks don’t see an alternative to impeachment as the only possibility, so there is an unstable framework.

The utter tragedy is that this political move by the right to remove Dilma’s administration is being led by Eduardo Cunha, a politician marked by the utmost level of corruption possible. So there is, as Gramsci would say, an unstable balance in Brazil today, with one part of the dominant classes in favour of impeachment and the other not, one part of the working classes in favour and the other not. The other part of the working classes doesn’t like the Dilma administration, but knows that the situation would be worse with a right wing government. And the middle classes are also very divided. The traditional ones from the rich enclaves or the most conservative are in the front lines in favour of impeachment, but the more intellectualized middle classes, the university educated professionals, know the situation is very complex.

If Dilma is charged with impeachment, the PMDB is completely involved in corruption, and if the vice president is also charged, the first successor in line is Eduardo Cunha, the most corrupt of all. The great irony in understanding the Brazilian tragedy is that the only one not personally corrupt is Dilma and the poor population know it.

Dilma created an awful government for the poor and working classes, but they know she didn’t steal, that the PT is deeply involved in corruption but that Dilma is not, and there is a constitutionally established law that a president who is involved in an act of corruption can be subject to impeachment, which is not the case with Dilma.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in the magazine Herramienta [Tool], where listeners can obtain more information. The reality is that we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow or after tomorrow if Dilma continues, if she will be impeached or recover. We don’t know.

The last point is that the vice president, the first in line of succession, also signed fiscal “pedaladas” [pedalling, or transfers of funds]. That is to say, Dilma is being charged with signing fiscal “pedaladas”, the insolvent use of public funds, but not stealing, and the vice president did so as well, creating a very complex political situation.

M.H.: Would you comment for us about [Argentine] President-Elect Mauricio Macri by the Industrial Federation of São Paolo? Because we’ve heard that he was received with great honors.

R.A.: Yes, there is a feeling in Brazil, among the bourgeois, especially industrial, classes who are celebrating the liberalization of business between Brazil and Argentina with Macri. During Kirchner’s administration, the Brazilian bourgeoisie was very unhappy with the barriers and limitations she imposed. Argentina is one of the main countries acquiring Brazilian industrial products, and the reduction in sales of these products caused very deep discontent.

The industrial bourgeoisie today thinks there will be more liberalism, fewer barriers, fewer taxes and more possibilities for better business, and that’s why they support Macri and his victory, assuming it will introduce more neoliberal elements into Argentine politics that will positively affect the Brazilian economy.

M.H.: What do you think of the legislative election results in Venezuela?

R.A.: I think we are experiencing a situation, not only on a Latin American level but also globally, taking into account the election of Marine Le Pen representing the extreme right in France last Sunday. And with the election of the centre right in Venezuela, there has been a very great deterioration of the so-called left and centre left governments in Latin America.

There is a big difference between Lula and Dilma’s administrations and what was Chávez’s, or what is Evo Morales’ and what was Kirchner’s, but we know that the entire right calls them all “left wing” governments, which is not correct in my opinion.

There is a second point in Venezuela, which is that the Bolivarian revolution had a grassroots support very tied to the personal figure of Chávez. Chavismo was a Latin American force that combined a social movement of the masses with the figure of its leader. The untimely death of Chávez initiated a profound crisis because the Bolivarian revolution’s advances were not enough to create new leaders up to the level of replacing Chávez. Maduro doesn’t even have one hundredth of the force of Chávez.

On the other hand, it is very important to understand that on the right, those who own the resources are gambling with shortages, ceasing to produce foodstuffs, starting boycotts, and when this happens and the people cannot access the products, popular discontent grows, which is what led to the Bolivarian revolution’s fall.

Danica Jorden is a writer and translator of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and other languages.