Yes, it’s a coup…

Since “legality”, in Brasil, does not come necessarily from “peoples will” (but from some peculiar interpretation of legal acts) our democracy is almost becoming some type of “judicial dictatorship”. In Latin America the laws were almost entirely formed without the “people”. There is a well-known representation gap in all Latin countries. For centuries, the legislative comprised only social and economic elites, and the judiciary is no different. Even with the transformations that have taken place in Latin America over the last 15 years, these structures could not be changed so easily.

Abuse of legal instruments has been the format of coups d’état in neighbouring countries such as Paraguay in recent years.

During 2015 we were bombarded with opinion polls which showed the downward trajectory of reelected President Dilma Rousseff’s public support. Each day it became worse. It seems the more media conducts these polls, the worst results become. The government has to bear its share of responsibility with a pack of economic measures that have greatly accelerated the actual economic decline into recession. However, these opinion polls were not to show the government its errors, but instead to erode the very legitimacy of the 2014 election.

There is a bizarre understanding among Brazilian elites about democracy (and in particular Presidential democracy in Brasil) that opinion polls can override an election itself. This is the very beginning of the coup. This theory continues to stress falsely that impeachment is a “political judgment” of a President. This is the same kind of position that insists that it is right to defend Nazi or Fascist discourse in a democracy because we are in a democracy.

In 1964, the Brazilian Military said they were forced to conduct a coup d’état (with U.S. support) perversely, to save Brasil from a “Communist Coup” that had never even been envisaged. Now the Brazilian elites are demanding a subversion of democracy to “save the democratic institutions”.

At the very moment the opposition was defeated in the 2014 polls (by the same % Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney), they insisted that defeated candidate Aécio Neves represented half of Brazilians and that he would be in fierce opposition to the Government. Yet the first political action taken by the opposition was to jeopardise the electoral process itself. Without any concrete case, Neves asked for a complete investigation into the election claiming it could have been rigged. In January of 2015 the opposition demanded that the court forfeit the mandate of Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer on the basis that they had “abused economic power”. This process was shelved but was reopened recently to instil yet more political and judicial pressure on Rousseff’s Government.

The main point is that the defeated opposition never accepted the election result and ever since have been using legislative manoeuvres to block regular Government agenda. One can rightly argue that this is the role of the opposition and, therefore, there is nothing wrong in such tactics. This could be accepted only if behind the scenes the opposition had not sustained – all year – a discourse jeopardising the legitimacy of Rousseff’s government. In short, at the very beginning of the year, the opposition parties in Brasil had overtly or covertly conspired against the Government using all legislative or judicial means in order to break government, with the blessing of media. None of these manoeuvres had been accepted until now.

But, what about the impeachment? In world republican history only two presidents were removed by an impeachment: Fernando Collor de Mello in Brasil (1992) and Carlos Andrés Perez in Venezuela (1993). This should suffice to demonstrate that impeachment cannot be used in a frivolous way. Brazilian law indicates that an impeachment should be preceded by a serious crime committed by the President itself. Rhetorical juggling by the opposition asserts that the president had disobeyed the Fiscal Responsibility Law (approved in 2000) by paying for social programs (as Bolsa Familia, for example) without the legislature voting on the public budget. Neither this fiscal manoeuvre  constitutes a crime (in the view of most specialists in Brasil) nor it has been committed by President herself (the Secretary of the Treasury would be responsible in this case). Giving some legal space to Government, Congress recently voted through the budget for 2015, enlarging the public debt, thus, legalising the so called “pedaladas fiscais” – which is the opposition’s main argument for impeachment.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies is a key player in the Coup. While he was not initially nominated in the massive anti-corruption investigation “Lava Jato” he was playing the covert enemy, delaying all government agendas but did not openly confront Rousseff. As his name began to be more implicated in the investigations his behaviour went from uncooperative to aggressive when dealing with Government. Right now, the Swiss government has handed over a series of documents that prove Eduardo Cunha crimes, namely his Swiss bank account and financial statements. It seems Eduardo Cunha had been implicated in a series of corruption crimes since the early 1990s. It is not a simple coincidence Cunha approved the impeachment process against Rousseff right after the PT (her political party) voted against him in order to open a legislative process that could expel him from Parliament.

A President without any legal implication is being harassed by Cunha and the opposition defeated in last election. We just need to know who is using who: if Cunha is using the defeated opposition to weaken the President in order to avoid the corruption investigations he is implicated in, or Aécio Neves is using Cunha’s fear of jail to accept a baseless impeachment in order to reverse his election loss in 2014.

Conservative forces, national and international, are using us all. Amidst all this process a conservative social and economic agenda is being implanted, the economy is going down and the country is being shaken.

Ultimately, impeachment of Dilma Rousseff has no legal basis and the young Brazilian democracy, less than 30 years old, is in clear and present danger.

By Fernando Horta

PhD in History of International Relations at the University of Brasília (UNB). Denver University Visiting Scholar.