Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dilma the Amazon of the Planalto Part II: The Fall.


On November 9, 2014 this blogger posted an article entitled The Amazon of the Planalto ( to introduce Dilma Rousseff and explain why she had been re-elected president of Brazil. In 2016, Dilma has become a household name even outside Brazil, and for many Brazilians, the Planalto looks more like a den of crooks than a presidential palace. The president’s falling from grace has been swift and spectacular. Why have things gone so wrong for Dilma?

Dilma is the most unpopular president since the restoration of democracy in 1985. In order to be re-elected, she painted a rosy picture of the economy and spent public money outrageously. In order to hide the abysmal budget deficit, she cooked the books. Re-elected, she had to renege on her campaign promises to fix the runaway deficit. She is squarely responsible for the worse economic recession in 80 years. Now, she is being impeached for falsifying government accounts. In addition, a majority of Brazilians believe that she condoned political corruption mainly the leviathan-size embezzlement of the state oil company Petrobras to protect members of her party and its coalition. This blogger believes that the impeachment is a constitutional trick aimed at a weary president whose government’s survival depends on unconstitutional budget tricks. In fact, the impeachment is a referendum on her helpless, hopeless and incompetent government.

In my previous blog, I portrayed Dilma as a very un-Brazilian person for being rude, bossy and aloof. This is what I wrote: “For many, Dilma is Brazilian version of the Iron Lady of the United Kingdom. For this blogger she is more Iron than Lady. She comes across as stiff, authoritarian, uncharismatic, controlling, rude, and uncaring. She is said to run her cabinet like a boot camp. She does not loosen up even when surrounded by her adoring fans. In a country renowned for its congeniality, she is seen as a loner. Dilma leaves no one indifferent. For her leftist Workers’ Party sympathizers and the impoverished northerners she is an icon, the Madonna of the poor, uniquely gifted to make Brazil advance toward social justice. However, for the 51 million who did not vote for her, she is like the cartoon character Cruella de Vil, a hypocrite who protects a criminal organization”.

Thanks to its efficient propaganda, the Worker Party (PT in Portuguese) has proclaimed itself the only champion of democracy and social justice. According to PT, attacking Dilma equates to a coup attempt against democracy and the poor. The coup mongers are the right wing elite, and the media who want to take their revenge over the PT’s loathed progressive social agenda. In April 2016, Dilma’s backers, mainly trade unionists, intellectuals, public servants and artists made a show of support. However, her confrontational style has antagonized many allied politicians and PT members. Party’s big wigs and left leaning political allies are less supportive of her, therefore they denounced the impeachment as a coup d’├ętat against the institutions. This rhetoric is someway validated by the fact that a large number of the lower-house politicians who voted Dilma down, have a very tarnished reputation. Some sixty of them are under investigation for corruption or more serious crimes!

The last paragraph of my 2014 blog was prophetic, I implied that Dilma will have to update her guerrilla skills to keep the alpha males of her cabinet in line. Her relationship with her vice-president Michel Temer (75) was notoriously strained, and she hardly consulted him about state matters. He complained of being a “decorative vice-president” and being treated with mistrust and contempt. In 2016, the veep and most of her ministers have either abandoned or confronted her. Temer has been instrumental in Dilma’s downfall, acting quietly to undermine her in the wings: “Revenge is a dish best eaten cold” according to the saying,


                                       Dilma and Michel in happier times

Currently, the impeachment process follows its long-winded course in the Senate. Very probably, Dilma will have to step aside for 180 days, and the all-boy-club of the old guard will take over.

This blogger never liked Dilma’s unorthodox economic maneuvers, but she was a bulwark against the conservative and patriarchal social agenda of the boys of the old guard. With Dilma in the dog house, the vice-president will take charge of an interim government. Under investigation for bribe taking, Temer is also very unpopular. He will eject PT members, nominate his own cronies and reward pro-impeachment political parties. He hopes to revive the economy by going back to orthodoxy. However, worryingly for this blogger, he is under the influence of the old patriarchal elite and the Evangelical Christians whose political clout is growing in Brazil. Their dream is to make Brazil an Iran-styled theocracy. Now, Temer is assembling his all-male, all-white cabinet under the blessing of leading Evangelical politicians. His task is nearly impossible as Brazil has no less than 32 registered political parties whose only goal is seeking patronage.

Dilma’s social views are very liberal and in line with the tolerant social mores of the majority of Brazilians. She never hid her atheist belief, resisted the moral agenda of the conservative political parties backed by Catholic and Evangelical Christians, and was an advocate of the laicity of the state. Dilma was committed to advancing women’s rights and in a country where abortion is highly restricted she was publicly pro-choice. She took a stand for the criminalization of homophobia and her party blocked several attempts to pass laws to allow psychiatrists to treat homosexuality as a disease or a mental disorder (cura gay in Portuguese).

In a patronage-ridden political system, Temer’s selection of potential ministers is already under fire. Particularly worrying is Temer’s choice for minister of science and technology; it may go to a bishop from the Evangelical Universal Church who is promoting creationist theories.

Even the supporters of economic orthodoxy may miss Dilma’s wretched government.