Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

"The pro-impeachment forces are a broad coalition made up of conservative religious figures, diverse economic interests, and opportunists who want to be linked to the government in order to gain benefits from those in power."

James Green, director of the Brazil Initiative

Professor James Green answers questions about the political crisis vexing Brazil

April 22, 2016

What are the implications for the US of a Roussef impeachment and a Temer presidency?

Many foreign investors have criticized the economic policies of the Lula-Rousseff administrations and are celebrating, no doubt, the possibility that President Rousseff will be impeached. They hope that this will lead to political and economic stability and an improved investment climate. As far as I know, the US government has made no public statements in favor of or against the process of impeachment, and I hope it is not involved in behind-the-scenes maneuvering to support those who favor a change in government. It would be a sad repetition of past moments, such as when the United States actively supported the 1964 military takeover and provided significant economic and military support to consolidate and stabilize the military’s hold on power.

How will Brazil recover from this crisis politically, economically, ethically?

It is not clear whether or not there will be political stability in the immediate future. Temer is already putting together his government and choosing his cabinet ministers, but he is also vulnerable to charges that he was involved in alleged influence peddling and the channeling of money to the 2014 electoral campaign, which could be grounds for his own impeachment. There are allegations that he personally received significant bribes, charges that have not be leveled against President Rousseff. Moreover, he was involved in actions that are the basis of the actual accusations against President Rousseff, namely, manipulation of the federal budget, which theoretically could lead to his impeachment as well.

The next in line for the presidency is Eduardo Cunha, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, who presided over the first state of the impeachment and pushed for charges against President Rousseff. He did so immediately after the Workers’ Party voted against him in the ethics committee of the Congress. Chunha has been accused of money laundering, influence peddling, and graft. Investigators have found more than $5,000,000 in Swiss bank accounts, and his name appears in the Panama Papers. If Temer were impeached or blocked from assuming the presidency because of pending charges, Cunha would be come president.

Many observers believe that a deal was made among sectors of the opposition to make sure that he is never brought to trial. If that is the case, it will become clear that those who clamored for Rousseff’s impeachment based on recent corruption revelations linked to the Workers’ Party were not really interested in ousting the President because of ethical considerations, but rather to overturn the decision of the electorate, which chose her for a second term in 2014 with a three-point vote margin.

Do the citizens calling for Dilma's removal from the presidency also want to reverse the social gains of the poor that her government and her predecessor's have brought about over the past decade?

They would claim that this is not a part of their agenda, but I’m not sure that one can take them at their word. The pro-impeachment forces are a broad coalition made up of conservative religious figures, diverse economic interests, and opportunists who want to be linked to the government in order to gain benefits from those in power. Many have criticized the nature of the Lula-Rousseff’s social programs and will undoubtedly try to roll back the successful ones and replace them with market-based, private initiatives that will likely not result in continued income redistribution. The social conservatives are already flaunting their anti-LGBT agenda and their opposition to women’s productive rights. I predict that even after the economy is stabilized again, we will see an increase rather than a decrease in the gap between the rich and the poor.

More information on the roundtable, "Brazil: What's Next?"