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5 Reasons You Should Care That the President of Brazil Was Just Impeached


A banner calling for the removal of the PT, or Worker's Party--the party of Dilma Rousseff. (Editorial J / Flickr)

Dilma Rousseff, the first female president of Brazil, was just kicked out of office. The vote passed easily in the Brazilian Senate yesterday--55 people voted in favor of placing her on trial, versus 22 who voted against the trial.

Rousseff is calling it a coup. The government claims it's an impeachment. But no matter what you call it, the real question is: How is Brazil--which is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics this August--going to move forward from their political turmoil?

Rousseff's forced exit matters for many reasons, but here are five of the most pressing ones.

1. Rousseff's legacy is tainted by corruption.

Even though she was elected twice, people are currently not too pleased with Dilma Rousseff. A lot of that has to do with a corruption scandal concerning Petrobras, a huge state-run oil company where that she chaired from 2003-2010.

Back in 2013, investigators exposed a decade-long scheme that Petrobras executives had devised to overcharge and keep excess profits for themselves. They also kicked some of those profits over to politicians, of course, because where there's large-scale financial corruption there are usually officials looking the other way. They hid this money overseas to avoid detection and paying taxes, but eventually their luck ran out.

It turned out Petrobras executives had actually orchestrated one of the largest corruption scandals ever--to the tune of $5.3 billion.

Rousseff herself actually wasn't accused of corruption in that case. However, it occurred under her watch, which opened the door for some pretty harsh criticism.

Specifically, it gave her opponents the chance to expose her for a different offense--lying about the government deficit when she was up for reelection to make her campaign look better. This is the official reason that she'll be put on trial, but the fact that she's lost the trust of millions of Brazilians doesn't help.

2. The government officials who are forcing her out aren't exactly squeaky clean, either.

President Rousseff may not have been charged with corruption during the Petrobras scandal, but Brazil's Congress members can't say the same.

Out of 594 members of Congress, 352 are either under investigation for corruption or already facing charges. That means a Congress where 60% of its members have been accused of corruption decided to point the finger at the president for being corrupt.


You know what they say about people in glass houses? (Giphy)

That should hint that Rousseff's upcoming trial will be less about her actual misconduct and more about politics.

3. On his own, Rousseff's successor wouldn't be voted into office.

Yeah, so about this being about politics and not actually about corruption. Unlike how it works in the U.S., Rousseff's VP (Michel Temer) belongs to the opposing party, the PMDB. PMDB has lost to PT (Rousseff's party) in four straight national elections, but now they finally have someone installed as president.


Here's the problem: no one likes Temer. At all.

In an actual election, only 2% of the population of Brazil would vote for him. 60% dislike him, about the same number of people who dislike Rousseff. And to top things off, Temer is corrupt, too--he actually faces an eight year ban on running for any office at all after being found guilty of election spending violations.

With so little support, it's going to be hard for him to tame any unrest that could be stirred up.

4. Brazil's economy is already falling apart.

Brazil had been doing pretty well--it was one of the only countries that actually managed to reduce inequality, and with new social programs and strong exports of soy, ethanol, and iron ore, enough money came into the economy to help move millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.

But that huge growth couldn't last forever. While things like soy and oil were expensive in the early 2000s, when their prices dropped, so did the economy.

Meanwhile, Rousseff's spending had increased the country's deficit from 2% to 10% of the GDP. Brazil went from a thriving economy to a country where the little money they had was quickly losing worth.

It's still not clear who's going to replace Rousseff for the long haul, and without clear leadership, it's going to be practically impossible to create any kind of economic stability.

5. The unstable government could affect the Olympics.

Remember that huge global sporting event that places the world spotlight on one country, brings in thousands of visitors and athletes, and requires an immense amount of planning, coordination, and cooperation? Yeah, the Summer Olympics are in Brazil this year, starting in August.

veep panic

Just a hunch. (Giphy)

But ... Rousseff dismissed her entire cabinet, including the sports minister--who is supposed to be helping with preparations for the Olympics. Temer is supposed to be appointing new cabinet members today, but it would be naive to think there won't be any speed bumps in preparations.

Olympic officials say everything is on track despite the political unrest and the uncontrollable outbreak of the scary Zika virus, but not everyone is so convinced.

With all of this going on, it's clear this story is far from over.

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5 Reasons You Should Care That the President of Brazil Was Just Impeached

Lauren Wethers

Lauren is originally from outside Saint Louis, but traveled down the Mississippi River to be a student at Tulane University, where she is the editor-in-chief of The Tulane Review and director of the New Orleans Universities Relay for Life. She has also written for NOLAWoman.com and Winnovating. One day she’ll figure out how to make the Time Turner real, but until then, she’d like to thank coffee for her success. Follow: @laurenwethers.

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