My guest today is Maria Luisa Mendonca, director of Brazil's Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also a professor in the International Relations department at the University of Rio de Janeiro and the editor of the book Human Rights in Brazil.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Maria. The world has its eye on Brazil, the site of the 2016 Olympics. How're things going? Did it all get off to a smooth start?
Maria Luisa Mendonca: The impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff, which is happening during the Olympics, serves to distract voters from a power grab by right-wing politicians.
Rousseff is not facing any corruption charges. The basis for the impeachment is her use of a common financial mechanism of borrowing funds from public banks to cover social program expenses in the federal budget. Other national and local administrations have used this same mechanism, including her predecessors Lula da Silva and Fernando H. Cardoso, as well as 16 current state governors.
The main accusation against president Dilma Rousseff is based on an accounting mechanism characterized as "fiscal pedaling" ("pedaladas fiscais" in Portuguese). Recently, the federal prosecutor's office concluded that the budget deficit served to subsidize interests rates in governmental loans in order to provide credit for low-income housing. The federal prosecutor concluded that this mechanism cannot be considered a crime.
The senators who voted for the impeachment ignored the decision of the Public Prosecutor, who should be the main authority to determine if the accusations had legal basis. The main strategy of the interim government is to create a de facto situation, so the result of the trial against President Rousseff was already known, even before she presented her defense.
The impeachment votes in the Senate and in the Lower House were predictable, since most lawmakers expressed their opinions previously. Most House members declared that they were supporting the impeachment in the name of God, or their families. One member even praised a former military commander who tortured President Dilma during the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 until 1985. These are key facts to understand why Brazil is experiencing a parliamentary coup.
Several Congress members in favor of the impeachment face serious corruption charges. Former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who orchestrated and conducted the impeachment vote on April 17, has since been forced to step down by the Supreme Court on charges of corruption and maintaining illegal Swiss bank accounts. The interim president, Michel Temer, along with seven ministers appointed by him, are also under investigation for corruption charges.