The political landscape in Brazil has never been peaceful, but some ingredients are bringing a dramatic tone to the scene this time. The main one is a corruption scandal involving the largest Brazilian company, Petrobras, a state-controlled oil-giant caught in a billionaire bribe-scheme last year. Other ingredients are an economic downturn, with forecast pointing to a GDP growth of only 0.55 per cent this year, and a crisis between government and congress.
The drama peaked this week as Rodrigo Janot, Brazil’s chief prosecutor, sent a list of 54 people, including high profile politicians and business men, to the Supreme Court, asking permission for investigating the suspects. The “Janot List”, as the document has been called in the Brazilian press, includes names as Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the Congress’s lower house, and Renan Calheiros, his counterpart in the senate.
The suspects’ names are still under official secret. Janot has asked the Supreme Court Justice, Teori Zavascki, to make the list public. While the Court makes a decision, Brazilians watch the news as a soap opera, waiting for the next name that is going to be leaked. What is expected is that the president’s Dilma Rousseff own party (PT – Labour Party) and her coalition to be hit hard.
Until now, Rousseff had not been named in the investigations, but it was published yesterday that her name has been mentioned by one of the executives who did a plea bargain after his arrest last year. The opposition candidate Aecio Neves, who was running for the presidential elections last October against Rousseff, has also been mentioned in the testimonies. Janot, the chief prosecutor, asked the Supreme Court not to investigate Rousseff and Neves, saying there were not enough evidences to do so.
Today, Rousseff’s first name, Dilma, was the most mentioned word in the Brazilian press*.
Her name has appeared alongside with the name of the operation, Lava Jato (“Car Wash”, in English), and side by side with the main actors of the investigation, including the STF (which stands for Supreme Court of Justice) and Janot, the chief prosecutor. Surprisingly, the name of Neves has not received the same level of attention.
Brazilian disillusionment and the shadow of an impeachment
The Lava Jato operation is far from being the only problem to Rousseff. Brazilian economy is growing very little, inflation is at 7.4 per cent, and Brazilians see the impact on the job market and on the prices. The energy bill has risen 23,4 per cent from last year. Fuel price in São Paulo has risen 9,9% between November 2014 and February 2015, according to Bloomberg.
Disillusioned, a portion of Brazilians turned radical and the word impeachment has been resonating louder than it should.
Here is how the search of the words “impeachment dilma” evolved on Google searches in the past 12 months. The first peak came in mid-October, just after the presidential elections. Another peak was seen in February, during the epicentre of the Lava Jato operation. The searches decreased in the end of the month, but seemed to adopt an ascendent behaviour in March.
On Twitter, the hashtag #impeachment shows posts full of anger and frustration at the government. Expressions encouraging Brazilians to protest, such as “Come to the streets” (Vem pra rua), share space with words such as “Out PT” (Fora PT), “impeachment dilma” and “Out Dilma” (Fora Dilma). Other expressions asked for Dilma to renounce (RenunciaDilma), while others invited Brazilians to march to Brasília, the country’s capital (Rumoabrasilia).
For the sake of our democratic institutions, all what Brazilians can hope is for an independent investigation of the corruption scandal that exposed companies, politicians and businessmen.
For the sake of the young history of democracy in Brazil, all we can hope is no disillusionment will prevent Rousseff to conclude her term of office.
*Brazilian press: analysis using the headlines of newspapers O Globo, Folha de S. Paulo and Zero Hora.