Protests erupted again against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after wiretapped phone calls suggested the president offered Lula a position in her cabinet to protect him from prosecution in the corruption case at a state-run energy company. Shortly after Lula was sworn in, a federal judge temporarily blocked his appointment (Folha de Sao Paulo). Meanwhile, Brazil’s Congress elected a commission to hear a case for starting impeachment proceedings against Rousseff (Globe & Mail). She remains under investigation in a separate case alleging she manipulated economic data prior to her reelection in 2014, but does not face any criminal charges. Supporters of Rousseff will stage marches Friday (Guardian); last week as many as three million people marched across the country calling for her impeachment.
“[D]espite all the recent drama, it remains true that the country’s largest political party will determine Rousseff’s future. Specifically, if the PMDB decides to break with the president and support impeachment, Rousseff’s odds of political survival will drop dramatically. Most observers in Brasilia believe that the lower house of Congress would likely have the two-thirds of votes necessary to shift impeachment to the Senate, where Rousseff would face trial. So it was critical that on Thursday neither Vice President Michel Temer (who is also head of the PMDB) nor any PMDB legislators attended the swearing-in of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, according to reports. Symbols matter in politics, and this was a very foreboding one for Rousseff,” writes Brian Winter for Americas Quarterly.
“Political oddsmakers now bet on Rousseff's departure before the end of her term in 2018, and Brazil's markets and currency are rallying at the prospect. Yet Rousseff's departure would fix neither Brazil's economy nor its culture of corruption and impunity that inspired a memorable observation attributed to Lula: When a poor man steals, he goes to jail; when a rich man steals, he becomes a minister,” writes Bloomberg in an editorial.
“Impeachment is all about politics, and although the Lava Jato investigation seems to be marching inexorably toward the upper rungs of the political establishment, there is as yet no smoking gun against Rousseff that would tip the scales. There is evidence of massive campaign violations, confirmation of the kickbacks that helped convict Odebrecht, and allegations of government meddling in the courts. Yesterday’s wiretapped conversation with Lula also puts Rousseff in an unpalatable position, but the presidential palace has claimed that there was good justification for the conversation. Because of the legitimacy concerns noted above, none of these, as yet, seems sufficient to generate the momentum needed in the final push for impeachment, especially in the context of a rudderless, divided, and increasingly discredited opposition,” writes CFR's Matthew Taylor.
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