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Betraying the Rule of Law

Judging by the hundreds of comments it received from online readers, the article “Brazil: The Great Betrayal,” to be published in this week’s edition of The Economist, has disturbed a particularly important group: English-speaking Brazilian elites (of which I am part). Publicly silent for most of the first decade of this Millennium, this heterogenous group of people has historically been shielded by a shamefully partial local media, draconian unfair tax policies, murderous police forces and all other sorts of privilege. Yet things seem slightly different nowadays. As the President of Brazil arrives in the UN to tell the world about a coup d’etat underway in one of the largest democracies in the planet, the international community is now demanding from these elites new forms of public accountability that they have not been exposed to in the past. I will try to do my part here, rather briefly.

For the international reader, who may know little about this Olympic nation which has been for centuries a gold medalist in inequality, it is crucial to understand that the current process to impeach President Dilma Rousseff has absolutely no connection with corruption, from a strictly legal perspective. Few would disagree that her economic policies have been disastrous or that the President herself has betrayed many of her voters by adopting fiscal policies that she had promised to oppose during the 2014 elections. Fortunately, I was not one of her voters. Unfortunately perhaps, I still had to accept the defeat of my candidate and the democratic election of not only an incompetent president, but also a disgustingly corrupt political class, composed of members from all major parties (PMDB, PSDB and PT included) who are now facing multiple trials.

Yet, the juridical basis presented in the report that originated the impeachment procedures against President Rousseff does NOT talk about corruption, electoral fraud or economic policy incompetence. It mentions instead administrative practices (the requisition of supplemental budgetary funds to cover fiscal deficit, implicated in the famous “pedaladas”) which not only are perfectly legal but were approved by Congress and by accounting courts in due time. Moreover, the practice of “pedaladas”, although used in excess under President Rousseff, has also been advised by multiple state agencies and has been a common practice in federal and state governments in recent decades. To think that the “pedaladas” are simply a “totalitarian idea” stemming from the mind of a Machiavellian chief of state is not only absurd — it has now become sexist, given the tone of recent and unacceptable personal attacks against Mrs. Rousseff, a woman with unique strength and irreprehensible dignity.

The absurdity of the legal foundations of the pending accusations against the President is flagrant. And that is why the betrayal now taking place in Brazil is not a treason against “marxist” or “keynesian” ideals. Nor is it a betrayal of the teachings of Adam Smith, Hayek or Friedman, which the Brazilian readers of The Economist (the President amongst them) seem to venerate. The current betrayal is against the much more basic principles of Rule of Law and Due Process — principles that inspired the French and American revolutions but that have, over the centuries, found so much resistance from slave owner elites and all of us, descendants of their cruel society in Brazil.

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Frederico Oliveira

  • Antony Vaughan

    I too am one of those few English speaking elite you mentioned, in fact I am English and have made Brasil my home for the best pass 25 year’s. Paid my taxes and plenty of them before any VEGA reader starts to complain I’m a gringo and should mind he’s own business and my wife is a University professor who does her best to prepare young Brasilian minds to tackle the problems this bizarre County and the World may throw at the on a daily basis.
    What I would like to add to what has already be said quite rightly by Frederico is the United States have played an enormous part in what has happen here in Brasil, XON Mobil oil Company and Wall Street are rubbing their hands together at the thought of these gangsters who will take over the power opening markets to private investment.
    Let’s forget the United States history when it comes to interference in Latin America Countries, fortunately President Lula had the financial muscle to resist in the past. Unfortunately that’s no longer the case and BRICS will be one of the first targets the US and theirs friends will insist goes before they agree to invest any of their dirty money!
    I fear even a General Strike may be to late, but turning off the power to the Dictatorship funded media and the non democratic processes in Brasilia may be he only alternative. Certainly bold measures are that remains left when people are faced with which can be called a COUP!

  • Pait

    The goal of the “pedaladas” was to hide government deficit and disrespect the Congress approved budget. They most certainly are admissible as grounds for impeachment. The decision to suspend the president is up to the Senate, which was elected and is as legitimate as the president.

  • Frederico Menino

    Mr. Pait, I honestly don’t know how could anyone “hide” a $200bi+ public debt. This is not the kind of thing you can sweep under the carpet or – as Brazilian politicians prefer to do – hide inside one’s underpants. The Brazilian fiscal and economic crisis is not a secret to anyone, and the government’s “goals” are not as mysterious (or criminal) as most of its opponents (including those immaculate and angelical figures in the Senate and the media) want to make us believe.

    And let me be straight: I have always opposed the widespread use of supplemental credit as a means to compensate for fiscally suicidal tax breaks and subsidies to inefficient governmental programs (“Bolsa Empresario” being perhaps the most emblematic among them). In my opinion, the irresponsible use of the pedaladas, especially since 2012, is one of the main reasons why Brazil now faces a situation in which “austerity” is presented as something “inevitable”. (I’m a New School student, so you may imagine how much I dislike the word austerity). And let’s also be clear: the President and her economic crew did not ask the Congress for more money. What they asked was permission to make indebtedness toward public banks more “elastic”. Both the Congress and the accounting courts approved all that. When the superior accounting court (TCU) finally decided to end the party, the Government immediately obeyed.

    Now, I simply can’t see where the “admissible grounds for impeachment” are in this case. President Dilma (and her whole cabinet) “hid” the growing public deficit the same way that Apple, Google and our beloved global billionaire class “hide” their ginormous profits every year, in paradises around the world.

    Do I approve it? No.

    Do I think it should be illegal? Yes.

    Is it illegal? Surprisingly, most of this ‘hide and seek’ is not.

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