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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

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