In a shift in international media coverage of Brazil, several major outlets have directly questioned the impeachment bid against President Dilma Rousseff, calling out the shaky grounds of the process and its dubious claims to be democratic.
For months, international media swooned over anti-government protests in Brazil, paying scarce attention to the seriousness of the political power grab taking place and the high stakes of the impeachment attempt against the elected president.
But as the campaign against Rousseff heats up and her removal from power inches closer to becoming a reality, international media outlets have started to pay a lot more attention to Brazil and take a critical look at the impeachment campaign that threatens to hurl the country into an even deeper political crisis.
Here are five examples of how international media is changing its tune.
1. The Guardian
In an editorial following the pro-impeachment vote in Brazil’s lower house, The Guardian’s editorial board highlighted the key issue underpinning Rousseff’s opponents’ bid to boot her from office, which is that despite the use of popular anti-corruption sentiment to justify her impeachment, she’s not actually embroiled in the scandals.
“The president herself has not been implicated in the Petrobras scandal,” reads the April 18 editorial, referring to the state oil company case that has been at the heart of anti-corruption probes. “The grounds for her impeachment are that she manipulated state funds ahead of the last election—not much more than a misdemeanour by Brazilian standards.”
The piece continued by singling out the leader of the impeachment campaign, who faces charges over multi-million dollar bribery. “But almost all those involved in impeaching her are suspected of corruption, including Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the lower house,” it reads.
The Guardian’s editorial sheds a light on the impeachment process as hypocritical at the very least, predicting the whole political spectacle will leave Brazil to “suffer the consequences for a long time to come.”
2. The New York Times
A New York Times piece this week titled, “Brazil’s Vice President, Unpopular and Under Scrutiny, Prepares to Lead,” cast doubt on the claimed justification of the impeachment attempt as a bid to root out corruption. It kicked off with a glimpse at just how much corruption is swirling around Vice President Michel Temer, the man set to take over if Rousseff is impeached.
“One recent poll found that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for him,” the piece by Simon Romero begins. “He is under scrutiny over testimony linking him to a colossal graft scandal. And a high court justice ruled that Congress should consider impeachment proceedings against him.”
Romero’s interview with Temer that follows further lays bare the absurdity of a so-called anti-corruption campaign led by a gang of corrupt officials. The article explains that Temer expressed support for “scandal-plagued” lower house speaker and impeachment leader Eduardo Cunha, “next in line for the presidency” if Temer takes office, saying he wouldn’t ask for Cunha’s resignation.
While the New York Times didn’t go as a far to directly say that the impeachment bid is a power grab, it certainly provides the reader enough information to conclude as much.
3. The Economist
Following the vote for impeachment in Brazil’s lower house, The Economist published a list of the reasons pro-impeachment lawmakers gave for the vote, pointing out that very few actually cited the accusations against Rousseff that were supposedly behind the impeachment bid.
“The charge is that her government had fiddled government accounts, concealing their parlous state,” reads the April 18 article. “But hardly any of the federal deputies who spoke in the raucous, viciously partisan televised special session even mentioned this.”
In a separate article, The Economist paid more attention to Temer’s pro-investor politics and the economic challenges Temer will inherit if he takes over as president, but concluded that the sectors that see “Rousseff’s removal as an undemocratic coup” will be unlikely to go away quietly.
A recent Forbes article also raised serious questions about the real motives behind the impeachment bid, suggesting it has a more to do with trying to shield corrupt officials calling for Rousseff’s ouster from faces charges.
“The motive is simple here. It’s to exhaust the Car Wash investigations in the Supreme Court,” reads the article by Kenneth Rapoza, referring to the main probe focused on the Petrobras state oil scandal. “It’s to cut deeper impunity deals. It’s to save political careers. It’s, in its most sinister form, to obstruct justice.”
The article questions whether under different political and economic circumstances there would be any validity given to the claimed legal ground for the impeachment.
“It begs the question whether Dilma was impeached for cooking the books or because half of congress is desperately trying to save itself from a Car Wash soaking,” Rapoza wrote.
The article gets to the core issue that deeply corrupt officials are using anti-corruption as a pretext to avoid being held accountable for their corruption. As Rapoza wrote, “That’s the real reason behind Dilma’s impeachment.”
5. The Globe and Mail
Canada’s Globe and Mail has also highlighted the dubious motives of the impeachment process. In an article leading up to Sunday’s vote in the lower house, Stephanie Nolen pointed out that Rousseff “faced no allegation of financial impropriety.” She added that “of the 594 Congress members who will vote on her impeachment, 318 are under investigation or face charges.”
In a follow-up article after the vote, Nolen laid out how the fight against corruption is being used as a pretext to make up for conservative failures at the ballot box.
“Ms. Rousseff faces impeachment on charges of having masked a gaping hole in the federal budget by borrowing from state banks, in violation of a fiscal-responsibility law,” Nolen wrote. “She reiterated Tuesday that she did nothing previous governments did not routinely do, and said the instrument of impeachment is being misused by an opposition that never accepted a narrow election loss in late 2014.”
The Globe and Mail article also shed light on another little-reported factor in the impeachment process against Brazil’s first woman president: misogyny.