Economist: impeachment aberto por Eduardo Cunha fortalece Dilma
Até mesmo a revista Economist reconhece que a permanência da presidente Dilma Rousseff até o fim do seu mandato se tornou mais provável; o motivo é a absoluta falta de credibilidade de Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), que lidera o processo de impeachment edit
247 – Em reportagem publicada neste fim de semana, a revista The Economist reconhece que a permanência da presidente Dilma Rousseff até o fim do seu mandato se tornou mais provável.
O motivo é a absoluta falta de credibilidade de Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), que lidera o processo de impeachment. Leia abaixo:
The impeachment proceedings against Dilma Rousseff are bad for Brazil. But they make it more likely that she will remain in power until the end of her term
IT WAS just what Brazil needed. With a vast corruption scandal in full swing, an economy in free fall, public finances in tatters—and a self-serving political class in no mood to tackle any of it—the country has now been served up a constitutional crisis. On December 2nd Eduardo Cunha, Speaker of Congress’s lower house, initiated impeachment proceedings against the president, Dilma Rousseff. “I take no pleasure in this act,” Mr Cunha told a press conference, stressing that his decision was of a purely “technical nature”. Its consequences will be anything but.
The arguments that apparently won Mr Cunha over had been laid out by three respected lawyers, including Hélio Bicudo, a champion of human rights and former member of Ms Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), which he helped found. The trio’s main allegation is that by failing on time to stump up cash to state-owned banks paying welfare handouts on its behalf, the administration let itself be funded by entities under its control. This practice is barred by the fiscal responsibility law. Yet it occurred in 2014, the accusers claim, and, crucially, also this year. Mr Cunha had thrown out Mr Bicudo’s earlier motion because it referred only to Ms Rousseff’s first term in 2011-14, agreeing with most jurists that a sitting president can only be pursued for actions committed in the current term in office.
Ms Rousseff would not be the first Brazilian president to tamper with public accounts. Such practices are neither illegal nor uncommon, her defenders say; earlier presidents used them with abandon. However, none had his administration’s books rejected by the national comptroller. In October the National Audit Tribunal urged Congress not to approve Ms Rousseff’s accounts for 2014 (legislators have yet to vote on the matter).
For all his protestations to the contrary, few doubt that Mr Cunha’s motives were not technical but political—possibly even personal. The Speaker, whose Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) belongs to the governing coalition, is one of 34 sitting congressmen under investigation over alleged involvement in the bribery scandal centred on Petrobras, the state-controlled oil-and-gas giant. Prosecutors allege that in exchange for padded contracts Brazil’s biggest construction firms paid more than a billion dollars in bribes to Petrobras directors, who in turn funnelled the money to their political masters.
Around 140 businessmen, including some of Brazil’s richest men, have been charged with crimes such as bribery and money-laundering. On November 25th, police arrested a prominent PT senator, Delcídio do Amaral, for allegedly attempting to spirit a former Petrobras director out of the country before he could co-operate with the authorities.
Many think Mr Cunha could be next. His name has cropped up repeatedly in the context of the affair. On November 30th it did so again, when a leak from the investigation suggested that he had received 45m reais ($12m) from BTG Pactual, an investment bank, in exchange for favourable legislation. BTG’s billionaire founder, André Esteves, was also arrested for plotting with Mr do Amaral. Both men, as well as BTG, deny wrongdoing.
Mr Cunha, too, continues to protest his innocence. But evidence against him has been piling up. This week the lower-house ethics committee was expected to recommend ousting the Speaker from the legislature for hiding Swiss bank accounts. After much dithering, PT deputies signalled they would cast their deciding votes against the Speaker, in line with public opinion but against the quiet wishes of the presidential palace, which feared that Mr Cunha would drop the impeachment bombshell to divert attention from his own travails.
The process now takes on a life of its own. Congress has until December 4th to set up a special committee to examine the charges. Within a month deputies must decide whether to pass the case to the senate, which requires a two-thirds majority. Senators would then have 180 days to try the president, during which time she would be suspended from her duties. The vice-president, Michel Temer, would take over.
Brazil has been here before. In 1992 Fernando Collor, Brazil’s first directly elected president after two decades of military rule, was impeached over corruption two years into his term (he was subsequently cleared of the charges on a technicality). A charismatic populist, Mr Collor’s main sins were a failure to quash hyperinflation—and, even deadlier in Brasília, showing disrespect to Congress.
Ominously, Ms Rousseff, too, has an economic disaster on her hands, largely the result of irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies and incessant microeconomic interventionism in her first term. Figures released this week show that GDP shrank for the third consecutive quarter between July and September. It was 4.5% lower than in the same period last year; 2016 will mark the second year of recession—the longest downturn since the 1930s. Inflation was around 10% in November and unemployment is rising. Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, speaks of an “outright depression”.
Ms Rousseff appears finally to have grasped that budgetary belt-tightening is the first step to recovery. But, like Mr Collor, she lacks the skill to negotiate Brasília’s fragmented political landscape. Her approval rating, sapped by the Petrobras scandal and the deteriorating economy, is around 10%, roughly where Mr Collor’s was on the eve of his impeachment.
Here, though, the similarities between her and her disgraced predecessor-but-three end. Unlike him, Ms Rousseff has not been accused of enriching herself. And she retains the backing of the PT, which has not lost all its strength.
Perhaps most important, there is little evidence that the opposition wants to take the mess off Ms Rousseff’s hands. It would rather watch her suffer and win an easy victory in the next election in 2018. The PMBD—led by Mr Temer, who would become president in case of her departure—might accept it, but probably only if it could count on the pork and patronage that have historically been the party’s main objective. With the budget deficit near 10% of GDP and the economy shrinking, it would instead be getting “a plate of hot potatoes with a small side of pork,” quips one investment banker.
Ironically, Mr Cunha’s move to impeachment may have made Ms Rousseff’s survival until 2018 more likely rather than less. The timing works in her favour. Mr Cunha can easily be painted as self-serving rather than statesmanlike, putting a question-mark over the whole rigmarole. The PT is likely to close ranks in support of its president. And Ms Rousseff will no doubt be more adamant than ever that she is not stepping down of her own accord, as some in the opposition had been hoping. Responding calmly to Mr Cunha, she spoke of her “indignation”.
Sadly, the furore will divert Brazilian politicians’ already scattered attention away from fixing the country’s many problems, starting with the ballooning budget deficit. History may judge this to be Mr Cunha’s greatest sin.
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