Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon is today reminded of a well-worn Brazilian phrase: “tudo acaba em pizza”. The phrase originated in São Paulo soccer club Palmeiras, where, after ferocious battles for control of the club, the opposing factions all went to a nearby pizzeria and got together for a joint celebration.
The “pizza” trigger was the absolutely unprecedented (and legally unjustifiable) decision by STF President Lewandowski, sitting as President pro tempore of the Senate, to permit separate voting on the questions of (a) did President Dilma commit an impeachable crime; and (b) if she did, should her political rights be suspended for eight years, as the Constitution prescribes.
Dilma’s advogados (lawyers) proposed the split and, to (almost) everyone’s surprise, PMDB and most other parties did not object when Lewandowski (appointed to the STF by Lula and a ferocious defender of his Mensalão peccadillos) hastily agreed.
The reason for this surreptitious acquiescence became obvious when the voting finally happened. 61 Senators, more than 75 percent of the 81 members, voted that Dilma had committed an impeachable crime; however, only 42 Senators (just over fifty percent) voted to revoke her political rights, far fewer than the 54 votes required for conviction.
There is a clear Constitutional mandate that impeached Presidents are barred from holding public office after impeachment — as current Senator Collor, an impeached President, having done the time, well knows. But the split vote abrogated that interdiction.
Who were the pizzaiolos? PMDB pols, led by Senate President Renan Calheiros. Dilma’s reign always depended on PMDB support; this she lost last April, when PMDB rats, led by Congressman Eduardo Cunha, deserted her sinking ship. PMDB seized its opportunity to have one of its (unelected) own as President, for the first time since José Sarney succeeded Tancredo Neves.
Many PMDB politicians had occupied cabinet positions under Dilma and Lula and had been allowed to nominate the key executives of government-owned companies like Petrobras and Eletrobras. Therefore, there was a certain lingering feeling among PMDB pols that they might be considered insufficiently grateful for the largesse they had received in the past.
How to solve this problem? Quite simple, really. It’s okay to get Dilma out of office, just don’t take away her political rights. And at the appointed hour, although only two PMDB Senators voted not to impeach, eleven of them (including Renan) voted not to bar her from holding office.
So, even if the former opponents didn’t exactly go out together for pizza and beer, anyone with a brain can see that (almost) everybody in Congress was now more or less satisfied with this quasi-Solomonic solution.
Or so it appears today: one never knows, because appeals to the STF may be forthcoming from both sides of the aisle. To quote another common Brazilian phrase, “things happen in Brazil that even God can’t believe.”
The Curmudgeon explained his theory last night to a Brazilian friend, who said “so it’s an IM-PIZZA-MENT”. And so it is. Thank you Ana for this tagline.