Opinion, by Simon Thomas
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “In Australia the impeachment has already occurred” so the meme spread Tuesday in Brazil, referencing a common phrase uttered on New Year’s Eve in the country. Being from the land down under, it felt like a call to jot down some final points on the saga and clarify some common misconceptions circulating in international media channels.
First, when it comes to the legality of the impeachment, it’s all about the spin. Most English-language reports I have seen over the last few days, and throughout the impeachment process for that matter, have presented the key aspects of the situation fairly accurately, to give them credit, yet have taken great liberties in adding their own spin (or at least that of certain Brazilian commentators of certain political persuasions) to the story.
Most reports* will state, correctly, that Dilma did indeed dress up her pre-election accounts (to make herself look better and subsequently win a very close decision), did use (massive amounts of) credit illegally to continue funding specific programs (of her choosing and that just happened to involve certain voting blocs), and did it all without (so much as a thought of) seeking congressional approval, as demanded by law. (* The majority won´t include the very pertinent additional bits of information I have included above in parentheses).
Case closed, you might think. No president in a democratic state could get away with those things, you might think. Steady on. Most reports, soon after these admissions, will go straight into a much more detailed analysis of every other aspect of Brazil´s ongoing political and economic struggles, especially the massive corruption case involving huge swathes of federal politicians (including many of those directing the impeachment proceedings), usually in a way that implicitly and sometimes even explicitly seeks to soften Dilma´s own wrongdoings and suggest her crimes are somehow excusable, often to the point that the obvious message is that Brazil would be better off with a moderate law-breaker like Dilma in place of an almost certainly corrupt yet democratically legitimate successor.
And it is here that one must step in and bring some sanity back to proceedings. For no matter what others have done, or are doing, is it not the right of the citizenry, the voting public, to expect the rule of law to apply to all subjects, especially the most powerful? If the successor is corrupt, does this excuse the crimes of the predecessor? Is it not more prudent to seek to expose all the crimes of all involved and punish accordingly rather than create a scale of criminal acceptability that rewards arbitrarily?
As arrogant as this seems, most international sources, again, led by their Brazilian counterparts, openly advocate for this kind of wrongdoing relativity to gloss over the facts at hand and push the case that the whole thing is really a coup and that Dilma has been ousted by a corrupt bunch of cowboys that will inevitably go on to rule the country and excuse all future crookedness. As if there is absolutely no hope that the successful fight against corruption will continue post-Dilma, that the big bad boys (and gals) will continue to fall, and that Brazil is now mature enough to clean up its own house, as short or long a time as that may take.
In the end, no matter what commentators think, Dilma has fallen, and a new phase in Brazil´s development has begun.
I can only suggest that, just as when Andy Dufresne said to the cynical Red that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things”, Brazil should be given more respect as it seeks to establish a fairer and more functional government, and never simply settle for the lesser of two evils.