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Eric Ehrmann

Brazilian columnist and RIAC blogger

After Sunday's nationwide demonstrations grabbed the world's attention, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said that people who took to the streets to protest against corruption and call for her impeachment are a reminder that the struggle for a better democracy makes Brazil stronger than it has ever been. This wave of “anti-Dilma” demonstrations which was planned weeks ago made Brazil’s first female president a magnet for all the misdeeds of Brazil's intransigent political class.

After Sunday's nationwide demonstrations grabbed the world's attention, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said that people who took to the streets to protest against corruption and call for her impeachment are a reminder that the struggle for a better democracy makes Brazil stronger than it has ever been.

This wave of “anti-Dilma” demonstrations which was planned weeks ago made Brazil’s first female president a magnet for all the misdeeds of Brazil's intransigent political class.

So far Dilma has mediated the negativity with public statements that position her as a dignified leader, staying above the fray and showing respect for democracy. She avoids responding with the American-style negative campaigning techniques (which her party and its opponents used during last year's presidential campaign) that damaged Brazil's reputation in the global financial markets.

Meanwhile Brazil's congress behaves as if it's “business as usual.” While working families struggle to gain middle income status (around $1,000 per month/3240 Reals at current exchange rates) so they can own a home and provide a better future for their children, the Congress gave themselves a Christmas present, voting to increase their salaries to equal $12,4000 per month. However, nobody conducted massive street demonstrations to criticize that.

Dilma's new economic program. No pain. No gain

In response to international financial markets, president Dilma Rousseff appointed Joaquim Levy, a neoliberal economist who got his education in the U.S., as finance minister. He previously worked as a top executive for one of the nation's largest and most profitable banks.

Levy's budget cuts have created tensions throughout the political class particularly among the leadership of Dilma's Workers Party because cutbacks rather than anti-inflationary measures, including high consumer credit card rates, hurt working Brazilians the most. They have a potential to spark spontaneous riots like the social explosions of 2013.

Government sources now indicate that the economy is about to contract this year by around a negative 1.1 percent, signaling recession. Economic reform is likely to continue and could become an issue in the 2018 presidential election.

Meanwhile former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva continues to advise his friend president Dilma and makes no secret that he will be running for president again in 2018.

Why impeachment of President Dilma is irrelevant

Since Brazil's return to elected government during the mid-1980s the legal precedent for impeaching a president requires the impeachable acts to be committed during the term of the incumbent president.

This was the case with the president Fernando Collor de Mello. He decided to resign rather than face an impeachment investigation after accusations of corruption brought by his brother who provided the evidence to launch the process.

After Collor's resignation he was formally impeached, but as an ordinary citizen, not while serving as president of Brazil.

Impeachment does not end political careers

After a few years away from official political life Collor is back in politics as a prominent federal senator from his family's political fiefdom of Alagoas state, a tobacco and agricultural region which is located in poor northeastern Brazil.

Collor has recently been named as a subject in the current Lava Jato (auto wash) investigations conducted by the Federal Police. Media who follow what has become the largest investigations in the history of the Federal Police say Collor is alleged to have taken money in the scammed from billion dollar corruption scheme at state oil giant Petrobras.

What western media are saying

The New York Times, now controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, ran a headline claiming 1.5 million demonstrators took to the streets calling for the impeachment of Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff.

Somewhat more circumspect was The Guardian, controlled by a private non-profit libertarian foundation, which estimated that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanded the impeachment of president Dilma.

The vox populi seems to have forgotten to tell the readers in social media that there is no legal basis for the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff.

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