Impunity and Public Outrage: Brazil’s Political Turmoil
With growing interest and some alarm I have been watching the increasingly chaotic political situation in Brazil over the past few days.
In a previous article I wrote about the massive protests on Sunday in response to the corruption of Brazil’s ruling political party (the PT). It should be noted that many of the protesters also directed their ire at corrupt politicians of other parties, even booing them off platforms.
Much of this angst has come due to revelations that the once-revered ex-president, Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva, was involved up to his eyes in corruption. Since the protests on Sunday a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Enter the current president, Dilma Rousseff. In what can only be described as one of the most cynical moves of political history, she issued a nomination for Lula to be named a cabinet minister, which he promptly accepted. This puts him constitutionally out of reach of the judge who issued the warrant. By law, cabinet ministers can only be tried by the Supreme Court.
Brazilians are outraged. Today there has been violent clashes between protesters and PT supporters. There was an attempt to storm the congressional building. Soccer stadiums full of fans began to chant “Lula, put it where the sun doesn’t shine” (a loose, somewhat cleaned-up translation).
Brazil has languished under decades of leftist rule. The nation’s infrastructure is shot. Public health is in disarray (think, Zika virus). Citys (and even rural communities) are at the mercy of violent gangs, drug use is rampant, and prisons are overcrowded. Public schools are embarrassingly backwards. Brazilians pay extremely high taxes, and have little or nothing to show for it.
And yet a significant bloc of voters–those who have become dependent on the public handouts those high taxes provide) will continue to send the PT back to the halls of power, no matter what kind of corruption is exposed.
The public outrage is heartening. But for lasting change to occur, Brazilians are going to have to be willing to make hard decisions regarding social programs and taxation.
For a good overview of the events that led up to today’s unrest, read this.