IN DEFENSE OF THE DEMOCRATIC RULE OF LAW IN BRAZIL
On the 31st of March 1964, a coup d’état installed a civil-military dictatorship in Brazil, inaugurating a dark 21-year period of suspension of civil and political guarantees. Today, 52 years after, the Brazilian people face once more a break of the democratic order. As a result of the acceptance by the Senate of an impeachment process based on accounting irregularities, Dilma Rousseff, who had been elected in 2014 for a mandate of 4 years, was forced, on the 12th of May 2016, to stand down as President of the Republic. Even though this removal is supposed to be temporary, lasting up to 180 days, period during which the senators should reconvene to evaluate the motives that have resulted in the impeachment process, it is unlikely that Dilma should return to office.
Dilma Rousseff’s temporary removal from office is the culmination of a process characterised by unprecedented arbitrariness and polarisation in democratic Brazilian society, perceptible at least since her re-election in 2014. By attributing the recent corruption scandals exclusively to the Worker’s Party’s (PT) administrations (although they were the only ones who had the courage to investigate them through, even when investigations turned against their own) and by manipulating public opinion against the supposed risks of a left-wing takeover of the country, the right-wing opposition to Dilma Rousseff’s government took advantage of the economic crisis that emerged after years of stability and growth and led a violent media campaign against it. It managed to aggregate against the Workers’ Party (PT) and Lula’s and Dilma’s governments large sections of business elites and conservative middles classes, as well as authoritarian sectors represented in Congress and in the Judiciary, evidently aiming the hammering down of the social rights secured by Dilma’s government and the deregulation of economy. Besides, once in power, they will probably decline to further investigate corruption as it is likely to involve their own people, as opposed to Dilma Rousseff, whose probity in the administration of public affairs is not doubted, as corruption charges are not part of the impeachment process.
The impeachment is a juridical tool of extremely restricted scope in Brazilian presidentialism. It is regulated by Art.85 of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, and its use is restricted to cases involving serious offenses (crimes de responsabilidade, “responsibility crimes”) carried out by the President. As the accounting irregularities in the administration of public funds that Dilma Rousseff is accused of are not serious offenses in the sense prescribed by the Constitution, it is evident that this impeachment is not legitimately grounded. Furthermore, the whole process was full of questionable aspects, which contribute to add further illegitimacy to its results. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to consider the present impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff a white coup, which will yield long-lasting consequences to the democratic Rule of Law in Brazil.
In the face of all this, we consider necessary to state our absolute repudiation of the illegitimate destitution of President Dilma Rousseff, and our strong support for the maintenance of the Rule of Law in Brazil.