Why Brazil's President Rousseff Must Be Impeached


Brazil is a mess right now. Current President and leader of the Socialist Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff has presided over the economy's utter collapse since she took office five years ago.

Although she was just re-elected in one of the tightest presidential races ever, there have already been calls for her impeachment.

Under her guidance, Brazil did not adjust to the global recession, but instead, continued massive spending for justifiable programs like social welfare and questionable extravagances, like the World Cup.

The recklessness has been disastrous. The value of the real, Brazil's currency, has dropped 22 percent and inflation is at a 10-year high. Soon, some fear Brazil may no longer be suitable for investment.

Still, downturns happen — usually, unexpectedly — and it is unfair to put all blame on a president when an economy crumbles.

But, presidents can be blamed for corruption, and Rousseff is accused of facilitating more than a hundred million dollars in kickbacks between high-ranking government officials and Brazil's state-run oil company, Petrobras.

The accused include Senate President Renan Calheiros, President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha, former Energy Minister Edison Lobao and former President Fernando Collor de Mello.

During the suspicious years, Rousseff was either a chairwoman of Petrobras or the Energy Minister. Petrobras, the fourth-largest company in the world, gave lavish bribes to politicians on both sides of the aisle to secure government contracts.

The president was officially cleared of all charges, but the positions she occupied during the offending years make her innocence dubious. Although 54 politicians were accused earlier this month, none have been taken down and all have denied their charges.

Yesterday, millions of Brazilians from 22 states took to the streets in protest. The largest was an unofficial, 200,000-person demonstration on Avenida Paulista, Sao Paolo's skyscraper-lined main drag.

Many protestors wore the yellow and green uniforms of the World Cup, signifying a support for the country that does not include the current president.

When the president has attempted to speak, the deafening banging of pots and pans has drowned her out. This form of protest, the panelaço, is new to Brazil but is a tradition in neighboring countries.

Rousseff dismissed her head-ringing opposition as jealous politicians who want to stage a coup after their fresh defeat in the last election.

But, when massive swaths of the country essentially cover their ears, close their eyes and say, "Nanana-I-can't-hear-you-nanana," during a president's speech, clearly, the frustration is not just coming from a few pouty rabble-rousers.

President Dilma Rousseff has failed. As the leader of the Workers' Party, she was supposed to care for all Brazilians under a democratic socialism that would not decay into the rotting systems of Russia and China.

But, instead of using taxes to provide jobs, opportunities and support, too much of that money was kept in the hands of the already powerful. And, Brazil has become yet another cautionary tale.

Even if the impossible is true and Rousseff did not know about the corruption, she is staggeringly clueless. The guy who validates your parking at the mall could have noticed if hundreds of millions of dollars went missing.

She is either incompetent or corrupt, but in any case, she is wrong for Brazil.

The president's primary responsibility is to represent her people. If she has to shout over a nationwide din of pots and pans, then she has let them down. She can't speak for her country when her people do not listen to what she has to say.

Actual progress can't come while she is still in office. Brazil will not become less corrupt while the participants in a multi-million-dollar scandal remain at the helm. Bribable liars won't clean up this country.

Brazil has entrenched problems and a murky future, but the first move is clear: Rousseff has to go.