Brazil's political chaos: 'It's going to get worse before it gets better'

While Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is vowing to fight on after the country's lower house of Congress voted to impeach her, many feel the fight's already over, the CBC's Kim Brunhuber writes.

President Dilma Rousseff and supporters feel impeachment vote amounts to a coup

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is vowing to fight on after the lower house of Congress voted to impeach her, but many feel the fight's already over. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

As the flag slowly climbed the pole Monday morning outside the presidential palace in Brasilia, a soldier played his trumpet. The calm scene outside belied the frantic fight taking place inside by the palace's chief resident to stay on as tenant.

"Today, above all, I feel injustice," President Dilma Rousseff told reporters Monday after the Brazilian lower house of Congress passed a motion Sunday to impeach her. She and her supporters feel the vote — less than half-way into her four-year mandate — amounts to a coup.

"I will fight, like I have always done in my life," Rousseff said.

But many feel the fight's already over, and the opposition's victory may be short-lived.

"It is quite a delicate situation," says Geraldo Monteiro, a political scientist at the Universidade Candido Mendes.

"At least the second-in-line, Eduardo Cunha, president of the lower house, and third-in-line, Renan Calheiros, president of the upper house, are under investigation in the Supreme Court for different charges. The vice-president, Michel Temer, is not yet under investigation, but has been cited by some of the criminals as a beneficiary of bribes."

Carol Wise, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California who writes extensively about Brazilian politics, says it's a "very sad" situation.

"It's just completely unravelling."

Opponents of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff celebrate after the lower house of Congress voted to proceed with her impeachment in Brasilia on April 17, 2016. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

She says removing Rousseff won't solve the country's problems because those who are slated to take over, including the vice-president and chief members of the opposition, are implicated in various scandals and could themselves face impeachment or prosecution.

"My sense is that it isn't bottom, that it's going to get worse before it gets better, because crooks replacing crooks is not a recipe for success," Wise says. "So who's the watching the chicken coop? They have just dug themselves into a complete hole of debauchery, corruption and graft."

Bad timing

And with the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro less than four months away, Wise says the timing couldn't be worse.

"It's a disgrace," she says. "It's an absolute disgrace for them to have the Olympics contract right now. It's an insult to other countries that would and could have done a better job."

Brazilian Sports Minister Ricardo Leyser recently tried to reassure the world that despite the political turmoil, Brazil would be ready to host the Games.

A supporter of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reacts while watching the televised voting in the lower house of Congress as it considered her impeachment in Brasilia on April 17, 2016. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters )

"The construction of Olympic facilities has been 98 per cent completed, and no major construction projects remain unfinished," Leyser said. "The preparation work for the Games will not be affected by the current political situation."

Monteiro agrees, saying at this point the federal government's role in the Olympics is limited.

"It is the municipality's [responsibility] to organize the public services, transport and security during the Games, and it is the Public Olympic Authority's and the International Olympic Committee's [responsibility] to run the Games."

But Courtney Brunious, who studies sports marketing at the University of Southern California, says Brazil's attempt to bolster its international reputation by holding the Games will now likely backfire.

"There's an allure to having a major international event for your country; it puts your country on the map," Brunious says.

'Highlight your warts'

"It gets an influx of people coming in from all across the world. You are the centre of focus of the entire world for that period of time that the event runs.

"One of the things that comes with the spotlight is the ability to highlight your warts. And that's one of the things Brazil is seeing. That's the downside if you're a developing country, the issues that you're facing get blown up and shown to the entire ... world."

And, Brunious says, the political chaos coupled with fears over the Zika virus could mean a massive drop in international visitors.

"I think you see a lot of fans that were probably thinking of coming to the Olympics having to step back and think: 'Does it really make sense to come in?' " Brunious says. "So there may be some people that were going to buy tickets, buy flights, that will be backing out."

It may be too late to fix the Olympics, Wise says, but the country has the potential to recover over the long-term because of its massive wealth of natural resources.

However, she believes a recovery is wholly contingent on Brazil's next government enacting sweeping reforms of its bureaucracy, property rights and the rule of law. It's a massive challenge, she says, which the country so far has seemed entirely incapable of handling.

"They're going to have to get serious about that," she says, "or they're going to continue circling the drain."


  • An earlier version of this story said incorrectly that the presidential palace is in Sao Paulo. In fact, it is in Brasilia.
    Apr 19, 2016 11:22 AM ET

About the Author

Kim Brunhuber

Los Angeles correspondent

Kim Brunhuber is a CBC News Senior Reporter based in Los Angeles. He has travelled the world from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan as a videojournalist, shooting and editing pieces for TV, radio and online. Originally from Montreal, he speaks French and Spanish, and is also a published novelist.


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