The Exhaustion of Brazil’s Political and Economic System | Britannica Book of the Year 2016

The article, excerpt below, was originally published in the Britannica Book of the Year.

The impeachment of Pres. Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office on Aug. 31, 2016, was a watershed moment for Brazil in the middle of a tumultuous year. Sixty-one of Brazil’s 81 senators voted in favour of her removal, putting an end to the 13-year rule of the Workers’ Party (PT), once praised as a successful experiment in democratic governance emphasizing social equity in the developing world. Rousseff’s election in October 2010 as the first woman president of Brazil was celebrated as proof of social progress in Latin America’s largest country. Her downfall, amid an unprecedented political, economic, and ethical crisis, marked the second time the country had resorted to presidential impeachment since the reinstatement of democracy in 1985 after 21 years of military rule. Yet in a demonstration of Brazil’s resilience in the face of adversity, the impeachment—as traumatic and divisive as it was—did not prevent Rio de Janeiro from successfully hosting the Summer Olympics (see Special Report) in August.

The official justification for Rousseff’s ouster, contained in two articles of impeachment approved on April 17 by 367 votes in the Chamber of Deputies (well above the required two-thirds majority of its 513 members), was the charge that she had violated the country’s budget and fiscal-responsibility laws. These laws prohibited the government from spending above congressionally mandated limits or borrowing from federal banks to mask deficits. The political reason for Rousseff’s downfall—after she had been reelected to a second four-year term—was her inability to address a debilitating fiscal and economic crisis that had gradually engulfed the country toward the end of her first term as president.

This crisis could become “the worst recession in the nation’s history,” in the words of Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles...To read more click here

Image credit: Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil
Paulo Sotero, Director of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute, has covered the evolution of his native Brazil and U.S.-Brazilian relations for nearly forty years as an award-winning journalist and analyst. 
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