Impeachment commences in Brazil
It's been a tough week for leftist President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil. The Chamber of Deputies voted to impeach her:
Impeachment supporters netted 367 votes in the lower house of Congress, well above the 342 they needed.
The "no" camp took 137 votes, seven deputies abstained and two did not show for the ballot.
We move on to the Senate, or upper house, and let's see what happens there.
Post-impeachment will be uncharted waters for Brazil. In other words, Latin America does not have a history of replacing leaders by impeachment. Instead, they get overthrown by the military or escape at midnight to avoid justice.
The street in Brazil is generally supportive of the impeachment vote in the House. However, the morning after will be a bit like the hangover, as reported by the New York Times:
As the outcome of the vote became clear, deputies in the lower house of Congress hooted, pumped their fists and hoisted onto their shoulders the man who had cast the pivotal vote.
One lawmaker, wearing a flag as a cape, fired a gun that shot confetti.
The unrestrained merriment was mirrored on the streets of cities across Brazil, where thousands of people celebrated what they hope will be the ouster of Ms. Rousseff on charges that she illegally used money from state-owned banks to hide a catastrophic budget deficit and bolster her chances of re-election.
But on Monday, Brazilians awoke to the sobering reality that the political and economic turmoil that has consumed their country, Latin America’s largest, for the past two years is far from over.
Inflation is running at 10 percent, unemployment is at a seven-year high and the economy is expected to contract by as much as 3.8 percent for a second year in a row.
A Zika epidemic is coursing through the northeast, and a cash-strapped local government in Rio de Janeiro is racing to prepare for the Summer Olympics. If the impeachment process moves forward as many experts predict, Brazilian televisions this August are likely to feature a split-screen spectacle of sporting events and their president on trial.
“We may be witnessing the end of Dilma but not the end of the Brazilian crisis,” Sylvio Costa, the founder of Congresso em Foco, an anticorruption watchdog group.
And the political paralysis that has hobbled the government is not likely to ease anytime soon. Ms. Rousseff will have to step down temporarily next month if the Senate votes by a simple majority to take on her impeachment trial, an outcome that many analysts say is all but assured.
So let me give you the quick story: a corrupt president is about to be replaced by an unpopular V.P. in a country where the economic train has jumped off the tracks!
Am I the only one who sees a few problems down the road?
In the interest of full disclosure, let me point out that I am not a supporter of the left in Brazil. They've screwed up the country so badly that it is really sad.
At the same time, this is a huge test for Brazil's institutions. A peaceful transition will set an example in Brazil and for many other countries following the news, from Ecuador to Venezuela. A military intervention, especially if chaos breaks out, will also send a signal that this is the same Latin America that we all grew up reading about.
Let's hope for the best, but this is not going to be pretty.