Rousseff impeachment, Zika epidemic, imperil Rio Olympics

Brazil, once a showcase of economic growth in Latin America, has been rocked continously over the last few years by scandal, political crises, recession, and an outbreak of the Zika virus.

This has all occurred against the backdrop of a massive construction project to get Rio de Janiero and the rest of Brazil ready to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

Now, the Brazilian senate has voted to suspended President Dilma Rousseff during an impeachment trial that is expected to last until November. The political crisis has paralyzed the nation while it attempts to deal with a severe recession and an Zika epidemic that threatens to severely curtail the Olympics which begin in August. To make matters worse, doctors are warning that if the Olympics go forward as planned, it could result in a "full blown public health crisis" as thousands of foreigners infected with the Zika virus return home and spread the disease via sexual contact.


The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro could spark a “full-blown public health disaster”, doctors have warned.

Since the Zika virus was first identified in Brazil in May 2015, the disease's spread through Latin America has been declared a health emergency by the World Health Organisation and the number of suspected cases in Rio is the highest of any state in the country.

The continued presence of the virus ahead of the summer Olympics has caused athletes and health specialists to question the risks involved in allowing the Games to go ahead with hundreds of thousands of spectators travelling to the city.

Writing in the Harvard Public Health Review, Dr Amir Attaran said the Games could speed up the spread of the virus, and suggested the Games could be hosted by another city in Brazil where the illness is less of a threat.

He said: “While Brazil's Zika inevitably will spread globally, given enough time, viruses always do - it helps nobody to speed that up.

"In particular, it cannot possibly help when an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists flock into Rio for the Games, potentially becoming infected, and returning to their homes where both local Aedes mosquitoes and sexual transmission can establish new outbreaks.

Rousseff's impeachment couldn't come at a worse time. There is little confidence in the government's ability to keep tourists safe during the games, with gang violence spiking in some upscale areas. And people are so mad at Rousseff and the government for the overspending on the Olympics and the corruption, that demonstrations during the games are likely.

Corruption allegations have followed Rousseff since 2011.



A sweeping investigation into a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras embroiled dozens of the country's leading businessmen and politicians. While she isn't accused directly of profiting, Rousseff was the chairwoman of Petrobras during many of the years of the alleged corruption.

In December, a bid to impeach Rousseff was launched by the then-speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, who argued that the President was guilty of breaking budgetary laws by borrowing from state banks to cover a shortfall in the deficit and pay for social programs in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.

She has been also blamed for the worst recession since the 1930s, now in its second year.

Sen. Waldemir Moka told the upper house during his allotted time that, if the impeachment trial is successful, the future president will assume a government with a 250 billion Brazilian Real debt ($72.5 billion) according to conservative projections, with the possibility of being up to 600 billion Real ($174 billion).

The spell on the sidelines puts Rousseff out of commission when her country hosts the Olympics in August -- a showcase event that she's worked on since the beginning of the bid process -- and leaves her battling to save her political future and finish out her term.

When the investigation ends -- which could be as late as November -- the process returns to a special Senate committee.

At that point, Rousseff will have 20 days to present her case. Following that, the committee would vote on a final determination and then present it for a vote in the full Senate.

It will take a two-thirds majority to remove the President from office.

It isn't likely that the Olympics will be cancelled or moved out of Rio. Tens of billions of dollars have3 been spent by Brazil in getting ready for the games, while foreign corporations have paid out billions more in broadcast rights and sponsor fees. The games will go on, albeit with a lot fewer tourists to watch them.

As for Rousseff, her fate appears to be sealed. Impeaching her will not improve the economy or deal with the Zika outbreak. But at least Brazil will be able to turn the page and get a fresh start to tackle their numerous problems.

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