Brazil falling apart one politician at a time
The Olympics will start in a few weeks. Normally, such an event would be a source of national pride and excitement. Not really in Brazil!
Brazil's president, Dilma Rouseff, is on the sidelines watching her corruption trial. She was elected in 2014 in one of the most polarizing elections in the nation's history. Her successor is also under investigation.
Frankly, it looks as though everybody in Brazil is under investigation these days. The latest is the minister of tourism, a rather odd choice, given that the country expects lots of tourists for the Olympics:
Less than two months before Brazil hosts the Olympics, the country’s tourism minister resigned Thursday, becoming the third minister in a month to step down amid a sweeping graft investigation of the state oil company Petrobras.
Tourism Minister Henrique Alves was one of two dozen officials named in plea bargain testimony by a former Petrobras executive linking the interim president, Michel Temer, and several of his closest allies to Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal ever.
While Mr. Temer dismissed the accusations as frivolous lies, the latest resignation emphasized the risks that come with the sweeping Petrobras investigation, which has thrown Brazil’s politics into chaos and deepened its worst recession in decades.
And did I tell you that the Zika virus has many of the world's athletes thinking twice about going to Brazil?
And let's not forget that the economy is really, really bad. The economy is expected to shrink 4%!
The latest shocker is that the governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared an economic disaster! This is like California declaring an economic disaster. The governor is begging the federal government in Brasilia for emergency funds to avoid a “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport, and environmental management.”
It's hard to see how the government survives this crisis.
In the past, Latin American governments settled these problems by putting tanks on the streets – i.e. "el golpe," or the coups that the history books are full of. Most of the time, the corrupt civilian was replaced by a strongman who brought tranquility but did not necessarily make the country better in the long run. Augusto Pinochet in Chile is probably the exception: a man who took down a leftist named Salvador Allende, turned the Chilean economy upside-down, and left power, and now the country is the envy of the Latin world. It wasn't perfect, as many of his opponents will remind you.
So what happens in Brazil, the world's 8th largest GDP? The bad news is that the public does not trust anyone. The good news, whether it's Venezuela or Brazil, is that corrupt crony capitalism is being exposed to more and more people.
Memo to Democrats: Want to see what a country looks like when the government picks winners and losers? Talk to a Brazilian!
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.