Brazil, Latin America’s largest country in population and area, appears to be coming unstuck politically in the face of persistent corruption among its leaders.
Brazilians impeached their elected president, Dilma Rousseff, last August, based on what was for Brazil minor budgetary sleight of hand. Now her successor, Michel Temer, 76, is under heavy fire, including vigorous action in the streets, in response to the appearance of a tape in which he appears to approve offering bribes to another jailed politician.
Impeachment is being talked about again, but that possible remedy is sullied by the thought that his possible successors tainted. His constitutional successor would be the speaker of the lower house of parliament, the equivalent of America’s Paul Ryan. The occupant of that post is Rodrigo Maia, under investigation for graft. The head of Brazil’s senate, Eunicio Oliveira, is accused of taking bribes. Former President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, once a “man of the people” political hero, is also facing criminal charges for graft.
It is such an ugly picture that some Brazilians wonder if democracy and elections offer them any possibility of putting their country back on a right track.
There is even faint, unrealistic talk of restoring the monarchy. The last emperor, Dom Pedro II, was forced out in a military coup in 1889, resulting in the establishment of a republican form of government. Brazil has had military governments, most recently in the 1964-85 period. Its current military leaders have indicated that they are not interested in ruling again, wishing not to court the unpopularity that forced them out last time and looking at the formidable economic problems Brazil faces.
In the meantime, Temer had to use the military briefly already to counter violent demonstrations in Brasilia, the capital. Also, in the meantime, Brazil’s courts, its states’ authorities and Brazil’s constitution limit what he can do as a probably corrupt, not very skillful and unpopular president of a still very important country.