Brazil In Crisis: Was Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment A Coup?

Massive rallies in recent weeks suggest Brazilians largely reject their nation's new and unelected government.


Over the course of 2016, Brazil, the world’s 5th most populous country and 8th largest economy, has become embroiled in its worst political crisis in over 20 years. Dilma Rousseff, elected to the Brazilian presidency in 2014, was officially impeached earlier this month for allegedly doctoring government finances. Though many have taken the impeachment proceedings at face value, recent events as well as the person chosen to replace Rousseff as President, have led many notable journalists and academics, including Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky, to call Rousseff’s ouster a coup.

Before impeachment proceedings began, Rousseff’s administration had initiated a massive corruption and fraud investigation known popularly as the “Car Wash” investigation, which implicated numerous Brazilian politicians and oligarchs, including the owners of Brazil’s media behemoth Globo. According to Greenwald and others, Brazilian media worked to incite protests against Rousseff, by manipulating public anger and frustration related to Brazil’s faltering economy, with the explicit purpose of legitimizing her impeachment.

Also of concern are rumors of the United States’ involvement in the subversion of Brazilian democracy. The US has a long and storied history of planning, funding, and executing coups throughout Latin America and was responsible for a bloody coup in Brazil in 1964 that overthrew a democratically-elected leftist (not communist) government and replaced it with a repressive military dictatorship that ruled for 21 years. The US propped up the dictatorship and also instructed them in torture techniques that were used against dissidents, including Rousseff herself. Therefore, Brazilians are understandably suspect about the US’ role in Rousseff’s impeachment. Yet, legitimate concerns were raised when Wikileaks revealed that Temer has worked as a US intel informant.


Romero Jucá’s leaked conversations show that Rousseff’s impeachment is not about stopping corruption but continuing it.

Yet, the most damning evidence regarding whether the impeachment was really a carefully disguised coup relates to Brazil’s newly appointed president, Michel Temer. Temer, whose last name literally means fear in Portuguese, is barred from running for political office for 8 years due to his own involvement in past corruption scandals.

If that weren’t bad enough, Romero Jucá, now a minister in Temer’s cabinet, had his conversations with a former oil executive recorded and leak,in which he said that removing Rousseff from power was the only means for ending the “Car Wash” corruption investigation. Jucá went on to say that he had procured the support of Brazil’s military leaders who told him that they would “guarantee” Rousseff’s impeachment. Jucá also claimed to have garnered the support of a majority of Brazil’s Supreme Court justices in the effort. This alone shows that Temer’s government has no actual interest in a government free of corruption. The real motive was to rise to power in a way they never could democratically in order to push a right-wing and oligarchical agenda that the majority of Brazilians would never accept. Indeed, Temer has promised to privatize “as much as possible” during his time as president.

Despite all of this, the Brazilian media conglomerates are attempting to glorify Temer despite the fact that his approval ratings were only 2% one month after he assumed the presidency. 60% of Brazilians want him impeached. Media outlets that have shown Temer with higher approval ratings were later found to have committed journalistic fraud. Thankfully, Brazilians apparently aren’t buying it as massive rallies continue throughout Brazil to call for Temer’s removal. Only time will tell if the Brazilian people will ultimately be successful in repairing the damage done to their young democracy.

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