Brazil Politics

COULD BRAZIL HAVE TWO PRESIDENTIAL IMPEACHMENTS IN ONE YEAR?

Members of the government see a real risk of Michel Temer being removed from office

By
Michel Temer Point no return brazilian government

2016 was an extremely traumatic year for Brazil. After the Zika epidemics, economic recession, and controversies surrounding the Olympics, the country saw Congress impeach former President Dilma Rousseff. Her replacement, Michel Temer, promised to guide Brazil through a smooth transition until the 2018 presidential election. But even with a new head of state, the Brazilian government remains engulfed by political turmoil.

Since taking office back in May, Michel Temer saw six of his ministers fall after corruption scandals. His reforms are meeting a great deal of opposition in Congress, and the “real” economy has yet to improve. But Temer’s latest headache could be fatal. Businessman Marcelo Odebrecht, who was the CEO of Brazil’s largest construction company, has told the Electoral Justice that he provided illegal funding to the Rousseff-Temer presidential campaign.

From the left to the right, everyone seems to have received money from Odebrecht. The Workers’ Party, for instance, took $100 million between 2008 and 2014. That included money to fund the 2014 reelection campaign. Temer, Rousseff’s running mate in both 2010 and 2014, now faces an investigation by Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court. If the judges on the case conclude that the campaign benefited from illegal money, Temer could lose his office.

The current process against the President actually began in the week following the 2014 election. Dilma Rousseff’s opposition accused her campaign of “abuse of political and economic power.” Meaning: Rousseff’s campaign used illegal funding. While Congress impeached Dilma Rousseff last year (for other reasons), the process is still ongoing.

Two impeachments in one year?

After Marcelo Odebrecht’s statement to the electoral justice, a red light hit the Brazilian government. Members of the cabinet see only one way out: challenging the lawsuit under the argument that the candidates for vice-president and president had different committees with separate finances. “If this theory prevails, he has a huge chance of an acquittal,” said legal expert Wálter Maierovitch.

However, a few pieces of evidence complicate Temer’s case. Example: the former CEO of Andrade Gutierrez, a construction company, declared in a deposition that his company donated $300,000 to the Workers’ Party National Committee back in 2014. According to the executive, that money was a kickback. But it turns out that the check in question was not destined to the Workers’ Party, nor to Rousseff’s campaign committee, but rather to Michel Temer and his party.

If the Electoral Court doesn’t separate the trials, Temer could risk an impeachment process. Regardless of how you feel about him, it’s never a good sign when a country has not one but two impeached presidents in just over a year.