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Here’s why Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment is a disaster for Brazil

Rousseff is the victim of a highly corrupt and dysfunctional political system, which is specious reasons to remove from office one of the few politicians who is not corrupt. Given Brazil’s recent history of political violence and instability it is a reckless and dangerous step which can only increase cynicism and instability and make instability greater.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though it is attracting remarkably little notice around the world, Brazil is quietly completing the process of replacing its democratically elected President with an appointed one.

Dilma Rousseff, elected President of Brazil in 2010 and re-elected in October 2014 with 51.6% of the vote in the election’s second round, was suspended from her elected office in April 2016 by votes in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate.  She is now undergoing trial for impeachment before the Senate.

By general consensus Rousseff was a less than successful President of Brazil.  She has herself admitted mistakes.  She never asserted her authority effectively and proved to be a less than competent and at times erratic manager of the Brazilian economy.  She completely lacked the charisma and authority of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who chose her as his successor, and whose shadow she never fully escaped

The single factor that probably eroded Rousseff’s support more than any other was Brazil’s fall into recession soon after her re-election in 2014.  Coming after a decade of rapid growth and rising living standards, this came as a shock for many Brazilians, and lost her support within her working class electoral base.

Whilst a strong case can be made that Rousseff handled the recession badly, it is important to say that she did not cause it.  As a major commodities exporter Brazil was inevitably hit hard by the collapse in oil and commodity prices which began in mid 2014.  That would have inevitably caused a recession in Brazil whoever was President. 

There have been some overblown claims that the recession was the worst in Brazilian history and that this was due to Rousseff’s mismanagement.  However anyone at all familiar with Brazilian history knows this is not true.  As it happens the Brazilian economy steadied around the time Rousseff was suspended from office, a fact that points to the deeper structural reasons that were its cause rather than her mismanagement.

Though it was the recession that eroded Rousseff’s support within her electoral base, another factor which has been used against her by her political enemies is the revelation of kickbacks to senior members of Rousseff’s party by the state oil company Petrobas, which is currently under investigation by the Brazilian police in a probe that goes by the name “Operation Car Wash”.

Rousseff herself is however universally acknowledged to be personally free of corruption, whilst it seems the kickbacks paid by Petrobas extended far beyond Rousseff’s party.  Though the Petrobas scandal was exploited by Rousseff’s enemies to discredit her – with allegations that the police and judiciary’s handling of Operation Car Wash has become highly politicised – it forms no part of the impeachment charges against her. 

These centre on certain complex budget and accounting manoeuvres Rousseff’s government carried out during the recession.  Whilst budget and accounting manoeuvres are definitely violations of budget laws in Brazil as in most countries, they are hardly rare whether in Brazil or elsewhere, and to impeach the country’s democratically elected President and remove her from office on the strength of them seems wildly disproportionate.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the entire impeachment process is an essentially political device to oust from office a democratically elected leftist President in a country that has been dominated for most of its recent history by the political right. Though the deputies in the Chamber who voted for Rousseff’s impeachment came from many parties (including her own) since her suspension from office Brazil’s government has taken a definite right turn, which seems to have been what this exercise was really about. 

This is very bad for Brazil.  The country has had a difficult history of political instability and violence.  Within living memory Brazil has experienced two long periods of dictatorship (under Getulio Vargas from 1930 to 1945, and under the military from 1964 to 1985), military coups in 1930 and 1964, an attempted military coup in 1954 (aborted by the suicide of the then President, the former dictator Getulio Vargas), and extreme political violence during the period of military rule from 1964 to 1985, in which Dilma Rousseff herself became involved as an urban guerrilla before being captured and tortured by the military.   As is true in most of Latin America class and political conflict in Brazil is intense.

Brazil also suffers from deep seated problems of violent crime and corruption.  The recent holding of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro highlighted the degree to which the slum areas of the city – the favelas – are to a great extent controlled by heavily armed criminal gangs and have become no-go areas for the police.   Meanwhile the irony that one of Brazil’s few genuinely non-corrupt politicians – Dilma Rousseff – is being impeached in the middle of a corruption scandal by a political system rife with corruption is lost on no-one. 

In such a fragile system removing a democratically elected leader through a grossly partial impeachment process is not only profoundly undemocratic.  It is also fraught with risk, and can only add to the already dangerously high levels of cynicism and alienation which exist in the country.

Brazil is a country with enormous potential.  Possessing huge natural resources, a large, young and dynamic population, a by no means insignificant industrial base, a potentially strong commercial and financial hub in Sao Paulo, no external enemies to speak of, secure borders, and with large areas of the south of the country as developed and as wealthy as many places in Europe and north America, Brazil should be a world leader. 

It is Brazil’s deeply corrupt, dysfunctional and highly polarised political system which is holding the country back.  By removing its democratically elected leader Brazil’s political class has just ensured that it remains corrupt, dysfunctional and highly polarised still.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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