Brazil’s Senate voted on 31 August to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office for manipulating the budget, effectively putting an end to the thirteen years in power of her left-wing Worker’s Party. Ms Rousseff has denied the charges. Michel Temer has been sworn in as president and will serve the remainder of Ms Rousseff’s term until 1 January 2019. He has promised to boost Brazil’s economy, which is going through its longest and deepest recession in the past quarter of a century. His critics have already warned that he plans to cut many of the popular social programmes that had been introduced by the Workers’ Party.
Sixty-one senators voted in favour of her dismissal and twenty against, effectively meeting the two-thirds majority needed to remove her from the presidency.
During his first cabinet meeting since the vote, Mr Temer disclosed that his inauguration marked a “new era.” The centre-right PMDB party politician had been serving as acting president during the impeachment proceedings. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on television, he asked his ministers to “vigorously defend” the government from accusations that Ms Rousseff’s dismissal amounted to a coup d’état, adding, “we can’t leave one accusation unanswered.” He also told ministers to work closely with the Congress in order to rive the Brazilian economy.
The dismissal of Ms Rousseff has caused a rift between Brazil and three left-wing South American governments, who shortly after the vote was announced criticized the move. Brazil and Venezuela recalled each other’s ambassadors, while Brazilian envoys to Bolivia and Ecuador have also ben ordered home. In the wake of the vote, anti-Temer demonstrations were held in a number of cities, including Brasilia.
While Ms Rousseff lost the impeachment battle, she did win a separate Senate vote that had sought to ban her from public office for eight years. Pledging to appeal against her dismissal, she told her supporters, “I will not say goodbye to you. I am certain I can say: ‘See you soon,’” adding, “they have convicted an innocent person and carried out a parliamentary coup.” In May, Ms Rousseff was suspended after the Senate voted to go ahead with the impeachment process. She was accused of moving funds between government budgets, which under Brazilian law is illegal. Her critics stated that she was trying to plug deficit holes in popular social programmes in a bid to boost her chances of being re-elected in 2014. Ms Rousseff fought the allegations, arguing that her right-wing rivals had been trying to remove her from office ever since her re-election, adding that she was being ousted because she had allowed a wide-ranging corruption investigation to go ahead, which resulted in many high-profile politicians being charged. Senators who voted on Wednesday in favour to remove her from office have disclosed that Ms Rousseff and the Workers’ Party are the ones who were corrupt, adding that they needed to go.
The Brazilian Senate has voted to hold an impeachment trial of suspended President Dilma Rousseff, who has been accused of breaking the budget law.
Following a marathon debate, which ended early on Wednesday, the Senate voted 59 to 21 in favour of going ahead with the trial against Ms Rousseff, which is likely to be held at the end of this month. A two-thirds majority is needed in the final vote following the trial, which is likely to take place in the week after the Summer Olympics closing ceremony. Ms Rousseff was suspended in May by the Senate over alleged illegal accounting practices, which she says were common practice under previous administrations. She has been accused of spending money without congressional approval and taking out unauthorized loans from state banks to boost the national budget ahead of the 2014 election, when she was re-elected. Her allies in the Workers’ Party have pointed out that many of the members of the Brazilian Congress who have accused her are implicated in corruption cases themselves.
While Ms Rousseff is not facing corruption charges in Brazil’s wide-ranging scandal around the state oil company, Petrobras, she has been tainted by the Scandal, in which her Workers’ Party is accused of lining its campaign war chests with some of the missing money. If Ms Rousseff is removed from office, the interim president, her former running mate Michel Temer, will remain in the presidential chair until the next elections, due to take place in 2018. Ms Rousseff has accused him of orchestrating a political coup against her.
Amnesty International reported on 2 August that a sharp increase in police killings has effectively cast “a shadow of death” over Rio de Janeiro as the city and country prepares to host the Olympic Games, which are due to begin on 5 August.
The rights group has reported that the number of people killed by police in the crime-plagued Brazilian city has more than doubled between April and June 2016 from a year ago. Citing state security figures, Amnesty disclosed that police in Rio de Janeiro killed 49 people 25 people in April; 40 in May and 49 in June, adding that since 2009, when Rio won the bid to host the Summer Olympic Games, police have killed more than 2,600 people in the city.
In a statement, Atila Roque, director at Amnesty International Brazil, disclosed that “just when we thought the levels of police brutality could not get any more shocking, they do,” adding that “a shadow of death has set over Rio de Janeiro and it seems the authorities only car about how pretty the Olympic Part looks.”
Recent attacks claimed by extremists groups in Europe, coupled with the arrest of a cell with purported links to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Brazil in late July, have added to security concerns during the Olympics. While organizers have responded to these concerns by increasing the number of soldiers and police patrolling the event to nearly 90,000, Amnesty has disclosed that poor training and excessive use of lethal force by police are pat of a misguided approach to public security in the South American country.
Speaking recently at a news conference, Renata Neder, a human rights adviser for Amnesty, disclosed that “the authorities are not looking into preventive measures to tackle and to curb the executions by police,” adding that “there are specific cases of people bing killed in operations for the Games.”
06The governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a state of financial emergency ahead of the Olympics, which are set to begin in August, stating that emergency measures are needed in order to avoid “a total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management.”
The acting governor, Francisco Dornelles, has classified the situation in the Official Gazette as a “financial calamity” that could prevent “the fulfilment of the obligations as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016.” This however is in part a political tactics as by declaring a state of financial emergency, the government is able to borrow funds without approval from the state legislature. The interim president, Michel Temer, has reportedly already agreed to disburse federal funds to cover Rio’s shortfall and to ensure that the Olympics go ahead as planned.
The impact however remains to be seen. Most of the Olympic projects are funded by private companies or Rio City, which is in a stronger financial position, as opposed to Rio state. With the exception of the velodrome, the main sporting venues are either already completed or are on schedule for completion. However Rio State is responsible for the MetroRio extension, which is already very late and which is now due for completion just days before the start of the Games, when it will be needed to alleviate the usually dire traffic to Bara de Tijuca, the site of the athletes village and Olympic park. Rio State was also supposed to clean up the sewage and other pollution in Guanabara Bay, which will stage the yachting events. However officials have stated that this is now impossible due to a lack of funds, which effectively means that Olympic sailors may have to dodge plastic bags, human excrement and other waste. Also of great concern for the 500,000 visitors who are expected for th Games is the cut in the public security budget, which has added to the problems faced by the favela “pacification” programme and contributed to a resurgence in violent crime. I also comes amidst warnings that terrorists could target the event.
City Mayor Eduardo Paes however has insisted that the state of emergency would in no way impede Rio’s ability to meet its Olympic commitments and stage an “exceptional Games.” He stressed that the bulk of the bill for the event was being paid by the municipality and not the state, adding, “the city of Rio is in good shape financially…Even in a time of crisis, we keep pushing. We inaugurate things almost every week.”
The plea for additional funds, which comes 49 days before the official start of the games, is an embarrassment for the host of South America’s first Games and adds to a long list of issues, which include the impeachment of the president, the deepest recession in decades, the biggest corruption scandal in memory, the Zika virus epidemic and a wave of strikes and occupations of government buildings.
Analysts have reported that Brazil’s economy this year is expected to shrink by about 4%. This is due to weak commodity prices, low demand from China, political paralysis and the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation, which forced the suspension of many construction contracts and which led to the arrest of dozens of senior executives. Rio de Janeiro has particularly been hard hit because it is the headquarters of the state-run oil company Petrobas, which is at the centre of the investigation. Faced by falling tax revenues, the state government has slashed health, police and education budgets. Teachers and doctors have faced lengthy delays in receiving their salaries, which has prompted strikes and occupations of schools and hospitals.
A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman has disclosed that the WHO’s Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in the coming weeks in order to evaluate the risks tied to going on with the Olympic Games in Brazil in August. The meeting comes as the debate grows over the safety of holding the Olympics in the South American country amidst the ongoing Zika virus outbreak.
According to WHO spokesman Nyka Alexander, “the Emergency Committee meeting will consider the situation in Brazil, including the question of the Olympics,” noting that while the WHO will make risk assessments of a public health issue, it will ultimately be up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on holding the event in Rio de Janeiro, which is due to begin on 5 August. A spokesman for Rio 2016 has disclosed that officials are continuing to follow WHO recommendations on Zika.
Dr David Heymann, chairman of the WHO committee of independent experts, has disclosed that postponing the Rio Olympics over fears that it could speed the spread of the Zika virus would give a “false” sense of security because travellers are constantly going in and out of Brazil. WHO experts have also indicated that because it will be winter in Brazil when the Olympics begin, mosquitoes that carry the virus will be less abundant.
At the beginning of June, a public letter was signed by 150 public health experts and scientists calling for the Olympics to be delayed or moved over concerns that the Games could speed up the global spread of the Zika virus. However top US officials agreed with WHO experts that Zika did not pose enough of a risk to postpone or move the Olympics. According to Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, travel to the Olympics would represent less than one quarter of 1 percent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, adding that the risk was low except for pregnant women.
While athletes will have to make their own decisions as to whether to risk Zika for the potential globally of Olympic gold, some athletes have already withdrawn from the competition.