By SHIVANI PANDYA —
The latest arrest of a government figure in Brazil over the Petrobras scandal signals one thing: President Dilma Rousseff should resign her office immediately.
Delcidio do Amaral is the ruling Workers’ Party’s most senior figure in Congress and has been a close political ally to Rousseff. Amaral was arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe Petrobras’ former international director not to take a plea bargain that could implicate senior officials in the costly purchase of a refinery in Pasadena, Texas in 2006.
Amaral’s arrest among others shows that the scandal – involving bribery and kickback schemes – exists on the highest level of the Workers’ Party. As the functional head of the party, President Rousseff has very little room for deniability of the illegal activities that were executed by senior officials in her administration.
“It exposes the relation of corruption between the government, politicians and big businesses,” said Rubens Bueno, an opposition lawmaker and severe critic of the Rousseff government in the lower house of Congress.
Rousseff is also under fire for discrepancies in her re-election bid. Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court said in a decision in October that it would reopen an investigation into illegal campaign funds during President Rousseff’s re-election campaign.
This political blow precedes a ruling by the Federal Accounts Court, known as TCU, which found that Rousseff’s government manipulated its accounts in 2014 to mask a ballooning deficit. While the ruling has no legal bind, it could be used as political ammunition by an increasingly hostile Congress to impeach Rousseff.
President Rousseff denies all wrongdoing in both situations, but the wave of political opinion is increasingly against her and her government. The Rousseff administration has been associated with a weak economy that has recently entered a recession period and several corruption scandals; both political shortcomings have translated to single-digit approval ratings for the president.
Political opposition leaders have called for impeachment hearings amid the decisions. The move to oust Rousseff is certainly gaining traction with business leaders and other powerful interests who have been affected by Brazil’s flagging economy. However, the chances of impeachment depend on whether the Brazilian Democratic Movement, the nation’s largest party and a coalition partner for the Rousseff government, decides to support a change in leadership.
Supporters of the Rousseff administration have been adamant in her retaining power despite the myriad of controversies. Brazil’s political and economic turmoil can only be managed by a seasoned politician, according to coalition members.
Rousseff still possesses many allies within her party and several political friendships beyond. Many political analysts are claiming that move will be unlikely because of the influence Rousseff holds and the absence of a potential replacement.
In order to ensure a stable political and economic climate, it is in Brazil’s best interest for Rousseff to resign. A new round of elections could be the necessary next step to regain legitimacy in the Brazilian government.
Consequently, the Supreme Electoral Court decision to investigate possible illegal funding could escalate the transition of power. If the court were to find irregularities in the election results, that find could invalidate Rousseff’s victory and trigger new polls. With that said, the discrepancies would have to be extremely significant in nature, and the court investigation could take months.
Opposition leaders such as Bueno, a congressman from the PPS party, have predicted the end of the Rousseff administration. The government’s flagging popularity has definitively impacted its governing abilities. On Wednesday, Rousseff’s government failed to win enough support in Congress to support legislation to rebalance Brazil’s public accounts. Without coalition support, the administration is bound to face more political setbacks.
Any potential political movements will have to take the economy into consideration. Brazil faces its deepest recession in 25 years, and with the Petrobras scandal continuing to impact both domestic and international markets, all eyes are on Brazil and the Rousseff government’s response.
In order to move past the recent scandals, it would be in the interest of Brazil to present a more unified government to foreign nations and investors. Impeaching President Rousseff without a clear successor could prove more harmful than beneficial. Ultimately, she must hold herself and her government accountable by resigning the presidency.
(Written by Shivani Pandya, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 26, 2015)