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Editorial: CARICOM must speak against Brazil coup

Published:Tuesday | April 19, 2016 | 4:00 AM
President Dilma Rousseff

Sunday's vote by the majority of Brazil's Lower House deputies to impeach President Dilma Rousseff has vestiges of constitutional action, which is now before the Senate for final resolution. But from this distance, what is emerging carries an odour of a different kind - that of an opportunistic putsch - which should be of concern to Jamaica and its partners in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Indeed, Jamaica, as CARICOM's lead on international relations, should urgently engage other Community members on the developments and begin to refine a regional response to the issue, of which there can be only a single interpretation: that it poses a threat to Brazil's democracy. Indeed, CARICOM should begin to send that message of its concerns to the critical formulators of this attempt at a constitutional coup.

There is good reason why Jamaica and CARICOM should become so engaged. Jamaica and the rest of the Community have important trade and strategic relations with Brazil, which both sides have sought to deepen. Moreover, we share a hemisphere that in recent decades has transcended right-wing military dictatorship and left-wing insurgencies to an embrace of democracy and, with it, political stability. Brazil is three decades removed from the former - to the country's good.

It has developed a pluralist political system, and, measured by nominal GDP, it is the world's seventh largest, and among its premier so-called emerging economies. Just a few years ago, growth was galloping on the back of high global demand and rising prices for commodities. Millions of people have been pulled out of poverty in the 14 years that Ms Rousseff's Workers Party has formed the government, initially under Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But all has not been well in Brazil. The country still faces endemic - systemic even - corruption, as has been evidenced as that now surrounds the state oil company Petrobas and the business and political elite, with suspicion even falling on Lula, the architect of the country's recent economic transformation.

 

CREATIVE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING

But corruption is not the basis of this attempt to impeach President Rousseff, She is accused of creative government accounting, a kind that governments like to do, to show the economy in better light during a tight re-election race in 2011.

It hasn't helped that commodities prices have tanked and, with them, Brazil's economic growth and the need to undertake tough reforms. Ms Rousseff and her government have grown deeply unpopular, helping to thicken the chimera of the fiscal breaches behind which the anti-Rousseff plotters find cover for their constitutional coup.

What is hilarious about this is that the Chamber of Deputies has the hue of a rogues gallery. Up to a third of the members of the Chamber of Deputies are under investigation for corruption, including the key henchman, the speaker, Eduardo Cunha, as well as presumed puppeteer, Vice-President Michel Temer, whose Democratic Movement Party has pulled out of the governing coalition.

What is happening in Brazil may pass the minimalists' legal test, but confounds the larger morality on which constitutions also rest, which allow for their organic growth and protection from cynical manipulation. Our fear is that, as some Workers Party leaders have warned, the fight to stave off this coup will head to the courts and the streets. No one can predict what will happen if the latter is where the battle is sustained.