Capping a week of explosive politics in Brazil that included impeachment proceedings against her, President Dilma Rousseff defied expectations and traveled to New York to speak at the United Nations. Brazilian political analysts had widely expected her to seize the world stage and use the UN bully pulpit to denounce what many critics have called a "legal-media" coup d'etat against her. She resisted the use of the word "coup" in her April 22 speech, instead referring obliquely to "a grave moment."
Later the same day, however, Rousseff used more pointed language with the press to describe the ongoing impeachment process as "a coup in progress." She indicated her intention to request that Brazil be expelled from MERCOSUR and UNASUR, two regional political and economic unions. Rousseff hopes that potential sanction from Brazil's South American neighbors will put pressure on the pro-impeachment forces.
The efforts to oust the president, whose Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) is in its fourth consecutive mandate, has already passed one major hurdle. On April 17, the Camara dos Deputados voted 367-137, with seven abstentions, to impeach Rousseff. The case moves forward to the Senate, which will conduct a trial in May over allegations that Rousseff misrepresented official economic figures during her 2014 reelection campaign. The raucous vote, broadcast live, was presided over by several politicians who themselves are the subject of corruption investigations but who, as sitting deputies, retain immunity from prosecution.
Coup or Constitution
Rousseff's political comments at the UN occupied only a short section of a broader speech that included a paean to Brazil's environmental leadership and policy in the COP21 UN climate change conference that took place last December in Paris (NotiSur, Dec. 18, 2015, and Jan. 8, 2016). The occasion for her visit to the UN was the signing ceremony of the Paris Climate Agreement. With huge carbon reserves in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil was a major player in the Paris negotiations, which for the first time created a binding agreement on climate change. The signing ceremony marked the beginning of a global push to encourage countries to ratify the provisions of the agreement.
At the end of her speech, Rousseff dedicated a brief set of comments to the impeachment crisis. "Despite this, I must say that Brazil is a great nation, with a society that was able to defeat authoritarianism and build a vibrant democracy," she said in the...