CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Spring Series Latin America at the Crossroads continues - Brazil summary

March 1st, 2017

On Friday, February 17, 2017, CIPR hosted the second talk in a series entitled “Latin America at a Crossroads.” Dr. Timothy Power (Oxford) discussed Brazil’s recent economic woes, the political turmoil leading up to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff last year, and the challenges that lie ahead as the country continues to grapple with the fallout from Operation Car Wash.

According to Dr. Power, Brazil stands out as having the most fragmented political system in the history of the world, with the largest party controlling only 13% of the seats in the Brazilian Congress. The fact that every government in Brazil is both a minority government and a coalition government is important when studying the challenges the country faces. Dr. Power noted that from 2003 through 2014, tens of millions of Brazilians joined the middle class as poverty and income inequality fell while real wages increased. By 2014, however, a combination of factors began to erode the popularity of the President Rousseff and the governing Workers’ Party, including an economic slowdown brought on by the end of the commodities boom, successive corruption scandals, and growing political polarization exacerbated by the media. These same problems, as well as Rousseff’s poor relationship with the Brazilian legislature, contributed to Rousseff’s impeachment in mid-2016. Among the issues that Dr. Power identified with the impeachment process in Brazil is the fact that when the president is impeached, they are temporarily suspended from office. This clause permitted Rousseff’s vice president, Michel Temer, to quickly fire all of her cabinet and appoint his own ministers after ascending to the presidency, essentially sealing Rousseff’s fate. Dr. Power concluded his presentation by predicting that a political free-for-all is likely in the run-up to the country’s 2018 presidential election, as President Temer’s unpopularity will probably limit his influence in shaping the race.

The next talk in the series will be on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 4:00 PM. Dr. David Roll will be discussing recent political developments in Colombia since the peace agreement was signed with the FARC last year.

This talk was organized by CIPR post-doctoral fellow Dr. Rachel Navarre.