Impeaching Brazil’s President Rousseff opens new era of institutional instability

Kenneth M. Roberts is a professor of government at Cornell University, teaching comparative and Latin America politics, with an emphasis on the political economy of development and the politics of inequality. His most recent work is Changing Course in Latin America: Party Systems in the Neoliberal Era (Cambridge University Press, 2014). In voting to impeach President Rousseff, Roberts says Brazil is setting a precedent that could reverse democratic gains in Latin America.

Roberts says:

“The congressional vote to impeach Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff opens a new era of institutional uncertainty and political conflict in Latin America’s largest democracy.

“Given the constitutionally dubious grounds for the impeachment – Rousseff is accused of mismanaging government accounts but not personally engaging in corruption – and the swirl of corruption charges facing the leaders of both governing and opposition parties in congress, the standoff is more political than legal.

“It is indicative of a growing political polarization between the ruling leftist party and the country’s old guard political and media establishments that threatens to paralyze Brazil’s democratic institutions. The Brazilian precedent raises troubling questions about the sustainability of Latin America’s democratic gains over the past several decades.”

Lourdes Casanova is a senior lecturer and academic director of the Emerging Markets Institute at the Johnson School of Business at Cornell University. She is the co-author of: The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream. She believes today’s stock market tells the story of the volatility caused by President Rousseff’s removal from office.

Casanova says:

“After a very lengthy and traumatic process, President Dilma Rousseff, the first female president of Brazil, has been removed for six months from office, while the legal procedures start to consider if there are enough reasons to impeach her or not.

“In the middle of a major economic recession, this political and ethical battle will only add more uncertainty. These are testing times for Brazil’s young democracy and the biggest economy in Latin America.

“Today the Brazilian stock market as an indicator that volatility will continue.”

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