SAO PAULO â€" The mess that is Brazilian politics right now would make for a fantastic television drama series. Its intricate plots, combining power disputes and alliances concluded behind closed doors, would easily match those of Game of Thrones, except that the omnipresent blood would be replaced with dirty money.
Ever since her reelection for a second term in office just one year ago, President Dilma Rousseff has been fighting against the threat of impeachment, but it's never been so close to materializing as it is now. Over the past week, the center-left leader has seen both Brazil's federal budget and election watchdog turn up the heat. The first rejected the government's public accounts for 2014, citing illegal government maneuvers to hide deficits during last year's election campaign. The election watchdog meanwhile launched an investigation into allegations that her reelection campaign received illegal funds.
This of course comes on top of the ongoing Federal Police operation "Lava-Jato" (Operation Car Wash), which is investigating money laundering and corruption on a mind-blowing scale at the state-run oil giant Petrobras, where Rousseff was chairwoman between 2003 and 2010.
In that context, and even as the country's economy is collapsing at an alarming rate, it seems improbable that Rousseff can remain much longer at the helm. But perhaps, she can be saved by someone who is no less suspect than her.
That's where Eduardo Cunha, the President of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, comes into the frame. The man whom the BBC characterized as Rousseff's "nemesis" has the power to decide whether to initiate the impeachment procedures. And it seems he's using that power as leverage to save his own job.
It emerged recently that Cunha is also suspected of involvment in the corruption scandal at Petrobras, and that he allegedly hid money from kick-back schemes in secret accounts in Switzerland; accusations that he denied. If basic ethics were any of his concern, the man would in all likelihood have stepped down, but instead he told Folha de S. Paulo in an interview last week, "Forget it, I'm not going to resign."
This has reshuffled the cards and probably to Dilma Rousseff's advantage, at least in the short term. According to a report published in Folha de S. Paulo on Thursday, Cunha has now seen himself forced to start to negotiate with the government in which he pledges not to initiate impeachment procedures if he's allowed to keep his position as Speaker of the Lower House of Congress. Ideally, he's also reportedly seeking that all charges against him be dropped, though that's not something the government can guarantee him.
This last move has, according to the newspaper, infuriated members of the opposition, who said they had already clinched a deal with Cunha to impeach Rousseff, whose approval ratings stood at just 10% in September.
While this political circus unfolds, Brazil's economic situation continues to deteriorate, with both inflation and unemployment rising, forcing people back into the infamous favelas. The biggest losers of all, as is often the case, are democracy and ordinary citizens. It might be the Southern Hemisphere, but winter has come to Brazil. It could be a long one.
A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.
A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."
The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.
Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021
Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?
The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.
The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.
The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."
The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."
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