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The Swamp Of Brazilian Politics

Anti-government protesters in Sao Paulo on June 20
Anti-government protesters in Sao Paulo on June 20

Watching from abroad as Brazil's anti-corruption probe rumbles into its fourth year, you can't help but think: "Well, I guess they're all corrupt..." "How could it get any worse?" No doubt, many Brazilians are thinking the same. The latest episode in this seemingly unending series of accusations and counter-accusations, rising and falling political fortunes, is President Michel Temer being charged with corruption late yesterday.

Temer now formally accused of accepting bribes that, in total, could amount to 38 million reais ($11.5 million). Temer, 76, denies the charges — just as his predecessor Dilma Rousseff did before being impeached last year over accusations of illegally manipulating the budget to boost her chances of being reelected.

Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.

In the meantime, Brazil's political quagmire deepens further, and faith in the democratic process fades. The noose has been tightening around Temer ever since he took over the presidency without a popular vote. His successive governments have been marred by scandals related to the anti-corruption operation Car Wash ("Lava Jato") with several ministers forced to resign. Still, it looks as if Temer has enough support in the lower house of parliament to block a two-third majority vote on whether he should be tried and, potentially, impeached. For now.

As the judicial and executive branches square off again, Brazilian democracy may only find its footing again by returning to hear what the people say. The opposition didn't miss the opportunity to call for early elections as soon as the allegations against Temer first surfaced several weeks ago. With an approval rating of just 7% (the lowest in three decades) according to a poll published last week, Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.

The same can't be said of former President Lula, even though he too is accused of corruption. He is leading current polls for the presidential election planned for next year with 30%. But in a warning that sounds like a threat, one leader of Lula's Workers' Party said yesterday that should the ex-president be sentenced by the judge, there would be "no more democratic compromise" and "open fighting in the streets." Yes, after all, it could get worse.

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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