The government of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, her mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and their Workers Party fear very much that this Tuesday could become “D Day”, since its main ally the PMDB, and with the largest representation in Congress, will be holding an extraordinary meeting of the national directory to decide whether to continue or step down from the ruling convention.
If that happens government sources admit it will be extremely difficult to impede the impeachment process against president Rousseff rolling ahead.
The bad news was born in Rio do Janeiro last Thursday, where the main chapter of PMDB, in a much disputed convention said it was time to leave an incompetent government, and also looking ahead to next October’s municipal elections, the stronghold of the party’s electorate. The advisors of Rousseff also fear that the stepping down of PMDB could have a contagion effect on other, though smaller parties of the coalition.
“It’s terrible news, it strengthens the exit position of PMDB next Tuesday since Rio was the main support of the government inside the party. This will demand a Herculean effort to convince deputy after deputy to sustain their support for the coalition,” said a government source quoted by Rio’s O Globo media group.
Allegedly once the decision was taken, Rousseff and Lula immediately called former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, one of the main leaders of PMDB in that state to ask for help in stopping the bleeding. According to PMDB sources Lula sounded “desperate” and the discussion was “cold” and “to talk about the obvious.”
In effect Cabral, together with Jorge Picciani, chairman of PMDB in Rio and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, who led the ‘PMDBexit’ position in the state convention told the Workers Party representatives that there was nothing to be done since ‘it was too late’ and that there was nothing to be won but further erosion and discredit in defending the government.
However it was not clear what would be the stance of the leader of PMDB block in the Lower House, Leonardo Picciani, who was elected with the support from the Planalto Palace (Executive).
Apparently in the last weeks neither Lula or Rousseff had called Cabral, or mayor Paes or expressed gratitude to Picciani for his contention task in Congress, in support of the government, “this is proof of the significance of PMDB for Dilma and if she stays, but our position is that we’ve reached the mouth of the cave, but we are not going in,” according to the O Globo report quoting PMDB members.
“In politics there’s nothing as unconditional support, you need to build minimum consensuses. On Tuesday we are going to clearly defend that PMDB must withdraw from support (to the government), hand in positions and serenely wait for events to evolve. It won’t be unanimous but we are going to have a clear majority,” said Jorge Picciani, Rio do Janeiro PMDB chair.
Picciani also revealed that he had lunch with vice president Michel Temer and suggested that in the event of a government headed by Temer he should cut the cabinet to a maximum of 15 positions with outstanding names with the purpose of implementing a ‘rigorous fiscal adjustment’.
However, despite the negative scenario, Planalto sources said that the government still is hopeful of reversing votes and for this “will appeal and try to convince deputies directly one by one, not to support the impeachment,” even if PMDB decides on Tuesday to walk away from the coalition. “The party might decide to abandon the government but this does not mean they have to vote to impeach Dilma.”
“They claim we are offering positions, yes we are, but they are also doing the same in the event of breaking off from government,” admitted Planalto sources in reference to a possible administration under vice president Michel Temer if Rousseff is removed.
“This is a cold war, there’s no direct communication between the Rousseff side and the PMDB, and worse they distrust each other deeply,” admitted the Planalto source who also revealed that similar attempts to convince the Minas Gerais PMDB chapter are on course.
In effect the Senate speaker Renan Calheiros from PMDB is working to try and keep the party in the coalition, but he has limits and besides if impeachment is approved by the Lower House, the Senate certainly will not be a barrier, taking into account that 70% of public opinion are calling for the removal of president Rousseff.
Rousseff Calls Opposition Fascist
The Brazilian president condemned the “fascist methods” of opponents seeking her ouster and said the country’s current political crisis would leave a “scar” if not resolved democratically.
In an interview with several foreign media groups, Rousseff said she was being pressured to resign because her rivals wanted “to avoid the difficulty of removing – unduly, illegally and criminally – a legitimately elected president from power”.
The populist leader ruled out stepping down despite mass protests and impeachment proceedings in Congress. In the interview with The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais and Argentina’s Pagina 12, Rousseff said any attempt to remove her without legal basis would represent a “coup.”
“I am not comparing the coup here to the military coups of the past, but it would be a breaking of the democratic order of Brazil,” she said, in comments reported by The Guardian. She said any such move would “leave a deep scar on Brazilians’ political life.”
Rousseff, an ex-guerrilla tortured under Brazil’s military dictatorship, said she was in favor of protests because she was from “a generation in which if you opened your mouth you could go to jail.”
She emphasized, though, that the estimated three million people who protested against her in the largest rally so far represented less than two percent of Brazil’s population.
Rousseff painted her opponents as powerful elites opposed to the social changes that have swept Brazil in the past 13 years of left-wing government.
“Who stands to benefit from this?” she asked, according to The New York Times. “I can assure you that they’re in the backstage of power.”
The impeachment case is based on accusations that Rousseff doctored the government’s accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign and hide the depth of a recession last year. She denies her actions were illegal or different from standard practice in previous administrations.
Her opponents are also seeking to link her to a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras, but investigators have not accused her and she vehemently denies involvement.
With her coalition splintering amid the crisis, Rousseff called former president Lula to the rescue, naming him her chief of staff. But the move blew up in her face when the judge heading the Petrobras investigation, Sergio Moro, released a wiretapped phone call suggesting the appointment was really aimed at saving the ex-president from arrest on corruption charges.
“Violating privacy breaks democracy because it breaks the right of every citizen to a private life,” she said, banging the table as she made her point, the Guardian reported.
The interview came as the United Nations office on women’s rights in Brazil criticized “sexist political violence” in the campaign to oust Rousseff, the country’s first female president.
“Why do they want me to resign?” she asked in the interview. “Because I’m a woman, fragile. I am not fragile. That is not my life”.
Meanwhile on Thursday night thousands of Brazilians demonstrated in support of President Rousseff. Organizers of the march in São Paulo, which is Brazil’s biggest city and financial capital, said about 30,000 people joined in, while police estimated 17,000.
Many of them marched on the headquarters of TV Globo, the popular television station that Rousseff sympathizers accuse of being partisan and pushing for the president’s ouster. A recent poll by the respected DataFolha agency said 68% of Brazilians surveyed want to see lawmakers vote to impeach Rousseff.
Mercosur and Unasur
The attempt by Uruguay to draft a strong Mercosur and Unasur resolution in support of embattled Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has floundered. Argentina is only prepared to express support for Brazil’s institutions while Chile and Paraguay have balked at the idea of personalizing the issue in Rousseff and her Workers Party.
Last week the Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez on suggestions from his foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa signed a draft resolution in support of Rousseff which hopefully was to be confirmed by the rest of the groupings members, but it proved to be a miscalculated initiative.
“We do not interfere in the internal affairs of countries” stated the Paraguayan foreign ministry, while minister Eladio Loizaga said that “the position of the Paraguayan government is respect for Brazil’s institutions”.
“We respect the self determination of the Brazilian government and people. Brazil is a leading reference when it come to respect for institutions, so Paraguay believes it is not convenient to make any statement in favor or against the actors of the current situation, as we have said we have utmost respect for the Brazilian institutions”.
Furthermore “we are not supportive of this kind of declarations, and have respect for countries’ sovereignty,” added the minister who revealed that both Mercosur and Unasur had consulted Paraguay on signing a declaration supporting Dilma Rousseff given the current conflict with the Judicial branch.
Loizaga, who just returned from Japan from a meeting of the Parliamentary League which brings together Japanese and Paraguayan lawmakers, said the situation in the region was addressed, in particular Brazil, and it was agreed that “we are all looking forward for a quick solution to the situation according to the Constitution and rule of the law”
The Paraguayan minister visited Tokyo to coordinate celebrations later in the year of the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese migrants to Paraguay. The two countries have full diplomatic relations since 1919 and the first Japanese families arrived in 1936. An estimated 7.000 Japanese descendents live in Paraguay.
Uruguay currently holds the rotating chair of both Mercosur and Unasur.