Dilma Rousseff Clings to Presidency Appealing to Mercosur to Suspend Brazil

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff talks at Mercosur meeting In a speech before the United Nations on April 22, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff spoke against her impeachment, which took place in the Senate last month[1]. She called the procedure used against her on alleged cause that it was undemocratically carried out by her opposition. 

Whether or not this is true is being debated, but Rousseff has appealed to Mercosur, the South American regional integration bloc, to suspend Brazil’s position in the trade organization if her ousting is finalized. As of now, she has not followed through on this appeal, but if she does, the consequences could potentially be catastrophic.

Rousseff’s appeal to Mercosur to suspend Brazil can be interpreted as a blackmail strategy to regain the support from Brazilian businesspeople, who have been strongly in favor of Michel Temer taking power.

With her impeachment, businesspeople can now anticipate a flip in Brazil’s economic trend towards more market-friendly policies. Temer, who markets himself as a “smart” economist who will do whatever it takes to get the country moving again, will see his plans suffer immensely if Brazil is removed from Mercosur.

He already has announced his “Bridge to the Future” plan, which aims to sharpen public spending cuts in order to boost Brazil’s competitiveness in interest to private investment. Whether or not financial markets may be overestimated when it comes to Temer’s scope to push austerity measures, the interim president quickly understood the importance of support from businesspeople.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff talks at Mercosur meeting

On the other hand, Dilma Rousseff seems to only understand, in the present timeline, that she needs their support to lobby against her impeachment, and appealing to the Mercosur bloc to suspend Brazil is the last card up her sleeve. Moreover, leaving Mercosur could deliver a major blow to the administration of her successor.

According to a recent poll, 58 percent of Brazilians want him impeached along with Rousseff. [2] Suspending Brazil would jeopardize Michel Temer’s attempts to regain the trust of the Brazilian people and to maintain the support from businesspeople, his biggest ally.

Leaving Mercosur could be disastrous for Rousseff as well. Rated the most disappointing leader in the world by Fortune magazine[3], the former president experienced historically low favorability ratings of less than ten percent, with a majority of the country rating her presidency as “bad or terrible,” which may be partly the justification for her ousting.

Her threatening to leave Mercosur could be seen by the people as her blackmailing the country into keeping her in power and, although this strategy could work for some of her supporters, it is possible removing Brazil could make her approval rating drop to even lower numbers. If her plan backfires, her prospects for future leadership would be even further diminished.

Brazil’s departure could also be catastrophic for the organization itself. Brazil is by far the most influential country in Mercosur, geographically, socially and economically. It has in the past provided a significant portion of its gross domestic product (GDP) to the bloc, and a sudden suspension of Brazil from the organization could weaken severely the economic influence and outreach for both the bloc and the country itself. Negotiations with blocs such as the European Union could be significantly hindered as well, jeopardizing Mercosur’s international reputation.

Understanding the catastrophic consequences a suspension could bring to his administration, acting President Michel Temer has been actively taking measures to impede Brazil from being suspended from Mercosur. First, Argentina’s newly formed center-right government, which particularly has close ties to Michel Temer, has condemned Rousseff’s move[4].

In addition, Temer’s new administration also counts on the help of both Uruguayan and Paraguayan governments. Uruguayan Chancellor Rodolfo Nin Novoa has declared that Mercosur will not apply the democratic clause to Brazil for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff[6].

In this way, Temer’s strategy has been to isolate Venezuela, the only member that strongly supports Dilma Rousseff, without explicitly breaking diplomatic relations with the government of Nicolas Maduro[7].

In conclusion, Brazil leaving Mercosur on the condition of an illegal impeachment could cause a domino effect that might create an array of disastrous consequences for each of the involved players, and would be ineffective even as a technique to strengthen the Workers’ Party in the aftermath of the impeachment proceedings.

In the politically unstable times Brazil finds itself in, it is imperative not to make rash decisions without considering the damaging consequences.

Notes:

[1] Castro, Grasielle. “Se Tiver Golpe, Dima Vai Pedir Suspensão Do Brasil No Mercosul.” Brasil Post. N.p., 22 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

[2] “O Que as últimas Pesquisas Revelam Sobre Apoio Ao Impeachment E a Temer?” BBC Brasil. N.p., 11 May 2016. Web. 08 June 2016.

[3] Fortune Editors. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Named Most Disappointing Leader. Fortune Magazine. April 7, 2016. Accessed June 10, 2016 ttp://fortune.com/2016/04/07/brazilian-president-dilma-rousseff-named-most-disappointing-leader-by-fortune-readers/

[4] Macri’s Argentina and Temer’s Brazil seal close political and working relationship. MercoPress. May 24, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016. http://en.mercopress.com/2016/05/24/macri-s-argentina-and-temer-s-brazil-seal-close-political-and-working-relationship

[5]Oliveira, Eliane. Valente, Gabriela. Iglesias, Simone. Governo Interino Avalia que Venezuela Atrapalha Negociações do Mercosul. O Globo. June 6, 2016. Accessed June 6. http://oglobo.globo.com/economia/governo-interino-avalia-que-venezuela-atrapalha-negociacoes-do-mercosul-1-19444825

[6] Oliveira, Eliane. Valente, Gabriela. Iglesias, Simone. Governo Interino Avalia que Venezuela Atrapalha Negociações do Mercosul. O Globo. June 6, 2016. Accessed June 7. http://oglobo.globo.com/economia/governo-interino-avalia-que-venezuela-atrapalha-negociacoes-do-mercosul-1-19444825

[7] Oliveira, Eliane. Valente, Gabriela. Iglesias, Simone. Governo Interino Avalia que Venezuela Atrapalha Negociações do Mercosul. O Globo. June 6, 2016. Accessed June 8. http://oglobo.globo.com/economia/governo-interino-avalia-que-venezuela-atrapalha-negociacoes-do-mercosul-1-19444825

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