Thursday, May 5, 2016


Where were you on the 31st of March, 2010? It was the day Dilma Rousseff won the election to become the first female President of Brazil. Now I don’t remember where I was specifically on that day, but I do remember the feeling I had upon hearing the news that Rousseff had become President-Elect. It was a feeling of pride- female pride- that one of my kind had successfully ascended to the highest office in the land, in a world that does not give women too many chances! I didn’t even really know who she was at the time; but I identified with her. And as I read and heard more about this spectacular woman, my admiration for her grew.
Dilma Rousseff has always been a fighter. Never one who hid behind the curtains and complained from deep within the shadows. No. she was out there, early enough in her life, fighting for change with the left-wing movement; and thus making herself a target for the brutal military regime which seized power in 1964. By her early 20’s, she was already thrown into prison by the dictatorship; tortured and traumatized…but not broken. They soon began to refer to her as the ‘high priestess of subversion’. Maybe I can relate with Dilma, because I see in myself, the innate stubbornness, and raging temper, which she possesses. Maybe it is the strength of character which is lacking in so many today, which draws me to her. Whatever it is, she had caught my attention, with her election.
Dilma was handpicked by her predecessor to lead Brazil. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had so much faith in this woman whom he had made his Chief of Staff…faith enough to back her for the presidency. It was a wave of euphoria that swept the nation when she initially became President; and just 3 years ago, her approval ratings were soaring, as Brazil basked in economic good fortune. But all that was about to change, as the global economy took a down-turn, and her nation slid into deep recession. And now, the people call for her head!
 A while ago, on April 17th to be precise, Brazil’s lower house of parliament, led by Speaker Eduardo Cunha, voted in favor of Rousseff’s impeachment. The ground for the vote was so-called budget manipulation, and covering up the deficit. This in itself is not a crime- and certainly not an impeachable offense- but her political opponents have taken advantage of the nation’s economic misfortune and the unease of part of the populace, to stage something of a coup. The situation in Brazil is a classic case of the ‘guilty pointing accusing fingers’; as those who are pushing for Rousseff’s impeachment are those who in fact, have been fingered in corruption scandals- mostly involving Petrobras! The Speaker of the House himself, Eduardo Cunha, who is leading the impeachment campaign, is accused of financial wrongdoing. And so, in a bid to divert attention from themselves- and indeed from the larger fight against corruption- they have singled out Rousseff and offered her up as a scape-Goat to feed the people. Rousseff’s deputy, Michel Temer, is already plotting his ascension, even though he is also fingered as one of the corrupt ones. Note that Dilma herself has NOT been implicated in the corruption scandal!
From the lower house, the case will now proceed to the upper house. After committees are set up, the house would decide whether it wants to take up the case. If it chooses to do so, notice would be sent to Rousseff to step down for 180days to defend herself; during which time, her deputy would hold sway. After this period of defense, deliberation and investigation, the upper house would take a final vote on impeachment which would need a 2/3rd majority vote in favor of impeachment, to pass. If it does- if it does- it would be the end of the Dilma Rousseff Presidency! It is expected that she could be given the notice to step down and defend herself as early as mid-May. This means that Dilma may watch the Olympics from the sidelines, even though she was front and center of the proceedings that led to the emergence of Brazil as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games!
I can’t help but wonder, ‘will Dilma Rousseff’s opponents have easily turned against her, if she was a man?’ My mind tells me the answer is no. There is something about a leading political woman…one who is usually not privy to the ways of men, which seems to make her an easy target for her male counterparts. I may be wrong, but when I ponder upon Rousseff’s predicament, it kind of reminds me of the Hillary predicament in the USA as well! In any case, whatever the underlying reason may be, I maintain that budget manipulation is not an impeachable offense. The funny thing is that past Brazilian Presidents- who just happen to be men- have also been found to have covered up deficits! But they were not impeached! So, why Dilma?
It is an uphill battle for this dogged woman, as her approval ratings continue to tumble. Right now, it stands at 10%! She has promised to fight on till the end; I can feel her pain, and I wish her the best. It is true that Brazil- like many other countries- is experiencing economic hardship at this time. And when people’s bellies are empty, it can be hard to make sound judgments! Maybe this is why the people call for her head. But I can assure you that her opponents would hardly go unscathed. Cunho and Temer are so loathed, that it is certainly only a matter of time before the people also start to chant their names with angst! Dilma Rousseff still has time to fight; and just as she fought against lymphatic cancer, I hope she wins this fight. But even if she doesn’t, it still won’t diminish my utmost respect for her, or erase her place in history. And if Madam Rousseff is impeached- if she is- then the Brazilian people would also have to displace those like Cunho and Temer…all those who have actually been found guilty of corrupt practices. Those who live in glass houses are certainly not expected to throw stones!

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