Dilma may sink, along with the vestiges of 21st Century Socialism


Brazil: the world’s bet as the main regional player in South America, the spoiled girl of the Foro de Sao Paulo, the role model for the rest of the neighborhood… Brazil, a collapsed myth.

Later today, Brazil’s congress is likely to confirm the motion to impeach Dilma Rousseff (Folha de Sao Paulo has been tracking the votes). The process then moves to the Senate (where Folha also ensures that Dilma will lose) a final decision that would suspend Dilma for 180 days pending trial.

It’s a historic turning for South America. More decisively than any event in recent memory, the pending end of PT rule in Brazil serves as a bookend to the Pink Tide that swept the region beginning in 1998, when Hugo Chavez was elected. The regional rumblings have been clear for some time: Cristina’s downfall in Argentina, then Evo’s personal and political problems which prevented him from passing a proposal for indefinite reelection in the consititution, and, of course, the rise of the Venezuelan opposition, which snatched the parliament from the chavistas by a landslide in December’s elections. If the expected happens later today, the days when the Foro de Sao Paulo acted as the de facto ideological rain-maker in the region are well and truly over.

The end of the PT era would leave President Maduro shockingly friendless in the region: both his strongest allies would have disappeared in just a matter of months. When the biggest player of your alliance network is Ecuador, you know the era of shooting for “universal equilibrium, planetary peace and saving the human species” are well and truly behind you.  

More prosaically, Venezuela would lose a pivotal partner in the cross-border corruption scheme forged by the fathers of 21st Century Socialism.

When you take a look at South America, it’s easy to see that 21st Century Socialism rapidly morphed from a political project into a large-scale corruption machine. Mercilessly stripping the state’s coffers, however, is not exclusive the exclusive preserve of the left. It seems that no matter how solid our institutions are, corruption, influence peddling, and bribery are always part of the system. It’s become part of our culture and custom.

Thankfully, despite its propensity for populism, Brazil still has relatively strong institutions. What’s remarkable is that Dilma isn’t accused of corruption: she’s being impeached over technical allegations relating to the violation of tax rules, not her involvement in the the Petrobras scandals and not the financing of her campaign with funds from the state owned oil company. There’s more than a whiff of CAP’s impeachment in 1993, when he was thrown out of office on laughably flimsy charges, following a political consensus that he had to go.

I know of no one who is fully comfortable with the way Dilma is being persecuted for what seems to be the least of her crimes. Yet that’s not the headline here. The headline is the way the populist wave is receding, following more than a decade in the ascendent.

Brazil was the key player holding together the left-populist block (Foro de Sao Paulo). It was widely believed to have the political stability, economic muscle and diplomatic chops to act as regional leader. The real takeaway from the PT’s demise is that it was all a mirage.

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Political Scientist and professor (UCV) living in Venezuela -or what remains of it-. Vente Venezuela’s National Coordinator of Political Training and International Officer. Always trying to move forward while the "guagua" goes in reverse. I’m interested in politics, economics, political science and international relations. Carakistán is always a chronicle; our chronicle.


  1. Venezuela has set such a shining example of what not to do that maybe the rest of Latin America is catching on. Hopefully, when the Castro gangsters finally fade into history, their destructive, corrupt mindset will cease to hypnotize the gullible with what is basically refried ’50s communist crap that never worked anyway.

  2. In any civilised country Dilma would not only be impeached, she would be arrested too.

    The “technical allegations relating to the violation of tax rules”, the “laughably flimsy charges” you mention, made Brazil lost its investment grade and billions in foreign direct investment; the GDP sank 4% last year, 5% this year, and will sink another 5% next year if she’s not impeached.

    I insist: impeachment is a very soft punishment.

    • Impeachment is a good start. No need to make martyr out of her ( you know how these things happen).

      As long as PT is discredited for a decade to come at least all will be well.

  3. “…thrown out of office on laughably flimsy charges, following a political consensus that he had to go.”

    I am not in Brazil, so I don’t have the same perspective and sense of urgency. But, if that was the only viable avenue to get Maduro out of office in Venezuela, I would take it.

  4. I agree with Roy and Marc in so much that the charges may be petty, but what matters is that whether they can make them stick.

    Al Capone was sent away for tax evasion, not for extortion, murder, running a large criminal enterprise, or any of the other myriad crimes for which he was certainly guilty.

    As the saying goes, it isn’t what you know, but what you can prove.

  5. Corruption only becomes a major galvanizing issue for the public and their representatives on the down sides of commodities booms. That’s what strikes me when I look at Brazil, and Venezuela. That suggests to me that it is not the corruption which is the thing that really gives offense for most people, but the effects of a cycle in the markets which is perceived as the result of corruption. It seems to be a major human flaw that when things are going well, the rules don’t matter.

    I don’t know if Dilma is culpable of many things, but I do know that she is morally culpable on the subject of what should have been strong denunciation of human rights abuses in Venezuela. She is not alone but she more than many, ought to know better.

    • Canucklehead, have to agree with you. Dilma should have put a great more pressure on Maduro over human rights’ abuses, the hypocrisy stinks. Shame on her, Bachelet, Evo, Correa and the rest.

  6. I have a concern which sort of goes against the grain of my reservations regarding Dilma and her party, I am concerned that if the PPT is ousted and its future prospects as a political force seriously damaged by the scandal there will be no moderate ‘left wing’ party capable of representing a large part of the electorate (those who are left wing as a matter of personal conceit no matter what) and those inevitable devotees of the left might stray to supporting something more radical .

    The other concern goes the other way , it appears that practically all main parties in Brazil are compromised with the recently uncovered corruption scandals , so if Dilma is ousted that wont by itself solve anything because the succesors are all tainted with the same corruption brush and that will make it difficult for Brazil to adopt a credible plan to scape its current doldrums , confidence is essential and if its going to continue missing then like the old saying goes ‘si no te agarra el chingo te agarra el sin nariz’…….

    About the excuse that she didnt personally profit from the Petrobrass fracas , as Chairman of the company for so many years for her to have remained ignorant of such huge corruption stinks of gross managerial negligence for which in fairness there must be consequences…….


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