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Impeachment push

Rodrigo Abdelmalack / dbMarch 16, 2015

In protests across Brazil, more than a million people have demanded the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. However, the demands are irresponsible, argues DW's Rodrigo Abdelmalack.

protesters in Brazil
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Bizerra Jr

The date chosen for the nationwide protests in Brazil was not arbitrary.

Brazil's constitution guarantees the basic right to demonstrate - and Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the swearing-in of Jose Sarney, the country's first civilian president after the military dictatorship. Many organizations had called for the protest, and combined, the three largest groups have no more than a million supporters on Facebook.

But the attention they got ahead of Sunday's demonstration was formidable. It's a social network phenomenon. They bring together people from various parts of the population, independent of their political affiliation, according to mainstream media. At the same time, politicians, even from the opposition, rushed to speak out against an impeachment. To prevent "fueling the chaos," as Marina Silva put it. Or, as former President Cardoso said: impeachment proceedings are like a nuclear bomb - it works as a deterrent, but you don't use it.

Impeachment would be irresponsible, Rodrigo Abdelmalack says
Image: DW

In fact, the protesters' demands for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff leave a bitter aftertaste, above all on this symbolic date. The fact that they are fixated on the president and their belief that impeachment can eliminate endemic corruption in Brazil shows that they understand nothing, or very little, about the workings of a democracy, or the causes of corruption.

There are many reasons to take to the streets. Brazilians are well aware that the country's enormous resources are being squandered. Brazil is one of the world's largest food exporters, but it hasn't managed to vanquish hunger. It's a country of enviable dimensions, but it is unable to distribute land evenhandedly. The country has great oil reserves, but the reputation of the state-run oil company Petrobras is ruined. Brazil has huge fresh water supplies, but the cities lack running water. Key infrastructure projects stagnate, or are never realized in the first place. Minorities, including the indigenous population and homosexuals, fight for basic rights.

To top it off, a new moralization casts a shadow, making discrimination and exclusion in the political discourse socially acceptable, fueled by religious powers. Not to forget the failure of the education system and corruption, always corruption.

Zeroing in on the president with regard to these problems is either politically naive or part of a devious political strategy that can only be detrimental to the development of Brazil's democracy. There can only be one response: Dilma Rousseff was elected in free and direct polls, and so far, no one has been able to prove her involvement in illegal action or personal enrichment.

Of course, that doesn't mean that one should lean back, while Rousseff breaks one electoral promise after the other. That is something people can and should protest against.

But the true motive for the demonstrations seems to be nothing but the desire to undo that election result. That is not what an impeachment is meant to do. A lack of respect toward the elected president is nothing less than a lack of respect toward democratic procedures and institutions. One should not forget that the right to peacefully protest in Brazil didn't simply drop out of the skies. Many courageous people, including Rousseff, fought for an end to the military dictatorship for years.

Bringing into play, in the present situation, drastic means like an impeachment is irresponsible, no matter whether it is done out of naivete, or other reasons. It destabilizes democratic structures and, in the end, it conjures up the specter of a coup.