South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
It was a brief, sad moment of burlesque. On Monday, the new head of Brazil’s lower house issued a ruling citing procedural irregularities that attempted to prevent the senate from voting on whether to open impeachment proceedings against Dilma Rousseff. But after a flurry of legislative to- and fro-, his attempt to annul Ms Rousseff’s annulment was annulled. The Senate voted, after a 20 hour session, 55 to 22, and Ms Rousseff was duly suspended from the presidency while her case goes to trial. Michel Temer, the vice president, a constitutional lawyer with a fondness for poetry, has been sworn in as her interim replacement. He has already appointed a fresh cabinet, including an inflation-buster as the new minister of finance.
So Temer is in, Dilma is out, and the former governing party, the Workers Party, may face a long spell in opposition. But what next? That is the question. Mr Temer inherits an economy is crisis, with a corruption purge hanging over many in Congress, and a political system in broad disarray. Potentially adding to the instability, Ms Rousseff and her supporters have sworn to fight the decision to the last legal breath. (At the very least, their “it was a coup” narrative will buttress Workers Party militants in the opposition.) Mr Temer faces an unenviable task after a tumultuous week of convoluted constitutional procedure, and potentially momentous change.
Indeed, it was such a tumultuous week in Latin America that the news that Guido Mantega, Brazil’s former finance minister, may also be implicated in a corruption scandal almost went unnoticed. So, too, the arrest of Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares, a Panamanian tycoon who owned one of the country’s most respected newspapers, on charges that he ran a drug smuggling ring. Also what some Argentines mutter is the “JPMorganisation” of their country’s new government, now filled with former bankers.
And, more sadly, neglected is the continuing constitutional stand-off in Venezuela between the government and the opposition, which erupted on Wednesday in Caracas’ streets amid tear gas. Perhaps one day even Venezuela will have the institutional wherewithal to find a constitutional outcome to its impasse akin to Brazil’s. However controversial and convoluted Ms Rousseff’s impeachement process may be, it has at least followed due process and been largely peaceful.
Quote of the week
“This is all a symptom of a supreme crisis, a moral crisis. A new form of politics needs to be established . . . we need to turn the page” - Senator Fernando Collor, former Brazilian president, impeached for corruption in 1992.
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