Institutions, Rule of Law, and Civil Rights Deteriorate in Brazil as Government Doubles Down on Failed Economic Policies

When Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in May and removed from office in August, many called it a coup.

The president was not charged with anything that could legitimately be called a crime, and the leaders of the impeachment appeared, in taped conversations, to be getting rid of her in order to cut off a corruption investigation in which they and their political allies were implicated.

Others warned that once starting down this road, further degradation of state institutions and the rule of law would follow. And that's just what has happened, along with some of the political repression that generally accompanies this type of regime change.

On Nov. 4, police raided a school run by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), in Guararema, São Paulo. They fired live (not rubber bullet) ammunition and made a number of arrests, bringing international condemnation. There had previously been eight arrests of MST organizers in the state of Paraná. The MST is a powerful social movement that has won land rights for hundreds of thousands of rural Brazilians over the past three decades, and has also been a prominent opponent of the August coup.

The politicization of the judiciary was already a major problem in the run-up to Rousseff's removal. Now we have seen further corrosion of institutions when a justice of the Supreme Court issued an injunction removing Senate President Renan Calheiros because he had been indicted for embezzlement.

Calheiros defied the order, whereupon the sitting president of the republic, Michel Temer, negotiated with the rest of the Supreme Court to keep Calheiros in place. The great fear of Temer and his allies was that Calheiros's removal could have derailed an outrageous constitutional amendment that would freeze real (inflation-adjusted) government spending for the next 20 years, which has now been passed by the Congress.

This op-ed was originally published by The Hill on December 22, 2016. Read the rest here.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book "Failed: What the 'Experts' Got Wrong About the Global Economy" (2015, Oxford University Press). You can subscribe to his columns here.