On July 25, 43 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of State Kerry. The letter began:
We write to express our deep concern regarding recent developments in Brazil that we believe threaten that country's democratic institutions. We urge you to exercise the utmost caution in your dealings with Brazil's interim authorities and to refrain from statements or actions that might be interpreted as supportive of the impeachment campaign launched against President Dilma Rousseff.
Our government should express strong concern regarding the circumstances surrounding the impeachment process and call for the protection of constitutional democracy and the rule of law in Brazil.
On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) also weighed in, noting, "After suspending Brazil's first female president on dubious grounds, without a mandate to govern the new interim government abolished the ministry of women, racial equality and human rights." He added: "The United States cannot sit silently while the democratic institutions of one of our most important allies are undermined."
It is extremely rare to see this type of challenge to the policy of an administration from members of Congress of the same party, over a country as big and important as Brazil. In dealing with such a country, with a land mass that is bigger than the continental United States, more than 200 million people, and the seventh largest economy in the world, it is normal for Democratic legislators to defer to their Democratic president, especially in an election year.
Perhaps they did this because they know that the Obama administration is supporting this impeachment. A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently told me that this was indeed the case, and there has been other evidence that this is true.
At a press briefing on August 3, the State Department said that Kerry would respond to the congressional letter. No written answer has yet been received, but Kerry may have provided a nonverbal one by meeting with the interim government's foreign minister, José Serra, during his current trip to Brazil. If this is his answer to the members of Congress, it is the equivalent of a raised middle finger.
A version of this op-ed was originally published by The Hill on August 9, 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.