Rousseff’s Ouster Weakens BRICS by M.K. Bhadrakumar – Indian Punchline

Rousseff’s Ouster Weakens BRICS  by M.K. Bhadrakumar – Indian Punchline

Official Photo of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff

The fact of the matter is that the removal of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff from the office of president and her impending impeachment trial does not add up. Crime and punishment must have some co-relation.

Rousseff herself likened her ouster to a coup d’état. Indeed, the political circumstances are extraordinary. The charge against Rousseff is fiscal wrongdoing – using state money under one budgetary head to cover extra expenditure under another head. She says she diverted the funds for undertaking social programs.

Fiscal jugglery is not unusual for elected governments and it is a common practice in Brazil. No president ever paid this high a price. Curiously, Rousseff is not charged with corruption. 

True, Rousseff’s popularity is low, but Vice-President Michel Temer who now replaces her as interim president until 2018 is no better. Only 2% of Brazilians say they will vote for Temer in a presidential election. His legitimacy is questionable. True, Brazil’s economy is in deep recession. But that can be attributed to the slump in commodity prices and the slowdown in the world economy.

That brings us to the famous question by Vladimir Lenin, Who stands to gain?

China’s official news agency Xinhua has quoted a Harvard-educated academic and author based in Havana, Cuba, who surmises that the events in Brazil form part of a ‘regime change’ agenda launched by Washington in 2013 to regain influence in Latin America by replacing the progressive left-leaning governments and undermining the regional integration blocs in the continent. (Xinhua)

On the other hand, Latin America’s democratic transformation is a historical process that cannot easily be undone. Besides, social movements and left-wing politics have become an enduring feature of the continent’s political landscape and it is futile to overlook their legitimate role. Again, Rousseff didn’t pose any ‘strategic challenge’ to USA imperialism.

She (and her predecessor Lula), in fact, bore an uncanny resemblance to the UPA government in India (2004-2014) under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. All three pursued neo-liberal policies interspersed with doses of welfare programs, and studiously avoided any confrontational posturing vis-à-vis the USA, while at the same time also steering largely independent foreign policies as emerging powers in the multipolar world setting.

Of course, all three led incredibly corrupt regimes and fostered crony capitalism (which ensues from neo-liberalism). What Rousseff and Manmohan Singh lacked was Lula’s charisma and his innate genius (having been a trade union leader) to connect with the masses. Of course, Manmohan Singh was bookish and pedantic, while both Lula and Rousseff had impressive revolutionary pedigree.

Lula and Rousseff epitomise the paradox of Latin America’s Left. There are really two ‘Lefts’ in that region – a hardcore, reformist and internationalist Left which sprang out of the Communist International and the Bolshevik Revolution; and a second Left stream born out of the great tradition of Latin American populism, which is nationalist and is more interested in policy as the means to attain and conserve power rather than in power as a tool for making policy.

Brazil falls in the second category. In the domestic arena, Lula and Rousseff emphasised social policy – education, anti-poverty programs, healthcare, housing – but within the orthodox market framework.  Neither subscribed to old-school anti-Americanism; both took care not to take differences with Washington to the brink. Rousseff’s only run-in was over the Snowden disclosure that the US eavesdropped on her, but she soon reconciled. As for Lula, he warmly welcomed President George W. Bush at his home, while demonstrators burned the visiting dignitary’s effigy just across the street.

Yet, there is something to be said in favour of the Xinhua commentary. Rousseff’s ouster does smack of an undemocratic conspiracy. And the USA has a long history of hatching such conspiracies.

Never mind that Rousseff was not a pain in the neck for President Barack Obama. That was also the case with Georgia’s Eduard Shevardnadze and yet Washington staged a colour revolution in 2004 to have good old ‘Shevvy’ replaced – because, it wanted an absolutely reliable ‘anti-Russian’ leader in Tbilisi who would take the country right out of Moscow’s orbit forever. Enter Mikheil Saakashvili, who successfully accomplished that mission. Georgia today is America’s poodle. (Reuters)

Secondly, Brazil is a major partner for China in Latin America and that partnership worries Washington, since Brazil also happens to be Latin America’s superpower – not only the biggest country with over 200 million inhabitants but also the world’s seventh biggest economy.

Thirdly, Brazil is BRICS country. For obvious reasons, BRICS has been an eyesore for Washington. And, lately BRICS began evolving into a global organization. Of course, BRICS represents a ‘growth model’. In geopolitical terms, BRICS presents a dynamic platform for Russia and China to resist US hegemony and to propagate the democratization of the international system. (See the opinion piece by Shyam Saran BRICS – The End of Western Dominance of the Global Financial and Economic Order.)

Now, any architecture becomes unstable if one of its four main pillars becomes shaky and undependable. Of course, what Brazil’s interim president Temer brings to the table at the BRICS summit in Goa in October will be keenly watched, given the WikiLeaks disclosure that he used to be an informant of the American embassy in Brasilia.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 05/21/2016 at 1:55 pm

    Insightful commentary from Bhadrakumar. Thanks for sharing.

    In removing one brick at a time, the wall will come tumbling down.

  • Albert  On 05/21/2016 at 8:12 pm

    Cannot have China and Russia controlling such a large economy in our backyard. Sorry Rousseff if that’s the case you may have to go

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