The National Lawyers Guild condemns the institutional coup d’état in the form of the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. On April 17, 2016 the pro-coup forces in the Cámara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in the Brazilian Congress) secured the 2/3 vote necessary to begin the impeachment process, to be followed by a vote in the Senate whether to proceed to a trial (simple majority) and then a Senate trial which requires a 2/3 vote to remove President Rousseff from office.
As required by the process, each deputy is required to state his or her reason for their vote for or against impeachment. Only about seven percent of the deputies voting for impeachment gave as their reason the “crimes” for which President Rousseff was being impeached as the basis for their vote. The remainder gave reasons such as “for the birthday of my granddaughter,” “for the foundations of Christianity,” “for rural producers, because if they don’t plant there will be neither lunch nor dinner,” “to end the profitability of being unemployed or a lay-about,” “for an end to welfare dependency” and dozens of other equally nonsensical reasons.
Articles 85 and 86 of the Brazilian Constitution provide for the impeachment of the president. Article 85 sets forth the reasons for impeachment, none of which involves moving funds between accounts. Implementation of Articles 85 and 86 is based on Law No. 1079 (April 10, 1950), which the Brazilian Supreme Court, in a 1991 ruling, says applies notwithstanding that it was passed before the adoption of the Constitution in 1988. Law No. 1079 also does not include budgetary accounting errors or funding shortfalls as impeachable crimes.
The official reason for impeachment, that President Rousseff moved funds from a federal bank to cover cash flow shortfalls in government programs (all the funds were repaid to the federal bank), is a practice that all Brazilian presidents have used and is not a crime. President Rousseff has not been accused of any personal enrichment or being connected with the widespread political corruption stemming from massive payoffs and kickbacks from Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company.
In contrast, many of the pro-coup deputies are accused of, or under indictment for, political corruption which has engulfed about 60% of the members of the lower house. Michael Temer, the vice-president who will become president if President Rousseff is removed, is accused of accepting $1.5 million in bribes from a construction company doing business with Petrobras.
Eduardo Cunha, an evangelical Christian and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, is also tainted with scandal. As sub-secretary of housing in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Cunha was forced to resign over bidding irregularities in construction contracts. Now, Cunha is accused of stashing $40 million in bribes and kickbacks in Swiss bank accounts.
Impeachment without a crime is a coup!
President Rousseff was elected to her second term as president in October 2014. Impeachment is an affront to the 54 million Brazilians who voted for her. It is also an affront to democracy to impeach for political reasons and puts Brazilian democracy in jeopardy. This coup attempt is nothing more than Brazil’s elite seeking to regain power through non-elective means in order to restore their power and re-implement the neoliberal agenda in Brazil. Apparently, for this elite, under President Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), the poor received too many benefits.
The National Lawyers Guild denounces this coup attempt and calls on the Brazilian Senate to reject all further attempts at impeaching President Rousseff.