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Glenn Greenwald on Brazil: Goal of Rousseff Impeachment is to Boost Neoliberals & Protect Corruption

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Brazil’s Senate has forged ahead with impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, despite an earlier move by the interim house speaker to derail the process. The previous house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, had led the bid to oust Rousseff, before he himself was suspended over corruption. On Monday, his replacement, Waldir Maranhão, sought to annul the lower house’s vote in favor of impeachment charges, citing procedural flaws. But the speaker apparently reversed course in the middle of the night, releasing a statement reversing his decision, without explanation. The Senate appears poised to vote Wednesday on whether to put Rousseff on trial; if a majority side against her, she would be suspended. We speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil. “People have started to realize, internationally but also here in Brazil, that although this impeachment process has been sold, has been pitched as a way of punishing corruption, its real goal, beyond empowering neoliberals and Goldman Sachs and foreign hedge funds, the real goal is to protect corruption,” Greenwald says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re on the road in Minneapolis, Minnesota, headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts, then to New Jersey, as we turn, though, now to Brazil, where the Senate has forged ahead with impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, despite an earlier move by the interim house speaker to derail the process. The previous house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, had led the bid to oust Rousseff, before he himself was suspended over corruption. Well, on Monday, his replacement, Waldir Maranhão, sought to annul the lower house’s vote in favor of impeachment charges, citing procedural flaws. But Senate head Renan Calheiros insisted a vote on Rousseff’s fate in the upper house would still move forward.

RENAN CALHEIROS: [translated] No monocratic decision can superimpose a collective decision, especially when the decision was taken with the highest form of collectiveness in the house, in full plenary and, furthermore, with a verified quorum.

AMY GOODMAN: The Brazilian speaker later reversed his bid to annul the vote against the president, rescinding it in the middle of the night. The Brazilian Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether it will try Rousseff for violating budgetary laws. If it decides in favor of doing this, she will immediately be suspended for up to six months as the trial proceeds. Her potential replacement, Vice President Michel Temer, was ordered last week to pay a fine for violating campaign finance limits. On Friday, President Rousseff vowed to continue fighting.

PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] I will stay here fighting, fighting because I am the proof of this injustice. They are condemning an innocent person, and there is nothing more serious than condemning an innocent person.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite the massive corruption scandal, President Rousseff herself has not been found guilty of any financial impropriety, and the Attorney General’s Office has called for the impeachment charges against Rousseff to be dropped, saying there’s no legal basis for the proceedings.

Well, last week, I had a chance to speak to _Intercept_’s Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who joined us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lives. I began by asking Glenn to explain what’s happening there.

GLENN GREENWALD: It’s actually remarkable, Amy, because as somebody who grew up in the United States, a democracy that is a couple of centuries old, you do sort of assume that once you live in a democracy, where the leaders are chosen through the ballot box, as opposed to just being imposed through force, that it’s always going to be that way. You kind of take it for granted. And being here in Brazil, where a majority of the country actually was born into a military dictatorship, one that overthrew the democratically elected government in 1964, then proceeded to impose military rule on the country for the next 21 years, very brutal and oppressive military rule, I’m living in a country here that’s actually a very young, and therefore fragile, democracy, although it’s become this kind of inspiring model for the world that has really thrived under its young democracy. It has this really vibrant political culture. It has made extremely impressive strides in terms of lifting people out of poverty and giving them opportunity and creating mature, democratic institutions.

And to sit here and witness the utter dismantling of a democracy, which is exactly what is taking place, by the richest and most powerful people in the society, using their media organs that masquerade as journalistic outlets, but are which in fact propaganda channels for a tiny number of extremely rich families, almost all of whom supported that coup and then the military dictatorship, is really disturbing and frightening to see. And I think that the ultimate question now becomes, once, you know, Brazilians have had their attention focused for so long on the president, on Dilma Rousseff, who—it is true—has become extremely unpopular, largely due to economic suffering here in the country and a lack of political charisma and lack of political skill on her part—and so, up until now, everyone’s been focused on Dilma and getting Dilma out of office.

But now the realization is starting to sink in that what this really is about is two things: one, installing as president and the controlling faction in Brasília a group of people who believe in very pro-business, neoliberal ideology, that want to dismantle core social programs that have been constructed over the last 20 years, and which, on its own, could never be accepted by the majority of Brazilian voters; and secondly, what it’s about is empowering the very people in Brasília who actually are corrupt, who actually have stolen money, huge amounts of money, and squandered it away in foreign bank accounts and used it to buy second and third and fourth homes in the names of other people. The actually corrupt thieves in Brasília, it’s about empowering them so they can protect themselves and kill the corruption investigation. And once people really start to focus on that, as they’re doing now—you’re starting to see civil disobedience, instability, increasingly violent protest—the real question is going to become: How is the population of this country going to react when they realize that democracy has been taken out of their hands?

AMY GOODMAN: So, is Dilma Rousseff going to make it?

GLENN GREENWALD: I think the only thing that can save her at this point is if Brazilian elites realize that there’s going to be too high of a cost to be paid by removing her and then installing the very corrupt, implicated, neoliberal nonentity of a vice president, Michel Temer, which is their current plan. If they come to believe that following through on their plan will cause lots of public protest, disruption, instability, especially as the Olympics is approaching, in a way that could damage this plan to reattract foreign capital back into Brazil, I think they’re going to have second thoughts about it. But short of that, I think they are dead set on removing her.

I think the votes will be there in the Senate, because you have the combination of the ideological factor of enough members of the right wing in Brazil who hate PT and have long hated PT and want it out of office, combined with the self-interest on the part of corrupt people in the Senate and the lower house who believe that removing Dilma is the way to end the corruption scandal, to give the country this cathartic sense that it has been resolved, and then to be able to kill the investigation. So this combination, this really toxic combination of ideology and self-interest, combined with what I cannot emphasize enough is the central role of Brazil’s oligarchical media in inciting and enflaming all of this, in not allowing a plurality of opinion to be heard, in this relentless parade of pro-opposition propaganda—that combination, I think, has made her removal inevitable, unless the public makes clear that they won’t tolerate it.

AMY GOODMAN: And Eduardo Cunha, the third in line to be president?

GLENN GREENWALD: Eduardo Cunha is the person most responsible for the impeachment proceeding taking place in the house. He’s the one who made the decision to allow it to happen. And then he, in one of the most shameless acts ever seen in modern politics, actually presided over the impeachment proceeding, even though Eduardo Cunha—and as you described him, you kind of understated not just the level of his corruption, but the proof of it—he was actually caught. The investigators found Swiss bank accounts that he owns and controls, with millions of dollars in them. He has no source of wealth beyond corruption and bribery. He doesn’t have businesses. He’s been in public life for a long time. He lied last year when he testified to congressional investigators and said he has no foreign bank accounts in his name, and then they were subsequently discovered. You have government informants who have testified that actually the amount of bribes he’s received and kickbacks he’s received is in the many, many, many millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars, not just the $5 million they found in the Swiss bank account.

And so, he has become the kind of face of the—not just hypocrisy, but the deceit at the heart of this impeachment effort. In that house proceeding, that a lot of people around the world watched, one member of Congress after the next, who are accused of and implicated by the corruption investigation, stood up to Eduardo Cunha and said, “Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, I vote yes to impeach Dilma Rousseff, because we can’t tolerate corruption,” speaking to somebody with millions of dollars in bribes in Swiss bank accounts. And so, people have started to realize, internationally but also here in Brazil, that although this impeachment process has been sold, has been pitched as a way of punishing corruption, its real goal, beyond empowering neoliberals and Goldman Sachs and foreign hedge funds—the real goal is to protect corruption.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, speaking last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

That does it for our show. I’ll be speaking tonight at the First Parish Church Meetinghouse in Cambridge at 6:30, then Wednesday night in Montclair, New Jersey at Congregation Shomrei Emunah, on Thursday night at Barnes & Noble Union Square in New York. And Friday I’ll be in Washington, D.C., at Plymouth Congregational Church. Then, for the weekend, it’s on, on Saturday, to Portland and Bangor, Maine, Sunday to Bar Harbor, Maine.

And Democracy Now! has job openings: video news production fellowship and our internship program. Check out democracynow.org.

Special thanks to Denis Moynihan and our crew. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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