Tag: Latin America

The Costs of a Military Establishment

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1949.

A major has now shown that this is associated with a 0.8% annual increase in per capita GDP:

This article estimates the causal long-term developmental effects of Costa Rica’s constitutional abolishment of its army in 1949 after the 1948 civil war.

This is done by performing synthetic control estimates and analyzing the political history of Costa Rica in the 1940s and 1950s. We find that upon the abolishment of the army, Costa Rica’s annual average per capita GDP growth increased from 1.42% to 2.28% in the 1950-2010 period relative to a counterfactual Costa Rica that did not abolish its army. This implies that Costa Rica doubled its per capita GDP every 30 years rather than every 49. These estimates are robust to different model specifications and we show that this shock is exclusive to Costa Rica in Latin America. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the positive effects associated with this increase in the per capita GDP growth rates have endured over time; namely because the abolition of the army granted a political and institutional context that allowed the country to devote more resources to public spending, which in turn contributed to its long run development. Our case study findings are evidence that committing to peace and democracy pays off in the long run.

Running the numbers, this means that Costa Rica’s per capita GDP is 75% larger than what it would have been with a military.

Obviously a part of this difference is because the resources of Costa Rica have not been diverted from other purposes.

To quote Dwight Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Another reason for this is that the presence of a military in Latin America has led to repeated coups against military governments, and repeated insurgencies as a result, which are likely even more disruptive to the well-being of the nation.  (Google the School of the Americas to better understand how this was largely an artifact of US Policy)

I Remember the Cicadas

Well, there is now an explanation of the “sonic attacks” against the US embassy in Havana.

It turns out that it was crickets looking for love in all the wrong places:

In November 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of persistent, high-pitched sounds followed by a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea and hearing loss.

Exams of nearly two dozen of them eventually revealed signs of concussions or other brain injuries, and speculation about the cause turned to weapons that blast sound or microwaves. Amid an international uproar, a recording of the sinister droning was widely circulated in the news media.

On Friday, two scientists presented evidence that those sounds were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded.

That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added — only that the recording is not of a sonic weapon, as had been suggested.


Experts on cricket songs said the analysis was well done. “It all seems to make sense,” said Gerald Pollack of McGill University, who studies acoustic communication among insects. “It’s a pretty well supported hypothesis.”

When the American diplomats first complained of the strange noises in Cuba, they dismissed the possibility that insects were responsible. But short-tailed crickets are exceptional: They have long been known to make a tremendous racket.

I remember Brood X when it roused from its subterranean slumber in 2004, and it was deafening.

Brazil is Completely F%$#ed

Right wing lunatic Jair Bolsonaro has been elected President of Brazil, and we should expect things to get much, much, worse for the people of Brazil.

Unfortunately, the move to a mild form of social democracy so unnerved the Brazilian elites that they have conducted a years-long coup against a fairly mild left-wing party, and it looks like Brazil is in for some truly unsettled times as a result:

A far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist has been elected as Brazil’s next president after a drama-filled and deeply divisive election that looks set to radically reforge the future of the world’s fourth biggest democracy.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper who built his campaign around pledges to crush corruption, crime and a supposed communist threat, secured 55.5% of the votes after more than 94% were counted and was therefore elected Brazil’s next president, electoral authorities said on Sunday.


Over nearly three decades in politics, he has become notorious for his hostility to black, gay and indigenous Brazilians and to women, as well as for his admiration of dictatorial regimes, including the one that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985.

“The extreme right has conquered Brazil,” Celso Rocha de Barros, a Brazilian political columnist, told the election night webcast of Piauí magazine. “Brazil now has a more extremist president than any democratic country in the world … we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Expect massive logging, and an explosion of violence against the LGBT and indigenous people for a start.

Monsanto is Killing Us All, Cuba Edition

It turns out that Cuba is having no problems with colony collapse disorder and related bee issues.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that sanctions have kept Monsanto and its ilk out of the island nation:

Alberto Quesada loads a flatbed lorry in a field in the middle of the night for a two-hour drive to the dense mangrove swamps on the Gulf of Batabanó. “It’s important that they wake up in their new habitat,” he says of his cargo of bees. In the summer his 30,000 hive-dwellers feast on coastal flowers; in the autumn they forage on milkweed and morning glories further north. Around October it is off to the mountains, as Cuba’s trees reach their prime, before he brings the bees back to his farm about an hour’s drive from Havana. There, they have their pick of palm, mango and avocado trees, fresh vegetables—an uncommon luxury in Cuba—and a garden teeming with sunflowers, lilies and bougainvilleas. The diets of these well-travelled insects are more diverse than that of most Cubans.

It is good to be a bee in Cuba. Beekeepers elsewhere lose around 20% of their colony in the winter. Climate change, parasites, the intensification of pesticide use, urbanisation and an obsession with tidiness are causing colonies to collapse. “We mow our lawns and trim our hedges so much that there are now fewer places even for wild bees to nest,” says Norman Carreck of the British-based International Bee Research Association.

Communism has done Cuba few favours but it has proved a boon for its bees. Impoverished farmers cannot afford pesticides. A lack of modern equipment and little economic incentive to farm mean much of the island’s vegetation is wild in a way that keeps bees well nourished and produces high-quality honey.

While honey production in most countries has taken a hit along with hives, Cuba’s healthy bees have been busy. The population is growing by an average of 7,000 hives a year, each yielding around 52kg of honey in 2017, double the average from American hives. Although nine-tenths of total production, around 10,000 tonnes last year, is managed by private farmers like Mr Quesada, they are obliged to sell it to the government at a little over $600 a tonne. It is then exported, mostly to Europe, where it fetches $4,600 a tonne for ordinary honey and $14,000 for the 16% that counts as organic. Were a costly certification process not required, much more could fetch such a premium.

The modern way of farming looks set to destroy itself.

Once Again Proving that High Finance Can Destroy Everything

In this case, it’s Univision that they have run into the ground:

This is the story of how corporate raiding, complacency, excess, and incompetence are gutting a media company that matters to tens of millions of people. It’s not a novel story, and perhaps not even scandalous by the standards of corporate opulence: A shark-obsessed boss, millions wasted on consultants, and an executive who insisted on publishing softcore porn are more embarrassing buffoonery than insidious greed. The main problem—the billions in debt the company ran up in the process of its owners buying it and weighing it down—is practically routine in media and beyond; that doesn’t make it any less infuriating.

This company is Univision, which until recently obligingly filled the role of absentee stepfather to Gizmodo Media Group, our employer. Now, Univision’s business is struggling, and GMG has suddenly found itself under a very watchful eye.

Once upon a time, Univision, an American broadcasting operation aimed primarily at Spanish speakers in the United States, was a tremendous golden goose laying tremendous golden eggs: It made incredible amounts of money and had to do essentially nothing for it other than run programming produced by Televisa, a Mexican broadcasting operation. The fairy tale ended long ago. Univision has been in decline for years, thanks to a disastrous private equity buyout finalized in 2007; an aging audience; a burdensome program-licensing deal with Televisa; competition from Telemundo and Netflix; layers of overpaid and useless middle management; and a general failure to position itself for a digital future.


From routine human resources f%$#ups to vastly overselling the prospects of an IPO whose ultimate doom this March precipitated the company’s current cost-cutting spree, Univision has been deeply mismanaged and is in the midst of making huge cuts that have, among other things, already claimed vast swaths of Univision Noticias—the most vital newsgathering operation serving the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S.—and Fusion Media Group. Consultants from Boston Consulting Group, who have reportedly recommended budget cuts of up to 35 percent in some parts of the company, have been combing through the books for months, and more than 150 people have been laid off so far. Plenty more cuts are pending (Univision president of news Daniel Coronell reportedly described them as “catastrophic” to his newsroom), including at GMG, the staff of which fears the newsroom may be cut by up to a third by the end of June, perhaps as part of a broader pivot toward video and branded content. What is happening to the company is not ultimately a failure of editorial or even executive management, though: If Univision was a mammoth whose failure to adapt slowed it down, it was private equity investors, consumed by the thought of turning their riches into more riches, who brought it down and bled it dry.

(emphasis mine)
You’ll notice a pattern: Company has problems, or potential problems, takes said company private with other people’s money, bleeds it dry, and leaves bleached bones.

Rinse, lather, repeat:

In 2007, a consortium including Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee, Madison Dearborn, Providence Equity, and Saban Capital took Univision private for $13.7 billion. These firms—executives of which still shape Univision’s board—borrowed heavily to finance the deal, saddling their new prize with more than $10 billion of debt. According to an FCC filing, each firm holds between 20.6 and 7.1 percent of Univision’s equity, and between 27.3 and zero percent of the voting interests. Thomas H. Lee, the only firm with no voting rights, has no official members on Univision’s board, but two of THL’s employees, James Carlisle and Laura Grattan, are listed as Univision board observers in their company bios; Univision would not say if the firm had appointed members to the board or who they were. Univision, for its part, declined to answer questions about the board, while all the involved firms either declined to comment or did not respond to questions about their involvement with Univision.

Leveraged buyouts such as the ones by which these companies acquired control of Univision were common in the years leading up to the financial crisis: Investors borrow a huge amount of money to purchase a company and then make that company responsible for paying back the debt. The amount of borrowing required is often large relative to a company’s earnings. This relationship—known as leverage—is used to gauge whether a company is likely to be able to pay back its lenders. The financial world commonly measures this through the ratio of “debt to EBITDA,” or earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation and amortization of various assets. (The finance industry’s inscrutable jargon is a feature, not a bug. Just think of this ratio as a company’s debt compared to how much money it makes each year.)
Univision’s ratio, estimated at 12.5-to-1, made it highly leveraged even by the standards of the pre-crisis boom period. (In 2013, Obama administration regulators would urge banks to limit companies’ leverage to roughly half this level to reduce the risk of default.) Still, in 2007—when the company maintained a tight grip on the then-swelling U.S. market for Spanish-language media, and before media enterprises came to be viewed as dead investments—Univision found itself in a position of relative strength.

One of the reasons that we see this is because our regulatory and tax regimes subsidize such behavior.

As to a fix, on the mild side are things like changing the bankruptcy code to allow for private equity management fees, and all paid received by executives in excess of $1 million a year to be clawed back.

On the more severe side, and I think that this might be necessary, completely eliminating the deductability of interest payments would be a good thing.

I am sure that there is a middle ground, but I want to fiddle while Wall Street burns.

Brazil Shows Us What We Need for Good Healthcare

It appears that all you need is a community minded hyper-violent drug lord:

Thomaz Vieira Gomes, also known as 2N, is considered one of the most dangerous criminals in Rio de Janeiro, but recently he actually did something decent, albeit still illegal, for once.

He and his gang kidnapped two male nurses and made them vaccinate the poor people of his favela against yellow fever.

For months, Brazil has been dealing with a yellow fever epidemic that has already left dozens dead. Despite the Health Ministry’s plans to vaccinate millions of people in the hopes of containing the outbreak, immunisation centres struggle to keep up with the high number of patients, and, as always, the poorest communities are usually ignored.


On January 27th, the young gang leader and a few of his cronies descended on a local state-run clinic in two black cars, took as many syringes and vaccine doses as they could find, and kidnapped two of the male nurses on duty that night.

They then drove to the Amarelinho bar in Salgueiro where the two nurses spent hours administering yellow fever vaccines to members of the local community.


After doing their job, the two victims were reportedly taken back to their workplace.


Even the country’s former Minister of Environment took to Twitter to comment on this bizarre story, saying that while 2N is still an “a-hole” his actions were a “public service”.

I’m not entirely sure WHAT the lesson to be learned here, but I am sure that there IS a lesson to be learned here.

I Experienced This in 2004. It Makes Sense.

There has been a diplomatic dust-up over the alleged use of a “sonic weapon” against US diplomatic personnel.

An extensive investigation by Cuban authorities has revealed that the noises in questions were cicadas and crickets.

I was in northwest Baltimore City in 2004, when the cicadas, Brood X technically, came out, and the noise levels were intense, so I know how disruptive it can be:

The US pulled the bulk of its diplomats from Cuba in September, blaming attacks on its staff that caused hearing loss and concussions. Cuba has denied any involvement, and now it is offering a counter-explanation: The alleged “sonic attacks” are coming from cicadas and crickets.

That detail comes from an AP report on a television special aired in Cuba yesterday to refute the US narrative about flagging diplomatic relations.

“We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada,” Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a Cuban government expert, said on the television broadcast Alleged Sonic Attacks. The program also claimed sufficiently loud insect noises could “produce hearing loss, irritation and hypertension in situations of prolonged exposure.”

The US embassy was only reopened in 2016. Since the attacks, the Trump administration, which opposes normalizing relations with Cuba, has expelled Cuban representatives from the US and issued a warning against travel to the island nation.

If there were a brood coming out, I could see how it could cause all these symptoms.

The din of a cicada brood is indescribable.

Corruption Much?

A company owned by a Trump donor which has just 2 employees, was just awarded a $300 million contract to rebuild the Puerto Rico power grid.

The outbreak of corruption makes the Katrina recovery effort look honest and competent:

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

Whitefish said Monday that it has 280 workers in the territory, using linemen from across the country, most of them as subcontractors, and that the number grows on average from 10 to 20 people a day. It said it was close to completing infrastructure work that will energize some of the key industrial facilities that are critical to restarting the local economy.

The power authority, also known as PREPA, opted to hire Whitefish rather than activate the “mutual aid” arrangements it has with other utilities. For many years, such agreements have helped U.S. utilities — including those in Florida and Texas recently — to recover quickly after natural disasters.

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.


Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.


The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona.

Shortly before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Whitefish landed its largest federal contract, a $1.3 million deal to replace and upgrade parts of a 4.8-mile transmission line in Arizona. The company — which was listed in procurement documents as having annual revenue of $1 million — was given 11 months to complete the work, records show.


Kent McNellie, an investment professional at HBC, the Texas investment firm that is now the largest financier of Whitefish, said the company’s experience reconstructing a one-mile power line destroyed in a wildfire in Washington state was more relevant to Puerto Rico’s needs than is the experience of many companies on the mainland. The span in Washington included an elevation change of about 5,000 feet, and the terrain required crews and equipment to be delivered by helicopter.

HBC investments, sounds familiar  ……… Gee, I wonder why:

The private-equity firm that finances Whitefish, HBC Investments, was founded by Joe Colonnetta, who serves as its general partner.

Federal Elections Commission data compiled by The Daily Beast shows Colonnetta contributed $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election, $2,700 to Trump’s primary election campaign (then the maximum amount permitted), $2,700 to Trump’s general election campaign (also the maximum), and a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016 alone. Colonnetta’s wife, Kimberly, is no stranger to Republican politics either; shortly after Trump’s victory, she gave $33,400 to the Republican National Committee, the maximum contribution permitted for party committees in 2016.

(emphasis mine)

Nothing to see here, move along.

Another Stopped Clock Moment from Trump

It appears that the Trump administration wants to effectively gut the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which would be a very good thing:

U.S. ISDS PROPOSAL WOULD CUT TWO KEY PROTECTIONS: Expect USTR to put at least one of those “poison pills” forward at talks this week. The final U.S. proposal on investor-state dispute settlement comes not only with an “opt-in” provisions that effectively makes the whole process voluntary, but also rolls back two key investor protections private companies have been able to use under the mechanism in past U.S. agreements. U.S. business and agriculture groups have already signaled that a radical departure from the current U.S. approach to investor protections would be forcefully opposed by them.

I don’t expect this to actually happen.

Even if Trump wants to do this, and I think that it is likely posturing, I would expect resistance from Congressional Republicans and the non “Alt-Right” personnel in his administration to make this outcome highly unlikely.

The D.E.A. Directed Slaughters in Latin America, and Then Lied about It.

It appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration covered up its role in death squad activities in the Honduras.

I’m not particularly surprised. Given the US record on such things (Google School of the Americas) involves actively support of human rights abuses, and training for those who commit these crimes, it is part of the tradition of “American Exceptionalism.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration misled the public, Congress and the Justice Department about a 2012 operation in which commando-style squads of American agents sent to Honduras to disrupt drug smuggling became involved in three deadly shootings, two inspectors general said Wednesday.

The D.E.A. said in response that it had shut down the program, the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team.

Under the program, known as FAST, squads received military-style training to combat Taliban-linked opium traffickers in the Afghanistan war zone. It was expanded to Latin America in 2008 to help fight transnational drug smugglers, leading to the series of violent encounters in Honduras in 2012.

A scathing 424-page joint report from the inspectors general of the Justice and State Departments underscored the risk that Americans accompanying partner forces on missions in developing countries, ostensibly as trainers and advisers, sometimes drift into directly running dangerous operations with little oversight.

The report focused on the first shooting, on a river near the village of Ahuas on May 11, 2012. A boat collided with a disabled vessel carrying American and Honduran agents and seized cocaine. Gunfire erupted, and four people on the boat were killed.

The D.E.A. said at the time that the victims were drug traffickers who had attacked to try to retrieve the cocaine, but villagers said they were bystanders. The inspectors general found no evidence to support the agency’s version, disputing a claim that surveillance video showed evidence that the people on the boat had fired on the disabled vessel.

“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip,” the report said, “D.E.A. officials remained steadfast — with little credible corroborating evidence — that any individuals shot by the Hondurans were drug traffickers who were attempting to retrieve the cocaine.”

The inspectors general also rejected the D.E.A.’s insistence at the time that the operation — as well as two others, in June and July 2012 — had been led by Honduran law enforcement officials. The review “concluded this was inaccurate” and said D.E.A. agents “maintained substantial control.”


The D.E.A. refused to cooperate with the State Department as it sought to investigate what had happened in Ahuas. Michele M. Leonhart, then the agency’s administrator, told the inspector general she had approved that decision because subordinates told her there was no precedent for the State Department to investigate a D.E.A. shooting and it might compromise its investigations, the report said.


The killings in Honduras, along with at least two episodes in 2012 in which partner countries shot down suspected smuggling planes after receiving intelligence from the United States about their flight paths, led to increased media and congressional scrutiny of the D.E.A. Within a few months, the agency was rethinking and scaling back its operations, including considering a requirement that FAST agents stay on helicopters rather than join their trainees in raids.

One of the lawmakers who raised critical questions about the FAST operations in Latin America after the Ahuas shooting, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called the new report “nothing less than a wholesale indictment of the D.E.A. and Honduran police.”

Calling for compensation to the families of the victims, he said the report unmasked “egregious events and conduct” and a subsequent cover-up that “demeaned the lives of the victims and the reputation of the United States.”

I think that Pat Leahy massively overestimates the esteem to which the United States is held.

Revenge of the Chicago School

After the coup that killed Allende and thousands of Chileans, the economy was largely managed by American consultants from the Chicago School, who attempted to create a free market paradise.

It didn’t work, and they had to roll back some of the more extreme examples of free market fundamentalism after 12-18 months due to widespread fraud and corruption.

One thing, arguably the single most disastrous “reform”, did last and now Chileans are discovering that privatizing their retirement accounts has resulted in their nest eggs being eaten up by excessive fees and poor performance.

Seriously, every time someone tries to implement “Galt’s Gulch”, this is what happen: Corruption, fraud, incompetence, and instability:

Discontent has been brewing for years in Chile over pensions so low that most people must keep working past retirement age. All the while, privately run companies have reaped enormous profits by investing Chileans’ social security savings.

The bubbling anger boiled over in July when Chileans learned that the former wife of a Socialist Party leader was receiving a monthly pension of almost $7,800 after retiring from the prison police department. That figure dwarfs the average monthly pension of $315, which is even less than a monthly minimum-wage salary of $384.

In a country already battered by widespread political and corporate corruption, this was the last straw.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Santiago, the capital, and other cities to protest the privatized pension system. More than 1.3 million people, according to organizers, turned up in August, the largest demonstration since Chile’s return to civilian rule in 1990.

One protester was Luis Montero, 69, whose monthly pension is about $150. Like many Chileans, Mr. Montero has mainly worked informal jobs without a contract at wages too meager for him to save enough for retirement. He still does maintenance work at a school to make ends meet.


In 1981, the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet privatized the old pay-as-you-go pension system, in which workers, employers and the government all contributed.

Under the privatized system, which President George W. Bush hailed as an example to follow, workers must pay 10 percent of their earnings into accounts operated by private companies known as pension fund administrators, or A.F.P.s, the initials of the term in Spanish. The administrators invest the money and charge workers a commission for transactions and other fees. Employers and the government do not make any contributions to the workers’ accounts.


The money invested by the administrators bolstered Chile’s capital markets, which stimulated economic growth and yielded reasonable returns. Today six A.F.P.s — half of them owned by foreign companies — manage $171 billion in pension funds, equivalent to about 71 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product, according to the office of the supervisor of the pension funds.


A commission on pension reform, appointed in 2014 by President Michelle Bachelet, found that the median A.F.P. pension was equivalent to 34 percent of a retiree’s last average salary (24 percent in the case of women and 48 percent for men). The overall figure rose to 45 percent with supplements from a federally funded safety net established during Ms. Bachelet’s first term in office.………

“The median A.F.P. pension will be equivalent to 15 percent of the last wages,” he said. “When we have an entire generation retiring solely from the A.F.P. system, the picture gets even bleaker. We have to address this problem now.”


“The government’s proposals mean more of the same, and don’t solve the real problem,” said Luis Mesina, the secretary general of the Confederation of Bank Trade Unions and the face of the movement opposed to the private pension administrators. “We need to put an end to the A.F.P.s.”


Manuel Riesco, an economist with the National Center for Alternative Development Studies, agreed that the funds had done well — for themselves. The money they collect from salary deductions is more than twice as much as they pay out in pensions.

“That’s a huge surplus they will never give back,” Mr. Riesco said. “The state is spending large amounts of the federal budget to compensate for the failure of the private system. And as the population gets older, what do the A.F.P.s do? Reduce pensions even more. It’s a perverse and irrational system.”

This is typical, and under the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) required by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), any attempt to fix this would open up Chile to massive liability from the secretive tribunals.

The free market mouseketeer model is broken, and it always has been.

From Up and Coming to Basket Case in Under 6 Months

I am referring, of course, to Brazil, which has just removed its president Dilma Rousseff.

As near as I can figure out, it was driven by two things:

  • The right wing party that controls the legislature wanted to take power.
  • The entire political establishment was attempting to distract people from their own corruption.

Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff has been thrown out of office by the country’s corruption-tainted senate after a gruelling impeachment trial that ends 13 years of Workers’ party rule.

Following a crushing 61 to 20 defeat in the upper house, she will be replaced for the remaining two years and four months of her term by Michel Temer, a centre-right patrician who was among the leaders of the campaign against his former running mate.

In a separate vote, the senate voted 42 to 36 not to bar Rousseff from public office for eight years.


Despite never losing an election, Rousseff – who first won power in 2010 – had seen her support among the public and in congress diminish as a result of a sharp economic decline, government paralysis and a massive bribery scandal that has implicated almost all the major parties.

For more than 10 months, the leftist leader fought efforts to impeach her for frontloading funds for government social programmes and issuing spending budget decrees without congressional approval ahead of her reelection in 2014. The opposition claimed that these constituted a “crime of responsibility”. Rousseff denies this and claims the charges – which were never levelled at previous administrations who did the same thing – have been trumped up by opponents who were unable to accept the Workers’ party’s victory.


In keeping with her pledge to fight until the end for the 54 million voters who put her in office, Rousseff – a former Marxist guerrilla – ended her presidency this week with a gritty 14-hour defence of her government’s achievements and a sharply worded attack on the “usurpers” and “coup-mongers” who ejected her from power without an election.

Her lawyer, José Eduardo Cardozo, said the charges were trumped up to punish the president’s support for a huge corruption investigation that has snared many of Brazil’s elite. This follows secret recordings of Romero Jucá, the majority leader of the senate and a key Temer ally, plotting to remove the president to halt the Lava Jato (car wash) investigation into kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras.

While Rousseff was in the upper chamber, her critics heard her in respectful silence. But in a final session in her absence on Tuesday, they lined up to condemn her. As in an earlier lower house impeachment debate, the senators – many of whom are accused of far greater crimes – clearly revelled in the spotlight of their ten-minute declarations. Reflecting the growing power of rightwing evangelism, many invoked the name of God. One cited Winston Churchill. Another sang. Another appeared to be in tears.

And the right wingers who seized power are already trying to do their best to f%$# the poor by rolling back social programs.

This is ugly, and I only see this as getting uglier.