Friday’s Reading List
By Taylor Marvin
Last Sunday the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly voted to impeach president Dilma Rousseff. Buzzfeed Brasil rounded up dramatic photos of the impeachment vote and protests for and against Rousseff.
As a helpful graphic from the BBC illustrates, the Senate will now decide via a majority vote whether to open an impeachment trial. If so, Rousseff will be suspended for up to 180 days, leaving executive power in the hands of Vice President Michel Temer, whose party recently abandoned the embattled president and Rousseff has accused of orchestrating the “coup” against her. A Senate trial requiring a two-thirds majority will then decide Rousseff’s fate.
But is the attempt to impeach Rousseff a coup? Laura Carvalho says yes (via FP Interrupted). Amy Erica Smith (via Suparna Chaudhry) concludes that it is not a coup — which is of course a loaded term, especially in a country where the military overthrew a civilian government as recently as 1964 – but that the impeachment process is “a misuse of democratic procedure.” Colin M. Snider is “somewhat sympathetic to the nuanced idea that this might be a ‘legal coup’” but argues that nevertheless Rousseff’s removal would be very damaging to Brazil’s political institutions and culture. “Yesterday’s vote reveals another crack” in Brazil’s fragile presidential parliamentary system, Snider writes, “as a majority of people can effectively vote in a president, only to have Congress attempt to remove that president.” It is hard to square this de facto parliamentary no confidence vote with the spirit of a directly-elected presidency.
More systematically, Uri Friedman looks at how the Brazilian political system encourages unwieldy coalitions of many fragmented parties motivated by rent-seeking rather than ideology, which in turn feeds Brazil’s culture of political corruption. As political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan write, cited by Friedman, the Brazilian electoral system gives “extensive and very tangible incentives for ‘rent-seeking’ behavior by political entrepreneurs who create parties to use as tradeable assets or as a way of avoiding party discipline.”
Temer’s PMDB, undoubtably the king of rent-seeking behavior, hopes form “a government of national salvation” following Rousseff’s ouster, in PMDB Congressman Darcísio Perondi’s words. Catherine Osborn looks at the corruption-ridden party’s plans.
With a somewhat sympathetic view of Rousseff’s center-left Workers’ Party, Perry Anderson examines how Brazilian politics reached the breaking point (via Bernardo Jurema). For additional background, last May Bloomberg reviewed the massive corruption scandal centered around the state-controlled Brazilian oil firm Petrobras, which has contributed to Brazil’s political crisis.
For Spanish-readers, in the Colombian weekly Semana Marta Ruiz reports on leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels awaiting peace (via Juan Forero). Particularly noteworthy is many FARC members’ confidence – or at least professed confidence – that after signing a peace deal with the government they will be accepted by Colombia’s ‘polarized’ society.
Why does Greenland have the highest known suicide rate in the world? Rebecca Hersher reports on the roots – which include rapid cultural changes and Danish colonialism – of the epidemic. (Via Kim Ghattas and Scott Peterson.)
Bloomberg interviews Saudi deputy crown prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Noting the single mention of Saudi Arabia’s disastrous US-aided war in Yemen, Tom Gara comments “imagine a 2005 profile of George Bush that doesn’t mention Iraq or Afghanistan.”
In a predominantly-Latino Los Angeles neighborhood, activists test the limits of anti-gentrification tactics (via Mehreen Kasana).
Note: Updated for clarity.