Brazil steers away from coup plot planned in the lower house
Days before protests scheduled for August 16, President Dilma Rousseff and her administration got a breather in Brasilia. Businessmen, politicians, Globo TV, part of the written press and — most importantly — the president of the Senate came to rescue. The coup agenda set by the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, has frightened those that like the opposition better but would hate to see Brazil plunge in a political crisis with no end in sight. The cool down plan is now into action and turbulent days once expected for this month seem to be less and less likely. A dramatic measure that was unlikely now is almost touching the levels of impossible.
The first messages came from businessmen. When Cunha decided to target austerity measures to put Rousseff against the wall, they started to turn their backs on him. That began more than two months ago. In meetings held in São Paulo, the speaker was applauded by executives when he was present. But on the sidelines the trash talk went on and on and on — and many of those people truly dislike Rousseff’s technocratic style. When fiscal adjustments were torpedoed by the Rio de Janeiro politician, they decided not to pull the plug on the president. They know Brazil would lose its investment grade in the middle of such a big uncertainty.
That was even more evident in conversations with construction businessmen; they knew of Cunha’s highly suspicious role in negotiations that drove constructor Schahin to the ground. In Brazil, when constructors see a politician as someone not to be trusted… they have a much harder time to survive in the game. Some of those links are in Piaui magazine this month. There is much more, but without evidence I can’t publish how Cunha and Schahin became so tied together. I am still working on it. If those links become clear enough, the speaker will have a very hard time to keep his job. Who wants to have that person in the driving seat if Rousseff were ousted? Nobody.
After businessmen stated their case, mainstream media looked for ways to join in. More importantly, Globo TV decided to throw a rope to Rousseff because of two ratings. The first is the one of viewers that got depressed with insistent bad news and turned away. The second is their credit rating, which got lowered just a few weeks ago. Jornal Nacional, the only piece of journalism that reaches every Brazilian, banned the word “crisis” and started giving Rousseff a lot of time to explain herself. That is not an interpretation, it is a fact — as told me by a member of these operations.
That doesn’t mean Globo won’t cover the protests on Sunday, no matter how big they are. But, just like newspapers, Globo is determined to defend Brazil’s democracy at the same time it gives the opposition some material to charge against Rousseff — as long as her mandate is not touched. Folha de S.Paulo, O Globo and Estado de S.Paulo have printed editorials that also go in that direction, despite the obvious difficulties they have to report on Cunha’s activities. If new information arrives to involve Rousseff directly, they will be glad to go back to the pro-impeachment tendencies. But that is not in the picture now.
All these things have made cracks in the opposition. Defeated candidate Aecio Neves might be pulling for impeachment or resignation, but other key party members openly disagree. That includes former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin, a presidential hopeful for 2018. Austerity measures used to speak to the heart of opposition members and to keep voting against them to help Cunha was a big political risk. In the Senate the retreat is obvious, in the lower house it isn’t that evident. But it might be very soon.
Those elements have led the president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, to strike a deal with Rousseff so she can govern. As a man who could be indicted soon, he suddenly seems relaxed after his first private conversation with the president just days ago. The news that emerged from that conversation is that Calheiros won’t be in the first list of indicted politicians. But Cunha will… Of course the senator’s agenda is similar to that of very suspicious lobbyists, but the president doesn’t have much of a choice if she wants to survive. Now Calheiros and Cunha clash.
Calheiros also has a lot of influence in the audit court that will rule on Rousseff’s management of the budget in recent years. That very court, which had set the date for the trial for a little after the protests, now expects to do it just in the end of the month. Cunha has already shown he is annoyed by that decision, which sends a message on how worried he actually is about his political situation.
Surely enough there are still problems for Rousseff’s troubled administration, but this week ends in a better tone than all the others in the last months. Protesters might still come out in large numbers to demand her resignation (as of Thursday the mobilization for Sunday doesn’t seem to be gigantic). Some might even insist in the impeachment theories. And it is very unlikely that the president will recover anytime soon from her single digit popularity in her remaining 3.5 years left in office. But it seems that the worst days for Brazil’s young democracy as about to be gone.