Upheaval in Brazil continued this week as a court handed down a conviction against right-wing president Michel Temer, who took over after the ouster of leftist president Dilma Rousseff, and banned him from running in elections for the next eight years.
A regional elections court in Temer's hometown of São Paulo on Thursday "issued a formal decree finding him guilty and declaring him 'ineligible' to run for any political office as a result of now having a 'dirty record' in elections," Glenn Greenwald reported in The Intercept.
The decision came less than three weeks after Temer oversaw what has widely been described as a "coup" to overthrow Rouseff, the recently re-elected Workers' Party president.
"In the scope of the scheming, corruption and illegality from this 'interim' government, Temer's law-breaking is not the most severe offense," Greenwald notes. "But it potently symbolizes the anti-democratic scam that Brazilian elites have attempted to perpetrate. In the name of corruption, they have removed the country’s democratically elected leader and replaced her with someone who—though not legally barred from being installed—is now barred for eight years from running for the office he wants to occupy."
As interim president, Temer has swiftly and openly transformed the formerly left-leaning and diverse Brazilian government into one pushing neoliberal, right-wing policies, helmed by an all-white, all-male cabinet. In the New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson summarized a few of Temer's decisions that have raised eyebrows worldwide:
He got rid of the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights, ordering it to be subsumed into the Ministry of Justice—which he promptly handed over to Alexandre de Moraes, a former security official from São Paulo who is accused of deploying death squads to fight crime in that city. (His former office has denied the accusations.) This came at the same time as news of a horrifying case in which a sixteen-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro was gang-raped by as many as thirty-three men, some of whom filmed their abuse and posted it to social media.
[...] Temer’s choice for agriculture minister, meanwhile, was a portly billionaire senator named Blairo Maggi, who cast the deciding vote in the Senate to unseat Rousseff. Maggi, the former governor of the state of Mato Grosso, made his fortune by cutting down millions of acres of Amazonian wilderness. In a 2007 piece for National Geographic, the journalist Scott Wallace wrote, “Maggi is ‘O Rei da Soja, King of Soy, the world’s largest single producer. Maggi acquired a less flattering honorific when Greenpeace gave him its Golden Chain Saw award in 2005.” For a number of years while he was governor, Mato Grosso led Brazil in deforestation. In 2010, Maggi was elected to the Senate, and, with the support of the powerful bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, he became the head of the environmental committee, where he helped push through a set of environmental regulations known as the Forest Code. Among other things, the Forest Code gave amnesty to landowners who had previously engaged in illegal wilderness clearances.
"The oozing corruption of Temer's ministers has sometimes served to obscure his own," Greenwald writes. "He, too, is implicated in several corruption investigations. And now, he has been formally convicted of violating election laws."
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Pro-democracy and anti-Temer protests have flooded the streets in cities throughout the country since Rousseff's ouster:
Greenwald also discussed the United States' involvement in Rousseff's impeachment in a video published Friday by The Intercept, observing that WikiLeaks had published diplomatic cables showing Temer secretly meeting with officials in D.C. in 2006 and 2007, and that impeachment proponent Senator Aloysio Nunes met with officials and lobbyists close to Hillary Clinton in Washington in the days following his vote to impeach Rousseff.
A government overthrow in Latin America "cannot happen without U.S. approval," Greenwald argued. "If the U.S. was supporting democracy, the impeachment would not have happened."
Moreover, "it's always true that the U.S. government strongly prefers right-leaning governments than left-leaning ones in South America," Greenwald said. "Why? It's obvious: right-leaning governments tend to help the international banks, Wall Street, hedge funds, international capital."
Indeed, on Thursday the Financial Times reported that investors around the world were "rooting" for Temer's administration.