Brazil is facing its worst political crisis in over two decades as opponents of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attempt to impeach her on corruption charges. But Rousseff is refusing calls to resign, saying the impeachment proceedings against her amount to undemocratic attempts by the right-wing opposition to oust her from power. On Wednesday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff an attempted "coup d’état." We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. His piece, "Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy," recently was published by The Intercept.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’re going to be talking with Glenn Greenwald about the attacks in Brussels, as well as the presidential elections here in the United States and the battle between Apple and the U.S. government over encryption. But right now we’re starting with Brazil.
Glenn, there is very little attention in the United States in the mainstream media about what’s taking place in Brazil. President Obama is right next door in Argentina, but can you talk about what is happening in the country you live in, in Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Definitely. It is a little odd that such extreme levels of political instability have received relatively little attention, given that Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, it’s the eighth largest economy, and whatever happens there will have reverberations for all sorts of markets and countries, including the United States. The situation in Brazil is actually fairly complicated, much more so than the small amount of media attention devoted to it in the U.S. has suggested. The media attention in the U.S. has suggested that it’s the people, by the millions, rising up against a corrupt government, and sort of depicting it as the heroic population against a corrupt left-wing, virtually tyrannical regime. And in a lot of ways, that’s an oversimplification; in a lot of ways, it’s simply inaccurate. So let me just make a couple of key points.
First of all, it is the case that the Brazilian political class and its—the highest levels of its economic class are rife with very radical corruption. That has been true for a really long time. And what has happened is that Brazil’s judicial institutions and police agencies have matured. Remember, Brazil is a very young democracy. It only exited military dictatorship in 1985. And so you finally have the maturation of these institutions applying the rule of law. And so, for the first time, political and economic elites are being held accountable for very serious political and economic corruption. The corruption is pervasive in essentially every influential political faction in Brazil, including all of its political parties. That includes the Workers’ Party, the left-wing party of Lula and Dilma, the current president, but also, even to a greater extent, the opposition parties on the center and the right that are trying to replace it. So corruption is very real. There is a very—there’s been a—what has been, until recently, an impressive judicial investigation that has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures—something that you would never see in the United States—billionaires being hauled off to jail for bribery and money laundering and tax evasion and corruption, and sentenced to many years in prison. And virtually every political opponent of President Rousseff is implicated by this corruption, and many of the people in her party are, as well.
The irony of this widespread corruption is that President Rousseff herself is really the only significant politician, or one of the only significant politicians, in Brazil not to be implicated in any sort of corruption scheme for the—with the objective of personal enrichment. Everyone around her, virtually, including those trying to bring her government down and accuse her of corruption and impeach her, is implicated very seriously in schemes of corruption for personal enrichment. She’s essentially one of the only people who isn’t implicated that way.
The problem is that there—at the same time as you have this massive corruption investigation, you also have an extremely severe economic recession, as the result of lowering gas prices and contraction in China and a variety of other factors. And up until very recently, up until 2008, 2010, Brazil’s economy was booming. The people of that country, including its poorest, have been—thought that their prospects were finally improving, that the promise of Brazil, the long-heralded promise of Brazil, to become this developed power in the world was finally coming to fruition. Millions of people were being lifted out of poverty. And what this recession has done has been essentially to reverse all of that and to reimpose huge amounts of suffering, borne primarily by Brazil’s lower and working classes. And so there’s an enormous amount of discontent and anger towards President Rousseff and towards her Workers’ Party over the suffering that the people in Brazil are experiencing. And so, what you have is this corruption scheme and corruption investigation and scandal at the same time as great economic suffering.
And in Brazil, there are really rich and powerful factions, who have long hated Lula and Dilma and the left-wing Workers’ Party, who haven’t been able to defeat them at the ballot box. The Workers’ Party has won four straight national elections, going back to 2002 when Lula was first elected. And so, what they are doing—and they’re using their extremely powerful media institutions, beginning with Globo, which is by far and away the dominant, most powerful media institution in Brazil, run by, like all Brazil’s significant media outlets, extremely concentrated wealthy families—are using this corruption scandal to—or using the anger towards the government to try and rile up people and essentially remove the Workers’ Party and President Dilma Rousseff from power, really because they can’t beat her at the ballot box. But they’re trying to latch on this corruption scandal to the discontent that people feel because of the economic suffering. And so there is a validity to the corruption scandal and to the investigation, even aimed at the Workers’ Party, but at the same time what you’re now seeing is, unfortunately, the judiciary, which has been pretty scrupulous until now about being apolitical, working with the plutocrats of Brazil to try and achieve a result that really is a subversion of democracy, which is exploiting the scandal to remove President Rousseff from power through impeachment, even though there really are no grounds of impeachment that would be legal or valid as a means of removing her from office.