Who benefits from impeachment of Dilma Rousseff?

31-05-2016
In Brazil, the parliament and senate have impeached 68-year-old president Dilma Rousseff. A victory for democracy or a coup de théâtre at the common people’s expense?
 
The economic downturn has acted as a catalyst for the political instability in Brazil. According to economists and sociologists, it is the biggest crisis in the country’s history. The GDP decreased by 3.5% last year, and for 2016 a further dip of 3.5% is predicted. The last time this happened in Brazil was during the Great Depression on the eve of the Second World War.   
 
Growing poverty
 
The repercussions are evident: between January and November last year, 3.7 million people ended up in poverty. During the last quarter of 2015, investments decreased by another 18%. The result: this year, 1.5 to 2 million Brazilians might lose their job, while unemployment has already risen to 9%. 
 
The causes of the crisis? Since 2008, the world’s economy has found itself in stormy waters. For instance, the recent downturn of the Chinese economy has caused market rates for energy and raw materials to plummet. This causes companies such as Petrobrás, Brazil’s national oil company, to bite the dust. 
 
But it goes beyond that. Petrobrás is one of the many companies where top managers have engaged in corrupt activities for many years. Shameless corruption has also crept into the political class, which is now screaming bloody murder over the budget tampering that ensured Rousseff’s re-election in 2014.  
 
Ministry of Agrarian Development 
 
The suspended president admitted that she has made mistakes. But is her temporary suspension a proportionate response? And who reaps the benefit of Rousseff’s deposition? At Trias, we are mostly focused on the position of the millions of family farmers in Brazil – half of the population below the poverty line works in farming. 84% of agriculture companies are family firms, yet family farmers possess less than a quarter of the total farmland. 
 
Family farmers try to survive amongst the large scale producers who export a wide range of agricultural products: soy, biofuel, corn, sugar, bio-ethanol, orange concentrate, coffee, beef, and chicken fillet. The past few years, recognition of family farming was on the rise: in 2000 family farmers even received their own agriculture ministry, the so-called Ministry of Agrarian Development. This world first perfectly reflected the dual agriculture economy. 
 
However, family farmers should not expect too much of vice-president Michel Temer, who is temporarily in charge. The day he took over the reins from Rousseff, Temer had the Ministry of Agrarian Development absorbed by – ironically – the Ministry of Social Affairs headed by Osmar Terra, a soybean baron who is held responsible for the deforestation of immense parts of the Amazon rainforest. This political move severely cuts government support for family farmers. They will not find solace in the new minister of agriculture Blairo Maggi either; another controversial soybean tycoon. 
 
Social programmes
 
The social programmes that were introduced 15 years ago by former president Lula da Silva, and continued by Rousseff, are of great importance to the family farmers. Programmes such as Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and Bolsa Familia (Family Grants) helped millions of Brazilians to climb out of poverty. Temer promised that he would not touch these programmes, but this year he has already made some serious cuts. The consequences can already be felt on the family farms. 
 
Unicafes, an umbrella organisation for farming cooperatives that is supported by Trias since its creation in 2005, is not happy with the latest developments. ‘Since the motives for the deposition of Rousseff were purely political, we do not recognise the current president’, says chairman Luiz Possamai.
 
Nevertheless, Unicafes, representing 400,000 family farmers in total, cannot afford to burn all bridges with the government. ‘In the interest of our members, we are staying on speaking terms when it comes to agricultural matters’, they stated. But Getúlio Vieira, who is heads up Unicafes in the state of Minas Gerais, stays realistic: ‘Hard times are ahead for family farmers and their connected cooperatives. Negotiating with this government will be an enormous challenge.’