Roussef brought down by bad timing and bad friends

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By Robert Hackwill
Roussef brought down by bad timing and bad friends

Once upon a time she had fought as a guerilla against military dictatorship but in 2011, fully backed by outgoing President Lula Da Silva, Dilma Roussef became President of Brazil.

She followed in the shadow of a left-wing leader whose popularity had barely dipped over two terms in office, and whose return to power once Roussef serves the maximum successive mandate is a possibility.

To forestall this, Rouseff has been assiduously working the party, its activists, and its supporters.

That is, when she has had time, as she entered the office just as recession hit the economy, and problems began to hit her government almost immediately. Roussef has tabled policy after policy to restore growth and consumer spending power. All have failed, the people have become angrier, and the deficit continues to climb.

Into this toxic mix was thrown the Petrobras scandal, lighting a firestorm.

The tentacular scandal has spread from the state-owned oil giant into the public works sector, implicating a horde of politicians who have taken cash for contracts, which have then been overbilled. Rouseff’s name appears in none of the multiple investigations, but as she was the President of Petrobras’ governing council at the time, Brazilians refuse to believe she is innocent.

Despite this Roussef was re-elected in October 2014, shortly before Petrobras’ share price collapsed. Her political enemies, who burn with the desire to end the Brazilian left, were furious and by the end of 2015 were ready to strike in parliament, its president approving a destitution procedure.

The charge was Roussef had massaged public accounts, but she had followed the policy of all of her predecessors who had balanced Brazil’s books, camouflaging the size of the public debt, by borrowing from the banks.

In a climate of economic austerity, this did not go down well.

Even harder to swallow was Roussef’s leaping to Lula’s defence after he too was sucked into the Petrobras swamp, questioned by police, and had his home searched. Her defence was so loyal she brought Lula back into government, as Leader of the Cabinet. It added to the people’s anger, and chipped away a little more at Roussef’s credibility, despite her claims of innocence and the insistence that it was all a plot to preserve the elite’s privileges.

Former allies in Roussef’s coalition, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, finally opened the doors to impeachment by quitting the government.