Latin America reacts to Brazil’s president suspension

Latin America reacts to Brazil's president suspension

As Brazil’s political crisis took centre stage in Latin America Thursday (May 12), governments across the region reacted to the turmoil that saw Dilma Rousseff suspended from the presidency with leftist countries slamming the events as a “coup.”

Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer called on his country to rally behind his government of “national salvation,” hours after the Senate voted to suspend and put on trial his leftist predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, for breaking budget laws.

Temer, a 75-year-old centrist now moving to steer Latin America’s biggest country toward more market-friendly policies, told Brazilians to have “confidence” they would overcome an ongoing crisis sparked by a deep economic recession, political volatility and a sprawling corruption scandal.

Brazil’s crisis brought a dramatic end to the 13-year rule of the Workers Party, which rode a wave of populist sentiment that swept South America starting around 2000 and enabled a generation of leftist leaders to leverage a boom in the region’s commodity exports to pursue ambitious and transformative social policies.

But like other leftist leaders across the region, Rousseff discovered that the party, after four consecutive terms, overstayed its welcome, especially as commodities prices plummeted and her increasingly unpopular government failed to sustain economic growth.

Speaking in Caracas, socialist President Nicolas Maduro, himself embattled amid national economic woes, termed the events as a coup led by the United States.

“And so Venezuela repudiates and rejects the unfair dirty tricks that have been made against this great Brazilian woman, this great Latin American leader, President Dilma Rousseff,” he said.

“I have no doubt that behind this coup d’etat is the bill, ‘Made in the USA..’ I have no doubt. This forms part of the legacy that President Barack Obama aims to leave in Latin America, leaving aside the progressive, democratic and people’s movements,” Maduro said.

On Cuban state television, a newscaster read a government reaction that questioned the legitimacy of the suspension.

“The revolutionary government of the Republic of Cuba has denounced the judicial-parliamentary coup d’etat, disguised with legality that has been underway for months in Brazil. Today a fundamental step was taken for the objectives of a coup. The majority of Brazilian senators decided to continue with the process of the political trial against the legitimately elected president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff.”

Other leaders took a more tempered tone.

“It pains us very much what is happening. It (Brazil) is a very important country. And we vote for the preservation of democratic institutionality, for due process to be respected and what we want is for stability in Brazil to be maintained. Whatever happens in Brazil affects in an important way the rest of Latin America and I think we can in this be able to speak in the name of all the countries of Latin America before the need to maintain stability and, of course, the democratic institutionality of Brazil,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said while on visit to England.

In addition to the downturn, Rousseff, in office since 2011, was hobbled by the corruption scandal and a political opposition determined to oust her.

After Rousseff’s suspension, Temer charged his new ministers with enacting business-friendly policies while maintaining the still-popular social programs that were the hallmark of the Workers Party. In a sign of slimmer times, the cabinet has 23 ministers, a third fewer than Rousseff’s.

A constitutional scholar who spent decades in Brazil’s Congress, Temer faces the momentous challenge of hauling the world’s No. 9 economy out of its worst recession since the Great Depression and cutting bloated public spending.

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