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Empowering Criminality & Corruption


We spend the hour looking at the growing political crisis in Brazil and air an exclusive interview with former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last August in what many described as a legislative coup. Her impeachment came as Brazil was engulfed in a major corruption scandal, but Rousseff herself was never accused of any financial impropriety. Her removal ended nearly 14 years of rule by the left-leaning Workers’ Party, which had been credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

Since Rousseff’s removal from power last year, Brazil’s corruption scandal has only widened. At the center of the scandal are many of the right-wing politicians who orchestrated Rousseff’s ouster. Rousseff’s successor, Brazilian President Michel Temer, is now facing mounting calls to resign or be impeached, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court accusing him of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. Removing Dilma Rousseff “was just so perverse, because what you were doing was actually strengthening and empowering corruption,” says our first guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil. He notes that a third of Temer’s Cabinet are now the targets of criminal investigations.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour looking at the growing political crisis in Brazil and air an extended exclusive broadcast interview with former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. She was impeached last August as Brazil—in what many described as a legislative coup. Her impeachment came as Brazil was engulfed in a major corruption scandal, but Rousseff herself was never accused of any financial impropriety. Her removal ended nearly 14 years of rule by the left-leaning Workers’ Party, which had been credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

Since Rousseff’s ouster last year, Brazil’s corruption scandal has only widened. At the center of the scandal are many of the right-wing politicians who orchestrated Rousseff’s ouster. Her successor, Brazilian President Michel Temer, is now facing mounting calls to resign or be impeached, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court accusing him of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. On Wednesday, President Temer authorized the deployment of the Army to the capital Brasília as tens of thousands of protesters marched to Congress to demand his resignation. Facing public outcry, Temer has since ordered the troops off the streets.

In a moment, we’ll air our recent interview with Dilma Rousseff, but first I want to turn to the interview that Juan González and I did on Wednesday with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is based in Brazil. I asked him to describe recent events there.

GLENN GREENWALD: It’s amazing, because we’ve spoken often over the last 18 months about the political crisis in Brazil, and I have long thought that you can never have a more kind of insane and unhinged political situation as was in Brazil—until November 2016, when I thought, actually, the U.S. has now surpassed it, and Brazil looks sane by comparison. And yet, Brazil has once again leapfrogged the U.S., because what’s going on there is almost impossible to overstate.

The whole argument against impeachment all along was that in the scope of wrongdoing, whatever you think of Dilma Rousseff, the actually elected president, what even she was accused of, even if you believe it all, so pales in comparison to the criminality and corruption of virtually everybody who was surrounding her and who would be empowered once she was removed, that to remove her in the name of corruption was just so perverse, because what you were doing was actually strengthening and empowering corruption.

And now you have Michel Temer, who, from the start of taking over, who can never have been elected on his own, who is extremely unpopular—literally single digits of approval—has had one corruption scandal after the next. A full third of his Cabinet are now the targets of criminal investigations. But what has really reached a boiling point, what caused it to really explode, was that, last week, video and audiotape surfaced of him meeting just three months ago with a billionaire or a multimillionaire executive, in which he approved and encouraged and even directed the payment of bribes, including one to his party member Eduardo Cunha, who was the House speaker who presided over Dilma’s impeachment and is now in prison, to keep his silence, as part of the investigation, directing bribes to other members of his party—actually getting caught on tape ordering bribes. This is the person they installed when they removed Dilma in the name of corruption. And so, obviously—

AMY GOODMAN: And even when they removed her, they didn’t accuse her of personal corruption.

GLENN GREENWALD: No. Everybody acknowledges she’s one of the few officials in Brasília who has actually never been accused of corruption for her own personal gain.

And this has been piling up, the accusations against Temer. Everyone agreed to ignore them, because he was imposing austerity and privatization and willing to be unpopular as a result. So Brazilian elites wanted him in there, because he was one of the few willing to do it. But it’s now gotten to the point where it’s just too embarrassing, even for Brazil, to have a president on tape, that everyone can listen to, ordering bribes. But he’s refusing to resign.

And so, the combination of his refusing to leave office and at the same time imposing very harsh and severe austerity cuts that are harming Brazil’s poorest, who have spent years listening to tales of the rich stealing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, has caused serious protests, which culminated yesterday at the nation’s capital, demanding his ouster. My husband, who’s now on the City Council of Rio de Janeiro as part of the Socialist Party, was there. I spoke with him last night. He said he has never seen aggression of the type that not only the police used, shooting live bullets at protesters, including very close to him, but the military has now been deployed by President Temer onto the streets to battle activists and protesters—extremely serious in a country where the Brazilian military, with the U.S. government, overthrew the elected government in 1964 and then ruled through military dictatorship for the next 21 years in an extremely repressive way.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Glenn, I wanted to ask you also about Lula, the former president. There are also new charges, apparently, on top of some existing charges against him—clearly an attempt to get him convicted on something so that he would not be able to run for president, because he’s still one of the most popular figures in Brazil?

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, this is the great, incredible irony, which is that, you know, if you remove Temer, the question then becomes: How do you select his replacement? And the only two choices are, you let the Congress, which is one of the most corrupt bodies in the world, choose his replacement, which would be yet another corrupt individual, or you allow the natural course of democracy to take hold, which is elections. And the problem for Brazilian elites is that if there are elections, it’s highly likely that Lula, who presided over economic growth and lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty, would be elected. So, imagine going through this whole political crisis of removing Dilma, destroying the Workers’ Party, only to have Lula return. They’re now petrified of that.

At the same time, he faces serious corruption allegations. These are not invented. None of them has been proven, but there’s—they’re also not jokes. And so, it’s almost a rush to see if the elites can make him ineligible to run by convicting him of a crime, or whether he can beat them by having a presidential election, which he’s likely to win. And that’s the struggle currently taking place.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the police using live bullets? Have people been killed?

GLENN GREENWALD: Yesterday, there was at least two people who were shot. No one knows exactly what their condition is, but they’re in the hospital. So, obviously, to open fire with live bullets on political protesters is as extreme and repressive as a government can be.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re moving into our exclusive extended interview with the ousted President Dilma Rousseff. In a minute, can you describe her significance, this woman who was a guerrilla, who was imprisoned, tortured, herself—I mean, she was tortured—and then became president of Brazil?

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, it’s a complex story. I interviewed her last year. She’s one of the most inspiring women on the planet in terms of her life story, for the reasons that you just encountered. She’s incredibly strong and resolute. At the same time, she presided over a lot of economic suffering. There’s no question she mismanaged the economy. And yet, in the middle of this extreme corruption, they found almost nothing on her that ever implicated her, and yet she was removed. And so, her legacy is obviously pretty mixed, and yet, at the same time, I think she has now found complete vindication, because that was always her argument, was: “The people who are removing me in the name of corruption are actually the ones who are most corrupt and are doing it to protect themselves.” And that has borne out.

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, speaking on Thursday. He lives in Brazil. Shortly after we taped that interview, the Brazilian president, Michel Temer, ordered Brazilian troops off the streets. When we come back from break, we’ll air our exclusive extended broadcast interview with the ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Among the things she’ll talk about is being tortured and jailed under the Brazilian dictatorship and how she rose to become president of Brazil. Stay with us.

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