AUDIO: Understanding The Political Crisis In Brazil

AS/COA's Brian Winter speaks in The Diane Rehm Show about the impeachment process against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, the country's recession, and the ongoing corruption investigations.

Last month in Brazil, the lower house of the country’s National Congress voted to impeach the president, Dilma Rousseff. There are the legal grounds for the move — alleged cooking of the government books. And then there are the political motives, which as many observers have pointed out, are what’s really driving the impeachment. Those have to do with a massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state owned oil company. Add to that a severe recession, and many Brazilians are not happy with how their country is being run. Guest host Lisa Desjardins gets an update on the political crisis in Brazil from our panel of guests.


  • Paulo Sotero director of the Brazil Institute at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Uri Friedman staff writer, The Atlantic, covering global affairs
  • Monica de Bolle nonresident senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics; adjunct professor,School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; professor of macroeconomics, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Brian Winter editor-in-chief, Americas Quarterly and vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas



MS. LISA DESJARDINS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Lisa DesJardins of the PBS NewsHour sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is recovering from a voice treatment. Over the weekend, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff overused May Day gatherings across the country to try and rally support for her beleaguered Workers Party. To discuss Brazil's political crisis and what lies ahead for the country, I'm joined in studio by Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Uri Friedman of The Atlantic, Monica de Bolle of The Peterson Institute for International Economics and Brian Winter, editor and chief at Americas Quarterly and vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.


MS. LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you all for being here.






DESJARDINS: And, of course, you, too, are part of this conversation. We'd love it if you joined us. Call us at 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email to Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Brian Winter, let's start with you. I think many Americans know that there's something happening in Brazil, but it's very complicated. Since the lower house voted to impeach Brazil's President Rousseff and she's going through that impeachment process now, we've heard a debate over whether this is a coup or not. Can you bring us up to speed about what she is charged with and this debate over whether this is a coup.


MR. BRIAN WINTER: Well, so Brazil dazzled everybody last decade. The economy grew a lot. It brought 40 million people out of poverty and then, people are generally aware that there's been this massive dramatic collapse in recent years. Despite all the promise of the 2000s, despite having received the World Cup and it's about to host the Olympics, the economy has really fallen apart and it is at the worst recession in at least 80 years and maybe ever.


MR. BRIAN WINTER: And so that's been very dramatic and it's obviously put a lot of pressure on President Rousseff. Meanwhile, you have this huge bewildering corruption scandal. But in the case of the impeachment, President Rousseff is not actually being charged with any personal wrongdoing. What she is being impeached for is, essentially, what you could charitably call creating accounting with the budget. And...

Listen to the audio and read the full transcript here.