Brazil. It was a worrying year for President Dilma Rousseff with a shrinking economy, rising unemployment, rising inflation, falling opinion figures and mass demonstrations. In addition came a crisis of confidence that culminated on December 2 when the Speaker of Congress’s Second Chamber Eduardo Cunha decided to initiate a national court process against the President. The reason for Cunha’s decision was allegations that the president used money from state banks to cover deficits in the state budget, but also the corruption scandal (Operation car wash) in the state oil company Petrobras that persecuted the ruling Labor Party (PT) for several years. Just a week before, the party’s group leader in the Senate, Delcídio do Amaral, had been arrested for trying to hinder the criminal investigation by bribing a witness. President Rousseff himself persistently denied all personal involvement in the scandal throughout the year, and the charges against her were considered more political than legal. According to COUNTRYAAH, Brasilia is the capital of Brazil which is located in South America. Cunha, who belongs to one of the coalition government’s parties, admitted that the prospects for completing the complicated judicial process to be completed were small. Cunha himself was also the subject of suspicions of embezzling large sums from Petrobras and of lying about how they were placed in bank accounts in Switzerland. He risked being held accountable before a congressional committee. Even among those who supported Cunha’s initiative against President Rousseff, several people distanced himself from him personally.
The already convicted and imprisoned José Dirceu, former President Lula da Silva’s (2003–10) right-hand man, became the subject of new charges of involvement in the Mensalão Recruitment in early August, a corruption scandal during Lula’s term in office. Lula himself and his son Luís Claúdio Lula da Silva were also involved in corruption deals, and the Labor Party treasurer João Vaccari Neto resigned in April for the same reason.
A major environmental disaster happened on November 5 when a dam at the town of Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais erupted and 50 million cubic meters of water flowed into the Rio Doce River. About ten people were killed. In addition, the water was polluted from an iron ore mine and hundreds of thousands of people lost access to drinking water. Two weeks later, the water reached the coast and all life in the river died. The total cost of the disaster was estimated at the equivalent of $ 3.6 billion. The State Prosecutor’s Office suggested that the cost as a whole should be paid by the dust owners, a joint venture between a Brazilian and a British-Australian company.
The political crisis, coupled with falling commodity prices and declining growth in China, also explained the Brazilian currency’s dramatic fall against the dollar. In September, it had fallen by 69% in twelve months and registered at its lowest value ever. The government predicted a negative growth of 2.4% for the year. President Rousseff was forced to admit that the country was in recession and that the National Audit Office might not approve the report for the previous year.
Brazil’s only declared gay MP, Jean Wyllys went into exile in January after receiving several death threats. Uruguay’s former president Pepe Mujica had urged Wyllys to take the threats very seriously. The right-wing Bolsonaro was chosen for to go to attacks on the country’s LGBT community. In 2017, 445 LGBT people were murdered. An increase of 30% from the previous year. Wyllys was close friend of Marielle Franco, who was murdered in March 2018. In March, phony links between Bolsonaro and Marielle’s supposed killer were revealed as photos of a smiling Bolsonaro along with Élcio Queiroz were released a few days before murder. (Brazil’s sole openly gay congressman leaves country after death threats, Guardian 24/1 2019;Bolsonaro in spotlight after photo with Marielle Franco murder suspect surfaces, Guardian 13/3 2019)
In March, the prosecution accused former Major Sebastião Curio of being charged with murder and torture while in 1974, posted in the Amazon. The Brazilian amnesty law has barred almost all charges against soldiers, police and death patrols for the human rights violations they bailed during the 1964-85 dictatorship, but there are some exceptions and the prosecution is now trying to get Curio to justice. Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro created a scandal when he ordered his defense minister to “duly” celebrate the anniversary of the military coup in 1964. That month, following the coup’s anniversary, the minister of education declared Ricardo Vélez, that the country’s school books would be written to give a more positive picture of the dictatorship. Brazilian historians termed the minister’s rewrite of history as historical revisionism similar to the Nazi revisionists who deny the existence of German concentration camps during World War II. The UN also intervened in the case and criticized Brazil for its celebration of the military coup. The criticism triggered a letter from the Brazilian foreign ministry to the UN, denying that there had been a coup at all, and characterizing the subsequent military governments as “necessary steps to prevent a communist takeover of Brazil”.
Bolsonaro visited the United States in March, where he was received with open arms by Donald Trump. On May 14, Bolsonaro should have been named “Man of the Year” at a major event at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but following protests from LGBT groups and City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the museum got cold feet and jumped off. So did the Financial Times, Delta Airlines and several other companies. The background was Bolsonaro’s persecution of gays, racism and “environmental politics”. The visit of “Man of the Year”, therefore, eventually had to be canceled, leaving a foamingly rich Bolsonaro, who longed for New York’s mayor. However, the president quickly faced other challenges. Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers began demonstrations in mid-May against the Bolsonaro government’s cuts in education. Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub announced in April that the budget for the country’s universities will be cut by 30% and that the cuts will especially hit those universities that “make trouble”. Bolsonaro considers universities to be venues for leftist indoctrination and had already urged students to spy on their teachers and to state them. The official reason for the cuts was the state’s economic crisis.