On Public Perceptions of Brazil’s Corruption Scandals & Historical Transformations

I’m quoted in this New York Times piece on corruption scandals in Brazil, and the public’s sense of uncertainty and exhaustion with the constant reports of political malfeasance. The article (by Simon Romero) does an excellent job in placing the current turmoil in the historical context of political turmoil in Brazil. As my quotation suggests, while corruption may be an ongoing issue, the fact that the military has remained outside of politics since the end of the military regime in 1985 means that it is far less likely to play a role in determining the political life in Brazil in 2015. This stands in marked contrast to the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Brazil’s military successfully directly intervened in national politics no fewer than 6 times (1889, 1930, 1937, 1945, 1955, and 1964) – and this doesn’t count the times the military efforts to intervene were limited or unsuccessful.

Another interesting thing to take from the piece is the sense of dissatisfaction with all politicians.

On a street level, many watching the intrigue in Brasília express dismay over both Ms. Rousseff and her opponents.

“The problem is that I don’t see anyone who can take her place because all of the options are pathetic,” said Gabriela Souza, 30, a cosmetics saleswoman. “I feel anguished because there is no exit from this.”

Such a lack of faith in any politicians is not necessarily undeserved, but in the past, it was exactly at this point that not-insignificant numbers of Brazilians, especially among the elites and middle classes, turned to the military to step in and “right the ship.” Yet this time, such calls are conspicuously absent, with only fringe actors calling for another military intervention.

Again, I don’t think the military steps in, because of the legacies of the dictatorship and the opposition to what the regime did, even among those who did not live through it. But this sense of despair in all political parties and politicians, coupled with the general lack of calls for a military intervention, simultaneously shows how conditions for a coup can come about, and how much Brazil has transformed since 1985.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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