The impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, now former president of Brazil, yesterday by the Brazilian Senate has predictably sent shockwaves throughout Latin America. But the way each country reacted to the predictable, yet still shocking, news exemplified just how Michel Temer, Brazil’s new president, will be leading the biggest country in a region that is marked by political tension.
After the vote, President Mauricio Macri’s administration issued a statement in which it stated that Argentina “respects the institutional process” that led to Rousseff’s impeachment and the Foreign Ministry “reaffirm[ed] its willingness to continue down the road of a real and effective integration within the framework of an absolute respect for human rights, democratic institutions and international law.”
In addition, the Foreign Ministry also said it “renew[ed] its desire to continue working with the Brazilian government to resolve issues of mutual interest in the bilateral agendas […] as well as the strengthening of Mercosur.”
This reaction was a) very prompt, as had been the government’s reaction to her suspension in May and b) in line with its strategy of trying to stay neutral in the impeachment proceedings.
Argentina is part of a minority in the region to recognize the new Brazilian administration, as several governments across Latin America are criticizing what they call an “institutional coup” and supporting Rousseff.
“This coup d’état isn’t just against Dilma. It is against Latin America and the Caribbean. It is against us. This is an attack against the popular, progressive, leftist movement,” said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in a speech.
Since the arrival of Macri as president of Argentina, there has been a perceived move to the right end of the political scale in regional politics, putting an end to the alliance of left-wing governments (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and to a lesser extent, Brazil and Argentina) that were usually anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist.
As such, new diplomatic alliances and fronts are being outlined and Rousseff’s ouster has brought them to the forefront: Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua voiced their criticism of the “coup” at the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday:
“Although this Council is pretending that nothing is going on, there has been a parliamentary coup in the biggest country in South America,” said Bolivian ambassador Diego Pary.
The governments of Ecuador and Bolivia have recalled their ambassadors in protest and Brazil has done the same.
Meanwhile, both Chile and Paraguay have accompanied Argentina in recognizing Brazil’s new government: for Paraguay, “the decision was made through Brazil’s democratic institutions” while Chile posits that it “trusts that Brazil will solve it’s problems [democratically].” Brazil’s new role in regional politics has yet to be defined, although Temer’s more conservative outlook would — on paper, at least — align more closely with those of Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.
Uruguay, for its part, has been conspicuously silent on the issue. When asked about Rousseff’s ouster, Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa answered: “What do you want me to say?”
In any case, the multiple crises across Latin American states has meant that regional diplomatic relations weren’t at their best, anyway. A Mercosur Summit was cancelled in July due to the ongoing impeachment process and Venezuela’s ongoing sociopolitical crisis has in turn caused tensions to rise across the region. Uruguay was up against Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay regarding Venezuela taking the Mercosur’s rotating presidency, which the other countries considered it was unfit to do.
“The Venezuelan government has no moral standing to talk about democracy, since they don’t have a democratic regime,” said Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra, defending the legality of Rousseff’s impeachment when faced with Maduro’s criticism.
Mercosur is a regional trade bloc established in 1991 comprising member states Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. It focuses mainly on developing economic measures aimed at promoting free trade and market union.