Several times in the past week, I've sat down to attempt to write about Brazil's political crisis. But it's gotten so complex and so complicated that I'm at a loss. The polarization, divisiveness and anger have hit a level I haven't seen since the 2014 election, and have actually gotten worse. Plus, things are changing so quickly - day to day, even hour to hour - that it's even hard to keep up.
So I decided to do what I could: try to get a grasp on what what's happening. I put together a guide with a timeline of major events day by day, along with primary sources. (I decided not to republish it here so I don't have to update it every day in two places, so be sure to follow it on Medium.) I've also been tracking the latest news on Twitter.
Even Brian Winter, one of the foremost political analysts on Brazil, had trouble tackling the crisis. (What he did end up writing is really helpful in understanding what's ahead.)
The crisis isn't totally unexpected. The 2013 protests were a sign of much deeper problems than just the economic ones happening now, and the 2014 election revealed partisan polarization that has only gotten worse. Last year's anti-government protests were a continuation of that polarization. And meanwhile, opposition politicians have been itchy to impeach the president. But the last few weeks have been like a slow-motion political implosion.
Live footage of Brasília this evening pic.twitter.com/waEeFPnbGz— Rachel Glickhouse (@Riogringa) March 15, 2016
The president made a major blunder in appointing Lula to her cabinet; the optics alone were terrible, and she's lost some of her last shreds of credibility. Lula shouldn't have accepted the appointment; his Teflon leadership abilities may not last the crisis. By releasing wiretaps, Judge Sérgio Moro politicized the Car Wash corruption investigation; the case could derail or not be as successful in nabbing a wider range of actors. And the impeachment process is in full gear again, and there are so many bad apples in the line of succession that any impeachment scenario is scary.
From a personal perspective, it's been upsetting to watch. While it's nice to see people politically engaged, especially some who aren't usually interested, it's not often a pretty sight. People are at each others' throats - mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally - and there's often little room for middle ground. It's hard to have a conversation about the crisis on social media; even just sharing news about Brazilian politics carries a risk of arguments or worse.
From a policy perspective, it's also depressing. The credibility of the country's major institutions is in question, when Brazil used to be a shining example of democratic stability. And Zika and the recession aren't helping. This was supposed to be Brazil's year, a chance to shine in the international spotlight again.
I've never quite been at a loss in writing about Brazil since I started nine years ago. The only thing to do now is wait and see what happens.
Image: Agência Brasil/Creative Commons.