By a 55-22 vote in the senate, Dilma Rousseff was suspended (not impeached) and now the trial begins. That came after a weird and brief effort to annul the vote in the lower house.
Colin Snider looks at the saga in some detail and notes this:
Is that a coup? Not as we’ve often thought of coups, but it’s time to reconsider what the word means in the 21st century, and how coups can and do operate. It’s not an old-school coups of the 20th century, with sudden, violent, physical overthrow. What it is is much what it was in Paraguay in 2012, albeit in a different national context: one branch of the government – the legislative – dominated by elites who are the traditional power-brokers, bristling at the executive branch’s ability to disrupt the elites’ traditional monopolization of power by improving the lives of the marginalized and the masses. Being unable to win the presidency themselves in this new context, they have reacted by using institutional mechanisms to remove a democratically elected president.
I actually don't agree with this. If it doesn't fit the commonly accepted definition of a coup, then it's not a coup. It is something else. That something else is definitely not good for democracy, but it's not a coup.
Sean Burges and Fabricio Chagas Bastos view it in similar terms as Colin:
If you were under the impression that Dilma was impeached for corruption instead of the somewhat fuzzier idea of fiscal impropriety you stand in good company with most of the Chamber of Deputies. It was not until the 81 vote was cast last Sunday that a Deputy correctly identified the “crime” they were judging amongst their cries of “for Jesus”, “for my nephew”, “for Brazil”, and even “for Colonel Brilhante Ustra” (who tortured Dilma in 1973). Almost all of the deputies seeking Dilma’s ouster accused her of corruption with some directlylinking her to the Lava Jato investigation of malfeasance in Petrobras contracting. Aside from the handful that abstained, almost no one on either side of the aisle directly addressed the formal charge against her.
What this became is the equivalent of a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. Those happen when a majority in the legislature are unhappy, and doesn't have anything to do with corruption. The problem is that it can't work in a presidential system where the president is elected by a different constituency and does not serve at the pleasure of the legislature.
Further, as Ryan Carlin, Gregory Love, and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo point out, the only reason this is happening is because the Brazilian economy is not doing well.
A decade ago, full of optimism about the country’s economic prospects, most Brazilians were willing to brush aside the accusations against Lula’s government and grant him a second term. Today, however, with Brazil’seconomic output in decline, commodity prices collapsing and inflation reaching double digits, Brazilians have shown substantially less tolerance. Instead they protested against government corruption, pressuring their representatives to impeach the president.In a recent study examining how scandals shape presidential public approval, we find that the linkages between scandals and economic performance extend far beyond Brazil. In fact, looking at data from 84 presidential regimes across Latin America, we find that presidentialapproval ratings are very sensitive to charges of corruption, but only if the country is experiencing high inflation, high unemployment, or both.
Boz is a bit more positive:
Yes, this is definitely worth noting. AMLO's responses did not serve his own party or cause well. The Brian Winter article Boz links to discusses how she was steadfast in allowing the corruption probe to continue.
To her credit, the president has allowed the institutional process to play out even as she has defiantly fought the charges against her. As Brian Winter writes, Rousseff did not stand in the way of the Lava Jato investigation, even at the risk to her own presidency. She isn’t AMLO, anointing herself the legitimate president in a farcical ceremony amid governing institutions that rule to the contrary. She isn’t Maduro, using dirty tricks and repression to hold on to power, even at the cost of repeatedly violating the country’s constitution. In every step up to this point, Rousseff has shown herself to be a democrat who respects the institutional and constitutional rules, even if she disagrees with how her opponents are using them to remove her from power.
I covered Rousseff closely for five years as a reporter, and if there’s a more “Dilma” anecdote out there, I don’t know it. This one has it all: her blustery arrogance, her refusal to listen to even her closest aides, and her apparent inability to understand just how much trouble she was in, right to the very end. But it also has what may prove to be Rousseff’s saving grace in the annals of Brazilian history: her refusal, for the most part, to stand in the way of corruption investigations at Petrobras and elsewhere, even when it became clear they would contribute to her demise.
And indeed, people are going down for corruption in Brazil. We can only hope that the momentum continues, especially as the very corrupt new president Michel Temer takes office.
So now the trial starts, and we watch to see what Rousseff does, how the trial goes, and whether Temer's proposed austerity measures make Brazilians even more unhappy.