Fernando Collor de Mello knows the Brazilian impeachment process well. In 1992, as president, he faced impeachment proceedings against him for alleged corrupt activity. He stepped down before the Senate could vote him out, has returned as a senator, and voted “yes” to impeach now ex-president Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday.
Senator Collor de Mello took the Senate floor on Wednesday, shared candid memories of his time as president, and accused Rousseff of hubris, having rejected his advice at the beginning of the impeachment process.
He accused her of driving the nation into “ruins” and the economic crisis facing Brazil of being “only a symptom… of a deeper state of crisis: moral crisis.” He noted that it took less than four months for him to choose to resign over being impeached — the Senate never got a chance to vote him out — and lamented that he felt slighted by the presidential palace, as the only other Brazilian in history to know what it is like to be impeached.
Collor de Mello, now representing the center-right Christian Workers’ Party (PTC) in the Brazilian Senate, was accused of embezzling over 6.5 million dollars during his presidency between 1990 and 1992. He resigned in December 1992 after thousands took to the streets to demand his removal before he had completed his first term as the youngest president in Brazil’s history. El Salvador’s El Diario de Hoy notes that among those leftists leaders calling for his removal was a young Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, predecessor to Dilma Rousseff as head of state. Lula is quoted as saying there would be “no negotiating with someone who has stolen millions.”
Lula — who appointed Rousseff his Minister of Energy during the time period in which a massive kickback scheme at the state-run oil corporation Petrobras took hold — made a name for himself as an anti-corruption crusader in the late 1980s and early 1990s before becoming president as a member of the socialist Workers’ Party (PT). In 1988, he delivered a speech in which he declared: “When a poor man steals, he goes to jail, but when a rich man steals, he becomes a minister.”
Following the opening of an investigation against Lula for allegedly having used Petrobras money to buy beachfront property, Rousseff appointed him to her cabinet of ministers in March.
Collor de Mello, meanwhile, was allowed to return to politics after a 1994 investigation found him innocent of all corruption charges. He emphatically reminded listeners Wednesday that “there was no crime” on his behalf.
Rousseff, too, has repeatedly reminded listeners in speeches that she is not being accused of any corruption. “I did not commit a crime of responsibility, I do not have mystery [offshore] accounts, I never received bribes,” she said in her goodbye speech Thursday. “I never thought it would be necessary to fight against a coup in my country again,” she lamented.
The Brazilian Congress has not accused her of any crimes, only of committing impeachable offenses as president. Namely, Rousseff stands accused of using executive orders to take out large loans that made the state of the Brazilian national bank look better than it actually was, deceiving foreign investors. She admits to the charges but claims all presidents before her have used their powers similarly.
Brazil now has a new president: Michel Temer of the center-left Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Temer, like most leftist politicians in Brazil today, remains widely unpopular, with over half of respondents to a survey taken in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, saying they support Temer’s impeachment, as well. Temer has shown indications that he will be more business-friendly than Rousseff, and rumors suggest he is open to appointing popular right-wing politicians to his cabinet, namely Congressman Bruno Araujo.