Brazil leadership crisis latest woe for Rio Olympics

Apr 12, 2016 | International, News

São Paulo - Manifestação na Avenida Paulista, região central da capital, contra a corrupção e pela saída da presidenta Dilma Rousseff (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

Protesters gather in Sao Paulo in opposition of Brazil president Dilma Rousseff. (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

Phil Witmer

The ongoing political unrest in Brazil is just among many factors that may jeopardize the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A commission by Brazil’s federal government voted 38-27 on Tuesday in favour of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.

The results are the latest chapter in a corruption scandal that has persisted for more than a year and has forced Brazilians to draw lines in the sand over whether they support the popular president.

“This behaviour is not like us,” said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Institute in Washington, D.C.

“People know Brazilians as very easygoing and friendly. We have become a divided country, and I feel that reflects badly on our public image.”

However, the public unrest that has resulted in thousands-strong anti-Rousseff protests across the country has been almost entirely peaceful.

According to Sotero, much of what happens to the Games depends on whether those demonstrations stay that way.

“There are two outcomes: either Rousseff is impeached on Sunday and hopefully the new government comes together in time for the Olympics,”said Sotero. “Or she stays, which will cause the economic crisis to deepen even more, which will make people more frustrated.”

Brazil’s suffering economy, with inflation up to 10.6 per cent, remains at the root of many of the other problems plaguing the country and could hamper the games themselves.

Brazil’s stock market saw prices rise in some sectors Tuesday morning upon the news of Rousseff moving closer to impeachment, Bloomberg reported.

“This economic situation is affecting the capacity of Rio de Janeiro to close marketing contracts for the Olympics,” said Augusto Mathias, a Toronto city planner and Brazilian expatriate.

Even if wasn’t for the politics, Brazil has had much bad press to deal with in 2016.

“I believe that the negative news from Brazil such the Zika virus and the problems surrounding the final stretch towards the games are already causing severe impacts,” said Mathias, referring to the violent police raids in the “favelas” or slums of Rio meant to clear out unwanted criminal activity.

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held from Aug. 5-21.