Presidential Scandal Triggers Nation Wide Protests in Brazil

October 10, 2016

In Brazil, March 15th marks the end of the dictatorial era of Brazil, but this past March 15th marked a different and equally as important date in history; this year millions of protesters took to the streets throughout Brazil to protest the current president, Dilma Rousseff. Dilma, and her Worker’s Party colleagues, have been in the midst of a national scandal since the end of 2014. While Brazil is no stranger to corruption scandal, the scale and repercussions of the current Petrobras scandal have left many Brazilians angered and frustrated and many are seeking impeachment for Rousseff.

At the end of 2014, the federal police of Brazil, along with the Supreme Court, began investigating bribery and money laundering allegations between the state-run oil giant Petrobras and Rousseff’s Worker’s Party. Government officials, including the head of congress, have been accused of taking money from contractors working for Petrobras for personal funds as well as taking money for Dilma’s 2010 presidential campaign. Dilma was the chairwoman of Petrobras from 2003 to 2010 under the presidency of Lula - another president from the the Workers Party - and many people believe that there is no way that Dilma could not have known about the scheme that channeled money to her campaign while overseeing the company.

Amidst this scandal, which is turning out to be one of the biggest scandals in Brazilian history, the economy has also taken a turn for the worst. The real, Brazil’s national currency is currently at 3.2 to every dollar. When I first arrived to Brazil in January the rate was 2.7 to $USD 1, so this marks a large jump in a short amount of time. Beginning last year, Brazil’s economy has also not shown any growth in the GDP, and there is little growth expected this year which could cause a recession during Rousseff’s second term.

It is no surprise that millions of people from around Brazil in cities big and small took to the streets to protest Dilma. Many people see their once bright future dwindling away, while other people are tired of the lack of transparency in Brazilian politics. While Lula and Dilma’s Worker’s Party has hoisted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, it does not seem that they can turn around the national economy, which is just as important. Dilma has tried to implement austerity acts but has not been able to pass many, worsening the economic problems for Brazil.

Dilma currently has a 13% approval rating and many protesters are calling for her impeachment.1 Brazilian presidents have been impeached in the past but analysts are skeptical that anything will happen. While her approval ratings are low, she was democratically elected and still has the support of poor and working class Brazilians, which makes up a large percentage of the population, especially in the northeast of Brazil. Further investigation of the Petrobras scandal will be illuminating but until then Brazilians are in a state of unrest about what the future holds for this country that has high hopes for international recognition.


1)Romero, Simon. "Brazil’s Slumping Economy and Bribery Scandal Eat Away at Dilma Rousseff’s Popularity." The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/world/americas/brazils-slumping-economy-and-bribery-scandal-eat-away-at-dilma-rousseffs-popularity.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone&_r=0>.

2)Romero, Simon. "In Nationwide Protests, Angry Brazilians Call for Ouster of President." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/16/world/anger-bubbles-up-against-brazilian-president.html>.

3) "Protestos Contra O Governo Reúnem Quase 1 Milhão Pelo País." Folha. N.p., 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2015/03/1603286-protestos-contra-o-governo-reune-quase-1-milhao-pelo-pais.shtml>.

About Author(s)

Sophia Winston
Sophia Winston is a Spanish and Urban Studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is also pursuing a certificate in Latin American Studies and a minor in Portuguese. She has spent a semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is currently a senior.