On Tuesday former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff left the presidential palace in Brasilia and boarded a plane for her adopted home city of Porto Alegre.
She leaves behind a successor who risks indictment for far worse offences than the ones that brought her down, and a country that has lost its right to a place among the BRICS. The BRICS began as a collection of large, fast-growing countries in the poorer parts of the world identified as emerging global powers in 2001: Brazil, Russia, India and China. (South Africa and the capital S were added in 2010.)
Nobody enjoyed their new status more than the Brazilians, but it was always an illusion. Like South Africa, Brazil was an imposter, lacking the critical combination of population, resources and industry that entitles a country to a place in the first rank.
Brazil was a fairly plausible imposter during the years of the great boom in commodity prices, but for the past two years it has been in deep economic trouble.
It was Rousseff’s misfortune to win the 2014 presidential election just as the bottom dropped out of the country’s economic “miracle.”
Her predecessor as president, Luiz Inacio (Lula) da Silva, exploited the boom to build a modest welfare state that lifted 50 million Brazilians out of poverty.
Rousseff struggled to maintain those gains in the midst of Brazil’s worst recession since the 1930s — the economy shrank by almost four per cent last year — and she became the least popular president in Brazilian history.
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