Brazilians and the politicians they hate to love

4 min

Brasília (AFP)

Brazilians clamoring for President Dilma Rousseff's ouster like to refer to the scandal-tainted politician who launched the impeachment drive in Congress as their "favorite villain."

They're not really fans of House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, or even the man in line to succeed Rousseff if she's impeached, Vice President Michel Temer.

In fact, they see them, along with fellow centrist PMDB party member and Senate president Renan Calheiros, as part of a widely corrupt political class that needs to be purged.

Still, among the pro-impeachment camp, this cast of characters is the lesser of two evils compared to the leftist president, her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and their scandal-plagued Workers Party (PT).

"It is not the best option. But at the moment anything else is better than the PT," said Lidice Teixeira do Nascimento, a 43-year-old owner of a women's fashion company from Sao Paulo state.

Teixeira was among a group of impeachment supporters who camped out in Brasilia over the weekend, joining tens of thousands of people outside Congress as the lower house voted in favor of impeachment.

She knows Cunha is among several politicians implicated in a massive corruption case at state oil giant Petrobras.

But like many others, she calls him "my favorite villain" -- the Portuguese title of the animated movie "Despicable Me" about a loveable bad guy with an army of yellow minions.

"He's the one who opened the impeachment process," Teixeira said, sitting next to a tent as she broke into a song about Rousseff's ouster with the refrain "ciao dear."

A survey by the daily Folha de S.Paulo at a pro-impeachment protest in Sao Paulo last Sunday found that 87 percent of people were for Cunha's ouster.

As for Temer, 54 percent want him to be impeached. As vice president, he could face the same charges confronting Rousseff, of using creative accounting to mask budget deficits.

- 'One of biggest thieves' -

Rousseff's impeachment case is now in the hands of the Senate, which will vote by mid-May whether to suspend her and put her on trial.

Although she has never been charged with graft, anti-Rousseff protests focus on the massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, allegations against Lula and the country's massive recession.

Few protesters ever mention the impeachment allegations against her, which have nothing to do with the misdeeds at the oil company.

For his part, Calheiros -- who presides over the upper chamber -- faces allegations of taking bribes in the Petrobras case.

"Calheiros is one of the biggest bandits that Brazilian politics have produced," said Celso Anaruma, a 56-year-old truck driver from Sao Paulo state, as he packed up his tent at the Brasilia camp site.

"Cunha is not a saint, but he's not the worst thing," he added. "The worst thing is the PT. Even an idiot is better than Dilma."

As for Temer, many point out that while his name came up in an alleged illegal ethanol deal in the Petrobras case, he has not been charged with any crime.

"I think he's a little better than (Rousseff)," said Charlo Ferreson, a 43-year-old hairdresser from Rio de Janeiro sitting on a lawn chair and wearing a T-shirt reading "Move forward Brazil."

The right thing to do, she said, would be to hold new elections.

"The problem is that Brazil doesn't have any good options" for president, she said.

At another tent under the shade of trees, Andrea Basilio said Temer should also go.

"We need to impeach all of them and have new elections," said Basilio, 51, an operating room technician from Sao Paulo with a tattoo on her arm. "It's the biggest corruption in the world."

Still, she also called Cunha her "favorite villain," saying that compared to the crimes of other politicians, his transgressions made him merely a "chicken thief."

- Military option -

More than 58 percent of the lower house's 513 deputies face or have faced criminal charges that include corruption, murder and rape, according to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparencia Brasil.

In the Senate, 60 percent have been convicted or probed in crimes, the NGO says.

A small minority of Brazilians are so fed up with politicians that they want the military to grab power, as it did between 1964 and 1985.

"People want a total cleanup," said Rita de Cassia, 49, a retired teacher from Campinas, Sao Paulo state, wearing a shirt in the olive green colors of military fatigues.

"We have to get rid of all of them and start over.