1889, that was a coup when the military toppled the Brazilian emperor Pedro II and forced him into exile.
1964, that was a coup which lead to 20 years of military dictatorship.
2016, that is, contrary to some angry rhetoric and calls of “coup” and “putsch”, nothing of the sort.
It is an impeachment proceeding permitted by the constitution. True, it is a huge circus in which corrupt and criminal politicians are trying to impeach another politician who has not been charged with corruption by making allegations about accounting tricks which are the least of Brazil’s problems. True, it is sad for Brazilian democracy that parliamentarians explain their vote with references to their families, gods, the military dictatorship, the fight against communism or in one case “for peace in Jerusalem”. True, Brazil’s congress revealed itself in this vote as an even greater embarrassment than the national soccer team (at least President Rousseff did not lose the vote by a margin of 7 to 1). True, there are a few crazies in Brazil who want a military government. True, the mood is quite heated and the level of political debate is in a bottomless pit.
But none of this constitutes a coup or a putsch.
Rather, it is a symptom of many of the things which are in disorder in Brazil. But now the world realizes the chaos that Brazilians – at least those who wanted to see it – knew all along. Unfortunately though, and this is only one of the many causes, while millions of households advanced into the economic middle class during the years of the oil boom, there was no equally fast and widespread growth of a politically active and educated class. Nor of a differentiated and non-partisan media landscape (only Globo, Globo, Globo everywhere). And thanks to the Football World Cup and the Olympic Games, the Lula administration could make ample use of the circus part of the age-old “panem et circenses” strategy and thus distract from economic malaise. But none of these are problems that are unique to Brazil.
But one thing does apply in particular to a country with Brazil’s history: One should be careful with words like “coup” or “putsch”. No need to conjure anything up. And after all, terms like “completely fucked up” are absolutely sufficient to describe the political situation in Brazil.