Impeaching Dilma Rousseff: the double life of corruption allegations on Brazil’s political right

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

This essay analyses the 2016 congressional impeachment of Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, for alleged budgetary misconduct, as well as the related right-wing, ‘anti-corruption’ demonstrations calling for her ouster. I argue that Rousseff’s impeachment was facilitated by a conflation of two models of ‘corruption’ operating in Brazil, one legal-behavioural and the other religious-ontological. What happened in 2016 was a tacit conflation of these two models, along with their associated regimes for construing evidence of guilt. More specifically, congressional deliberations on Rousseff’s guilt allowed jurisprudential standards of evidence to be influenced by the evidential regime of the right-wing Fora Dilma (‘Out Dilma’) demonstrators. The demonstrators evinced Rousseff’s corruption through a semiotic process I term ‘cross-domain homology’, a process that I claim is intrinsically dangerous for democracy because it invites a state of exception to the norms girding representative institutions.

Dilma Rousseff, Corruption, Brazil