Commentary: Why Rousseff’s impeachment battle is bad for Brazil – but could be good for democracy

Latin America was synonymous with political instability throughout the 20th century. The specter of military coups faded in the 1980s, yet political crises — like the one now engulfing Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff — still plague the region.

If Rousseff loses her looming impeachment battle over claims of illegal accounting, she will be the 18th elected Latin American president since 1985 (excluding Haiti) forced to leave office by means other than the ballot box. And the second Brazilian president since Fernando Collor de Mello resigned under threat of impeachment in 1992.

When the military stays in the barracks and presidential ousters follow the constitutional rules, it is tempting to see this as a good sign for democracy. After all, if corrupt presidents are being impeached for misdeeds, doesn’t it show that checks and balances are working?

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