Brazil, which hosts the 2016 Olympic Games in just a matter of months, has plunged into chaos with the sudden decision of the Brazil House of Representatives to hold an impeachment trial for President Dilma Rousseff. The country had already been under scrutiny for what many saw as a lack of planning and security related to the Rio Olympics, as well as the Zika virus which has been found in Brazil.
Now Rousseff is out due to a massive corruption scandal. Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in Brazil right now:
The allegations of corruption against Rousseff go back to her first term in office, which started in 2011. Petrobas is a state massive oil company which has been accused of giving kickbacks to other politicians. The multinational corporation is the largest company in Latin America, with its headquarters in Rio. The government owns about 64 percent of the company’s shares.
Rousseff once served as the company’s chairwoman, but so far has not been tied to the kickback scheme. Instead, she is accused of borrowing money from state financial institutions to hide the country’s significant defect before the 2014 elections. But that’s not all. Rousseff is not the only politician implicated in the scandal. Former President Luis Inácio (Lula) da Silva was also allegedly corrupt.
In 2014, Brazil’s Federal Police launched Operation Car Wash to investigate issues related to possible money laundering by Petrobas. One year later, the police arrested Paulo Costa, Petrobras’ former chief of refining. Although the police interrogated Costa about potential money laundering, Costa buckled under the pressure and wound up confessing to an enormous number of kickbacks and bribery schemes involving government officials.
Costa explained to police about the vast network of racketeering and money laundering, all connected to kickbacks from overvalued contracts for the building of Petrobras’ refinery in Pernambuco between 2009-2014. Eventually more than 95 people were indicted on corruption charges, including many of the highest officials in the Brazilian government.
Now the entire world is wondering whether these events will have any impact on the Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has already spoken out, claiming the Games will not be affected by the crisis because the event was planned so far in advance. “These kinds of political issues have much less influence than at other stages of organizing the Olympic Games,” the IOC said. The biggest hurdle for any Olympic host city is getting the facilities built on time. Brazil insists its buildings are nearly complete. However, ticket sales have been slow, lagging to just 55 percent being sold. Although other countries sold out most events well in advice, Brazil experts say that Brazilians are simply late buyers.
Others are not so sure. When Rio was awarded the games back in 2009, the country had one of the most robust economies in the world. The country is now in a recession that is its worst since the 1930s. The real has lost more than a third of its value and unemployment is nearing 10 percent. With these challenges have come sweeping budget cuts, which may impact services at the games.
Pollution and security issues are also on the minds of Olympic participants. Studies have show contaminated water at some of the venues. The Zika virus caused the Americans and several other countries to warn its athletes to stay away from Olympic Village.