Brazilian president’s impeachment trial affects Utah’s Brazilian community

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Utah’s Brazilian community watched as Brazil’s Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday, May 12. She will face an impeachment trial for political scandals involving the Brazilian oil company Petrobras.

Rousseff is accused of manipulating accounts to hide budget shortfalls, which violates Brazil’s fiscal laws. She is alleged to have made her government’s economic performance appear better than it was by tampering with public funds. Rousseff did this in order to increase her chances for a second term.

An anti-government demonstrator celebrates the result of the impeachment process outside Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 12, 2016. Brazil's Senate voted Thursday to impeach President Dilma Rousseff just months before it hosts the Summer Olympics. Rousseff's ally-turned-enemy, Vice President Michel Temer, will take over as acting president later Thursday while she is suspended. The Senate has 180 days to conduct a trial and decide whether Rousseff should be permanently removed from office. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
An anti-government demonstrator celebrates the result of the impeachment process outside Congress in Brasilia, Brazil. Brazil’s Senate voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff just months before it hosts the Summer Olympics.  (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

BYU’s latest student demographic statistics show Brazil has been a top-five supplier of the university’s international students since 2004. Although Brazilians at BYU may not be directly affected by politics in their home country, they see how it impacts their families overseas.

Gary Neeleman, Honorary Consul of Brazil in Salt Lake City, said Rousseff’s impeachment can have an economic effect on Brazilians in Utah.

“Brazilians here are concerned about their country,” Neeleman said. “A lot of them are trying to help their families in Brazil, which is undergoing a struggling economy right now.”

Neeleman said there are about 16,000 Brazilians living in Utah.

Neeleman said 11 million people in Brazil are unemployed because of its current economic crisis. Brazil is currently under its “worst recession in decades,” according to the Associated Press.

Dilma Rousseff
Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff stands inside the presidential residence Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Associated Press that “Brazil has had economic (and political) crises before … It’s rare that they get both of them at the same time.”

Rubia McLane, a Brazilian adjunct faculty in the Portuguese Department at BYU, is the only member of her family living in the U.S. She worries about her family in Brazil because of the increasing crime rate and economic turmoil, but hopes the impeachment will improve living conditions in Brazil.

“A lot of people have to sell their property because they simply cannot afford it anymore,” McLane said.

BYU linguistics major Karla Bohorquez from São Paulo hopes Rousseff’s impeachment helps Brazil regain the trust of overseas investors. She teaches English to a majority of Brazilian students at Internexus in Provo and was fascinated with her students’ responses to news of the impeachment.

“A lot of the students saw the impeachment as a sign of hope,” she said. “Half of my students came here to escape Brazil because they’ve given up, while the other half wants to learn English so they can return to Brazil and help their country.”

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