It’s a strange word: scapegoat. It has a Biblical heritage, in Leviticus, three times goats are sent off by a rabbi into desert oblivion, Azazel, taking with them the sins of the community of the past year. So a metaphoric goat that helps someone escape responsibility by taking the fall. Scapegoat.
An online dictionary definition: A person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.
Sure sounds like Dilma Rousseff to me. Her Brazil, when she was president from 2011 to 2016, was full of wrongdoing, mistakes, faults and crimes. And she certainly committed mistakes and faults, but she has never been charged with serious wrongdoing, much less a crime.
What she was — was “in the loop.” She “knew all the players” and she knew the game and she went along with wrongdoing on a national scale.
The famous Car Wash prosecutions revealed networks of corruption that tainted virtually every political party in Brazil, and many of the country’s top business-industrial brand names and leaders.
The national economy was being simultaneously puffed up and bled out by a public-private partnership of politicians and private sector powers, until everything crashed. Brazil’s economic growth in the years of President Lula’s reign was built on two things: commodity exports and heavy borrowing. When commodities prices bottomed out Brazilian government revenues went down with them, and paying off those big loans became more difficult and more expensive.
None of these things were Dilma Rousseff’s fault, but they happened on her watch, and to many Brazilians, all she had done was passively watch.
Her actual impeachment was — pardon me — baloney sliced thick. And everyone seems to have known it and they didn’t care. Brazil needed a goat to send off into the desert and the horns fit Dilma Rousseff, so, out she went.
Mauricio Savarese is a correspondent for the Associated Press in Brazil, based in Sao Paulo. His deeply informed reporting on a series of gang wars inside Brazilian prisons in the first week of 2017 set a high standard for his peers in the Brazilian media. He is the co-author with Peter Prengaman of Dilma’s Downfall: The Impeachment of Brazil’s First Woman President and the Pathway to Power for Jair Bolsonaro’s Far-right.