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Editorial: Effects of political strife in Brazil on Summer Olympics worrisome

The lower chamber of Brazil's Congress voted to approve an impeachment resolution against President Dilma Rousseff. Many in the upper house are also believed to be in favor of impeaching the president, making it highly likely that Rousseff will be removed from office. That means that the Rio Olympics set for August will be held without the hosting country's head of state.

The impeachment measures are based on government accounting irregularities designed to hide the budget deficit. The Rousseff administration claimed that what it did was nothing new, as it was common for past administrations to employ the same budgetary tricks. The government's approval rating continued to tank, however, prompting a spate of defections from the ruling coalition.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a wealth distribution-focused economic policy that began with Rousseff's predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Under the Lula administration, there was a massive influx of capital resulting from the global monetary easing trend. Exports of natural resources to China boomed. The leftist Lula implemented generous anti-poverty measures using abundant funds, and boasted high approval ratings until the end of his tenure.

However, the situation changed when Lula's successor Rousseff took office. The capital that had kept Brazil's economy afloat began to dwindle, as the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its interest rate. The slowdown of the Chinese economy resulted in lower natural resource prices. Brazil's economy tumbled into negative growth. The effects were so significant that while some 30 million people had climbed out of poverty under the Lula administration, approximately 8 million have slipped back into poverty from the middle class in the past two years.

At the same time, a massive corruption scandal involving senior ruling party officials -- including the beloved previous president -- came to light. And although Rousseff herself is not a subject of the corruption investigations, the public's anger over the recession and corruption is being directed at her.

The effects of this state of affairs on this summer's Rio Olympics are worrisome.

Fortunately, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, said late last year that the Olympics were unlikely to be affected by politics at that point. There are no construction delays like there were leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil, and most of the facilities for the Olympics have already been completed. The kind of anti-World Cup protests seen two years ago have not been repeated ahead of the Summer Olympics, sources say.

Still, President Rousseff has cancelled plans to attend the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Greece. If she is dismissed, Vice President Michel Temer will be the one welcoming heads of state at the Rio Games opening ceremony.

If that happens, it will greatly tarnish Brazil's international reputation as a fast-growing BRICS nation, and the first South American country to host the Olympics.

According to public opinion polls, at least 60 percent of the Brazilian public is in favor of removing Rousseff from office. Looking at Brazil's economic landscape, however, changing the administration will not necessarily make it easier to improve the economy. Many problems that are closely intertwined with people's lives have yet to be sufficiently dealt with, including the spread of the Zika virus, and require prompt measures.

As the international community's eyes and ears are on Brazil ahead of the Olympics, we hope that Brazil's political world regains its calm and composure.

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