Brazil is in the throes of a deep political and economic crisis at a time when the country needs to shine ahead of the fast approaching Olympics this summer.
A shaky government seems to be on the brink of toppling, the economy is battling its worst recession in 25 years, and the country is ground zero for the world’s number one health concern: the Zika virus.
There are widespread protests calling for the impeachment of Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff and prosecutors recently charged her wildly popular predecessor former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with money laundering.
A two-year investigation has unraveled an endless web of bribes involving Brazil’s massive state-run oil company, Petrobras. It has ensnared a slew of politicians, top execs and billionaires, who have either been arrested or imprisoned.
President Rousseff has not been implicated. She has denied any knowledge or ties to the bribery scandal even though she was the chairwoman of Petrobras from 2003 to 2010 when much of the corruption took place.
If you’re just catching up, here’s a timeline of the latest developments in Brazil and how we got to this point.
April 2, 2016: As turmoil rocks the country, Brazil hasn’t been able to sell too many Olympic tickets. With only half the tickets sold, Brazil’s new minister of sports, Ricardo Leyser, is exploring ways to boost ticket sales. He told Brazilian newspaper Folha that the government may purchase tickets and distribute them to public schools. Leyser was tapped to replace Brazil’s former sports minister, who resigned just days ago.
March 29, 2016: Impeachment odds increase for Rousseff. The biggest political party in Brazil, PMDB, voted to leave the coalition of parties led by Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. The loss of support greatly increases the chances of Congress voting for impeachment. Rousseff faces a possible impeachment trial for allegedly breaking budgetary laws to hide a deficit ahead of her 2014 reelection.
March 4, 2016: Police raids former President Lula’s home. Law enforcement officials detain Lula for several hours of questioning, alleging that he accepted a vacation home from a Brazilian construction company that received generous contracts from Petobras. Lula denies the allegations. A few days later President Rousseff appoints Lula as chief of staff. The move would partially shield Lula from prosecution. A judge suspends the appointment.
January 2016: Brazil is declared ground zero of Zika pandemic: The World Health Organization says the virus is “spreading explosively” through the region, threatening infants and pregnant women.
December 2015: Proceedings to impeach president begin, but are later put on pause. One of Rousseff’s biggest foes in Congress, Eduardo Cunha, begins impeachment proceedings against Rousseff. Then Brazil’s Congress went on summer recess and the impeachment process was put on the backburner.
November 2015: Rousseff’s top party rep in Congress and a billionaire arrested: Senator Delcidio do Amaral, the top representative of Rousseff’s party in Congress, is arrested for trying to obstruct the Petrobras investigation. Billionaire Andre Esteves is jailed for the same reasons too.
August 2015: Brazil officially falls into recession. It is currently the country’s worst recession in 25 years. Unemployment is rising, consumer confidence has plummeted and foreign investors have fled.
April 2015: The scandal gets closer to Brazil’s president. Police arrest Joao Vaccari, the treasurer of Dilma Rousseff’s political party, the Workers’ Party. It’s the first major arrest in Rousseff’s inner circle after the scandal had widened dramatically.
October 2014: Rousseff narrowly wins re-election. She only won 51.59% of the vote, beating opposition candidate Aecio Neves. It was one of the tightest elections in Brazil in years.
March 2014: The first big arrest. Petrobras’ director of refining, Paulo Roberto Costa, is arrested after investigators find out that he accepted a Land Rover from a money launderer. Soon Costa coughs up a lot of names of politicians connected to the scam. This was in exchange for a plea bargain and lighter prison sentence. He later received one year of house arrest instead of the original sentence of seven years.
The Petrobras case is quickly dubbed “Operation Car Wash” because investigators originally pursued illegal money managers who allegedly wired transferred money between Petrobras and overseas bank accounts.
But by then, millions of Brazilians had already started taking to the streets to protest government corruption.