The recent impeachment of Brazil's president without bloodshed or political repercussions represents a significant establishment of true democracy in that country for the first time, says a Kansas University doctoral student who is writing a dissertation on the process.
"I think it can set an example for the masses in all other developing countries that the (democratic) system does work," said Alice Araujo, a KU graduate student in communications from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Araujo has a particular interest in recent events in her country: She is writing her doctoral dissertation on Brazil's most recent election and the role of democracy in the country.
Recent events in Brazil have focused on Fernando Collor de Mello, elected in 1990 as Brazil's first freely elected leader in 29 years.
He was impeached Sept. 29 by the Brazilian Congress following charges of corruption. He is accused of receiving $6.5 million from a slush fund run by his 1989 campaign treasurer, Paulo Cesar Farias.
Vice President Itamar Franco was named acting president, while Collor is being put on trial.
ARAUJO'S dissertation focuses on democracy becoming a "cultural ritual" in Brazil for the first time.
"For the first time in 30 years, not only were the people able to elect the president, but they were able to get rid of him," she said. "Now Brazil can say it is truly a democracy."
The country, with a population of 150 million and the world's ninth-largest economy, is unique in Latin America in that it was established by the Portuguese and not the Spanish.
However, it is similar to other Latin American countries in that corruption and bribery remain a problem and that the rich and powerful are believed above the law.
Araujo said Collor's impeachment shows it is possible to remove an unpopular leader without violence, something rarely achieved in developing countries, where the power of a few often outweighs popular opinion.
"It was a very visible kind of process," she said. "It gave us a positive kind of visibility.
"WHAT'S important about the impeachment process is that it reaffirms the system," she said. "Hopefully, it will empower the masses in other countries in the region to think that the people can make a difference."
She also said that in Brazil, "being able to celebrate democracy is a ritual people have enacted."
Asked why President Bush and other U.S. politicians, who often laud the importance of democracy, have said little about recent events in Brazil, Araujo said, "I'm not surprised. Latin America is not very important to the United States politically."