During the vote to impeach Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on 17 April, Joaquim Barbosa, the lead supreme court justice in the prosecution of the mensalão cash-for-votes scandal and one of the few elder statesmen to enjoy support from across the country’s political divide, voiced the thoughts of many when he wrote on Twitter: “It’s enough to make one weep for shame.” Regardless of the eventual outcome of the impeachment process, the spectacle of Brazil’s 513 federal congressional deputies casting their votes aloud in an atmosphere akin to a stand full of drunken football supporters will linger long in the collective memory and alienate yet further many Brazilians sceptical of the efficacy of their democracy.

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