On Sunday, Brazilian lawmakers voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff over alleged corruption. And that could make life a little uncomfortable for Hillary Clinton, who said just four years ago that Rousseff herself set “a global standard” for transparency.
That was then.
Now, thanks to allegedly shady accounting practices and her connection to a scandal involving Brazil’s state-owned oil company, polls show that more than 60 percent of Brazilians want Rousseff impeached. You wouldn’t have predicted this four years ago if you’d listened to Clinton, who then called Rousseff a role model of openness for other world leaders.
Clinton made those comments on April 17, 2012, when she addressed the Open Government Partnership in Brasilia. It was the first yearly meeting of the partnership, which the United States and Brazil spearheaded to encourage government transparency. Member countries—including Brazil—committed to “having robust anti-corruption policies, mechanisms and practices, ensuring transparency in the management of public finances and government purchasing, and strengthening the rule of law.”
Clinton pointed to Rousseff as a great example of an enemy of corruption.
“So we now have a chance to set a new global standard for good governance and to strengthen a global ethos of transparency and accountability,” Clinton said as she wrapped up her remarks that day, according to a State Department transcript. “And there is no better partner to have started this effort and to be leading it than Brazil, and in particular, President Rousseff. Her commitment to openness, transparency, her fight against corruption is setting a global standard.”
The conservative Washington Free Beacon flagged that comment on March 28.
A week after praising her in Brazil, Clinton name-checked Rousseff at the Time 100 gala in New York City.
“I want to give a shout-out to Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff and Portia Miller, Christine Lagarde, who are also on the list and prove once again that you actually can run the world in heels and pantsuits, because the day is over when women leaders could only aspire to a supporting role,” she said at the event. “And by the way, I think we may have just found Kristen Wiig’s next movie: She can call it Bridesmaids No Longer.’”
Clinton and Rousseff weren’t strangers; on Jan. 1, 2011, Clinton attended Rousseff’s inauguration, according to the State Department’s historian. And Clinton praised Rousseff at the March 2012 Women in the World Summit, an event co-sponsored at the time by The Daily Beast.
“You can look around the world today and you can see the difference that individual women leaders are making,” Clinton said. “Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, who’s now leading U.N. women. They carry an enormous load for the rest of us, because it is hard for any leader—male or female. But I don’t fear contradiction when I say it is harder for women leaders.”
Clinton is unlikely to give Rousseff any more shout-outs. The lower chamber of Brazil’s legislature voted on Sunday to impeach her; 367 members voted against her, according to CNN, while only 167 voted to keep her in power. The country’s senate will now vote on whether to keep impeachment proceedings in the works.
Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
At issue is, well, Rousseff’s commitment to transparency. During her 2014 re-election bid, she used illegal accounting tricks to hide a ballooning government budget deficit, according to a unanimous ruling from the Brazilian federal court. If that wasn’t enough, the state-run oil company Petrobras has also drawn members of Rousseff’s party and her close allies into a massive scandal. Rousseff’s backers say the impeachment is politically motivated, and her foes are embroiled in corruption scandals of their own.
Still, it’s a messy situation.
“Between 2004 and 2014, Petrobras executives overcharged the company for construction contracts and funneled millions of dollars of extra cash to themselves or others, or politicians, including members of Rousseff’s Workers Party,” explained The Atlantic.
Though Rousseff has not been directly implicated in the scandal, she was on the company’s board as it unfolded. And it’s been enormously damaging to her, according to reports. Millions of Brazilians protested against Rousseff and her government last month. According to The Atlantic, most Brazilians want her gone.
As Clinton said at the Time gala, you can run the world in a pantsuit. But you can also get impeached in one.