Brazil Opinion

BRAZIL’S PRESIDENT TEMER IS UNFIT TO RULE

Now that people have forgotten about Dilma Rousseff, Michel Temer’s shortcomings are becoming more and more evident to the public

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michel temer brazil's president

When Dilma Rousseff was impeached a few months ago, only the naive thought it would be the start of a new Brazil. For most voters, Michel Temer’s ascension was merely the unintended outcome of Dilma’s ousting. The Brazilian political crisis, as all crises are, has been mostly driven by a negative impetus. People know what they don’t want – but have no idea of what they concretely wish for.

Most didn’t want Dilma. Many didn’t want Aecio Neves. Neither did they want Lula da Silva. And nobody wanted Temer. However, he was the least known of the four.

I don’t blame them. Temer is famous for being a mediocre politician. His political history, initiated as a kind of collaborative bureaucrat during the Military Dictatorship, is one of a shadowy operator. No vision, no project, no feats, no charisma.

Before moving into the Presidential Palace, Temer was a powerful “party man” within PMDB, occupied with extracting money from donors and making sure those donors were happy (I like to refer to him as a political butler). He became president only after having promised Brazil’s political and economic elites that he would tame the hurricane. Of course, he hasn’t.

As the memory of Dilma fades and the country runs out of scapegoats, Temer’s inadequacy as president is glaring. The economy is still shrinking. His great promise is an unprecedented massive federal spending cap, which might provoke, in the long-term, a humanitarian crisis among our most vulnerable populations. And we haven’t even touched on the endemic corruption.

For months now, Temer has been covertly negotiating with leaders of all major political parties for a way to end the ever-growing instability generated by Operation Car Wash – which has recently accepted new plea bargains from dozens of Odebrecht’s executives. Yesterday, these politicians thought they had found a solution.

Some said it was going to be legal amnesty for all non-registered electoral donations made to political parties. Others, that such an amnesty would somehow forgive even corruption linked to these donations. The details, of course, are less important than their message: “let’s sterilize Operation Car Wash before the Operation implodes us.” A social media upheaval and a threatening open letter by Sergio Moro, the adored judge that leads the Operation, seemed to put a break (for now) on this unbelievably cynical plan.

Minutes afterwards, Temer suffered what is perhaps the biggest blow yet to his short time in the government. His former minister of Culture, Marcelo Calero, said to the Federal Police that the president himself pressured him to bow to powerful interests and give a permit to a sumptuous tower in Salvador. The building was vetoed by a federal technical body due to its impacts on the historical buildings along the city’s shore.

It’s uncertain what the result of this scandal might be. It could be a temporary crisis, the kind of problem all Brazilian politicians face from times to time. And it could be the beginning of the end of Temer’s poor government, depending on the emergence of new facts and the media’s reaction.

However, I can’t help but think that Brazil isn’t better off without Dilma. Not because she was a great politician – certainly, she wasn’t. But at the peak of the impeachment turmoil, some could at least dream that a solution was near. As the turbulence increases, possibilities for a resolution become even scarcer. And, let’s face it, predicting the Apocalypse is a boring job.

The resulting social instability might generate a Trump-like event during Brazil’s 2018 presidential elections. As a friend of mine said on Facebook, the only presidential candidate who openly rejected amnesty was Jair Bolsonaro, an authoritarian politician who hates minorities and women, but loves violence. I hope I’m wrong – but just in case, let’s remember his name.