Temer and Brazil: The Man Who Would Be King

Michel Temer’s hostile takeover of the Brazilian state threatens to further derail the country’s multifarious crises.

Temer and Brazil Source :Plus55

The relentless impeachment process continues to hold sway over Brazil. As expected, Dilma Rousseff was removed from office on May 12 and vice-president Michel Temer has become acting president. With a 2% approval rating, his takeover of the presidential palace has nonetheless been celebrated as a necessary evil to get rid of Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT). As elusive and unscrupulous as any politician can ever hope to be, Temer has expertly crafted the gradual implosion of the PT. Sidelined by the Rousseff administration during his six years as vice-president, Temer pounced at the opportunity to remove a president who was unable to confront Brazil’s judicial, economic, political and health crises.

Irony and tragedy plague Brazil’s political paradigm. The man who currently sits at the helm of one of the world’s largest democracies is suspended from running for public office after violating campaign finance laws in the 2014 elections. Before becoming acting president, Temer had been distant from the public eye. A constitutional lawyer, former public servant during the military dictatorship and staunch defender of the country’s decrepit political system, he now leads the fifth largest country in the world. His claims to unite Brazil and cleanse the political system of its corrupt tendencies are a slap in the face of a populace that never voted for him and that is acutely aware of his nefarious tendencies.

Temer was crucial in quelling political reform legislation after the massive protests that shook the country in 2013. He is one of the leaders of the PMDB, an ideologically ambiguous party that has historically played the role of kingmaker in Brazilian politics. Having previously supported generals, intellectuals and union leaders in order to remain close to the pinnacle of power, Temer’s party now seeks to control the machinery of the state with the help of right-wing parties. Knowing that he will be unable to stay in office after his term ends in 2018, the acting president and his cronies at the head of the PMDB will reap the benefits of the country’s highest office while they can.

Brazil’s titans of industry have gladly embarked on the Temer bandwagon, irrefutably washing away the federal government’s progressive impetus for the sake of ‘national salvation’. Business leaders and some of the most corrupt political leaders in the country have joined the new president’s government. Supposedly representing one of the most diverse and vibrant populations in the world, Temer neglected to appoint a single woman or racial minority to his cabinet upon becoming president. Instead, he chose to reward his long-term allies, many of whom are implicated in the Petrobras scandal. Notwithstanding, his government’s whip in the Chamber of Deputies is being investigated for murder and three counts of money laundering in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the wider public continues to protest against Temer’s hostile takeover of the state. The acting president has always struggled to attain popularity. He agreed to become Rousseff’s vice-president during the 2010 elections after it became clear that he would be unable to be reelected as a congressman. His antagonistic actions since coming to power have only increased fears that despite thunderous public outcry over the last three years, the Brazilian government will remain a corrupt, unaccountable entity.

A faint whisper this time last year, calls to remove Rousseff for fiscal management became inevitable within the backrooms of Congress. The people’s disapproval of the president gave the movement the backbone to advance, but it was the seal of approval from the private sector that gave the opportunists in Brasilia the courage to test the limits of Brazilian democracy.

Even after both houses of Congress voted for impeachment, there remains no concrete proof that the elected president had been guilty of any wrongdoing. The entire process of impeachment has been an uncomfortable experience for all Brazilians, including Rousseff’s greatest adversaries. The taste of victory at removing a corrupt political party from office was not as sweet as anticipated, as some of the greatest criminals in the land were responsible for ushering in the new administration. While some have nonetheless praised impeachment as proof of the tenacity of Brazil’s public institutions, it has become clear the efforts to remove Rousseff were not heroic deeds to uphold constitutional legitimacy, but an overt power grab led by those who have minimal regard for the law and for the clamor of the streets.

Beyond the screams and tears that legitimate and resist Rousseff’s impeachment, Brazil’s legal and political apparatus have proven to be malleable to the tyranny of the privileged. From its onset, impeachment harnessed implications that went far beyond Rousseff’s alleged crime of altering the national budget. The multifarious storms that have placated the country over the last three years exposed Rousseff’s party as an incompetent and corrupt political machine. Unable to defeat the PT in four successive elections, impeachment was the opposition’s final and most lethal stroke of the sword to bring down a ruling party that remained legitimatized by the ballot.

With Rousseff’s trial and inevitable sentencing set to begin in the Senate, Temer will continue to portray himself as the country’s savior. Crucially, his attempts at rescuing the Brazilian economy will involve privatization efforts that threaten to increase the country’s socioeconomic inequality. The tenable progress at the judicial level is also under threat, as the acting president’s most important allies seek to rid themselves of the trails that expose their involvement in the Petrobras scandal.

The power grab in Brasilia will continue to be justified on the necessity for economic recovery and ‘national unity’. However, the attempts of an unrepresentative government to rescue the country from its multifarious crises will leave an irremovable taint on Brazilian democracy. Impeachment offers little room for celebration and threatens to unravel thirty years of democratic progress in a country that has suffered from the ineptitude of its political class for far too long.

Gabriel Funari

Gabriel Funari

Associate Editor, Latin America at InPRA
Gabriel Funari  is a Brazilian by birth and an internationalist by circumstance. He has lived in the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany and the UK prior to attaining an International Studies degree at American University in Washington, DC. Passionate about Brazilian politics, Latin American regional integration, New Left movements and post-colonialism, he aspires to challenge conventional narratives surrounding international politics and seeks to contribute to the crucial issues of our times through vibrant dialogue and debate.
Gabriel Funari

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