- Title: Brazil's president, just months in office, already mired in woes
- Date: 6th December 2016
- Summary: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (DECEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) POLITICAL ANALYST, RICARDO ISMAEL, SAYING: "The Supreme [referring to the Supreme Federal Court] has the responsibility to try to perceive that this dissatisfaction, that indignation of the society in relation to the deviation of the public money, the cynicism that still predominates in many politicians, who actually commit absurd crimes and do not want to be investigated and get protection - it can mean a dividing line. That country of backwardness, that country of impunity and corruption, must be left behind."
- Embargoed: 21st December 2016 16:38
- Keywords: President Michel Temer Brazil presidency political gridlock corruption scandals economic obstacles Latin America
- Location: RIO DE JANEIRO AND BRASILIA, BRAZIL
- City: RIO DE JANEIRO AND BRASILIA, BRAZIL
- Country: Brazil
- Reuters ID: LVA0065BQZ1HF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: When President Michel Temer took over Brazil's presidency, many here hoped he could swiftly navigate the political gridlock, corruption scandals and economic obstacles that have crippled Latin America's biggest country.
But seven months into the job, Brazil's problems look just as intractable as they did when Temer and Congressional allies orchestrated the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, his predecessor.
Like a mere sequel to hers, Temer's administration is already beset by scandal, an unwieldy legislature and an economy now poised to enter its third year of recession.
Instead of hope and change, especially after thirteen years of an increasingly feckless administration by the leftist Workers Party [PT], even those who supported Temer's ascent now fear they are in for more of the same.
Few ever expect miracles in Brazil's chaotic, multiparty democracy.
After all, Temer, as vice president, was part of Rousseff's administration. His Brazilian Democratic Movement Party [PMDB], a shapeshifting mix of conservatives and pork-barrel centrists, was key to the coalition that helped the Workers Party govern.
And Temer, a backroom dealmaker who himself says his specialty is "arbitrating conflict," is not the sort of commandeering, inspirational leader that many crave in times of crisis.
According to political analyst Ricardo Ismael, Temer is finding himself stymied by different political forces in relation to the wide-ranging scandal called Operation Car Wash involving corruption allegations at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras.
"Temer can't try to reach an agreement to have a stable majority in the national Congress (in both houses) if this agreement means the destruction of the Operation Car Wash, because with that, he would lose support of the people and would lead the same social forces that supported Dilma's [Rousseff's] impeachment to demonstrate against his own government."," said political analyst, Ricardo Ismael.
The president and his aides say they are confident they can put Brazil back on track. But the morass is such that Brazilians are impatient, especially with memories still fresh of the economic boom that preceded the Rousseff administration.
To the economic woes, add messy politics. Temer recently lost another minister, the fourth so far, to graft allegations.
On Monday, the Supreme Court moved to strip the presidency of Brazil's Senate from Renan Calheiros, a party colleague of Temer's, after indicting him on corruption charges. The move meant that PT loyalist Jorge Viana becomes the new Senate President, which has the government worried about the fate of some legislation, including the Proposed Congressional Amendment (PEC) 241 meant to limit public spending. The proposal, which passed the lower house of Congress as PEC 241 in October and now sits before the Senate as PEC 55, would tack public spending to the inflation rate over a 20 year period with the chance of a recalculated base-rate after 10 years.
"It is clear the government is concerned about the possible rise [of power] of Senate Vice-President Jorge Viana, a senator for the PT [Workers' Party] Party of Acre State. As the PT has positioned itself against the spending PEC [referring to the Proposed Constitutional Amendment limiting public spending], it may be that the position of the new president to not vote in the second round this year," Ismael said.
Combined, the troubles have undermined confidence further.
Over the last couple of months, more than a million Brazilians have taken to the streets to join violent anti-government rallies across the country.
The recession, now pushing unemployment toward a 12 percent level not seen in more than a decade, is proving relentless.
Ismael said Brazil's Supreme Federal Court had a responsibility to change the public perception of the government.
"The Supreme Federal Court has the responsibility to try to perceive that this dissatisfaction, that indignation of the society in relation to the deviation of the public money, the cynicism that still predominates in many politicians, who actually commit absurd crimes and do not want to be investigated and get protection, can mean a dividing line. That country of backwardness, that country of impunity and corruption, must be left behind."
Also in past month, thick crowds of people stretched along the beachfront from Copacabana to Leme in Rio de Janeiro. As many as a million people were there, organisers estimated.
Many protesters wore the yellow and green shirts of the national football team or wrapped themselves in the national flag. Others carried signs expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes.
To make way for future growth, Temer has bet on two measures that economists have long said are needed to make Brazil more efficient: a constitutional amendment to limit government spending and an overhaul of the costly social security system.
While both measures are expected to win approval, they will provide little short-term relief.
Local stocks and Brazil's currency, the real, are trading well below peaks reached earlier this year after a post-impeachment boost.
Having already gone through one traumatic change in government, though, few Brazilians are eager for yet another aborted administration. Even if Temer is unpopular, with approval ratings mired around 14 percent, some see no good in his failure.
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