Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer kicks off his new administration on Friday, seeking to resuscitate the economy and steer clear of the corruption scandal that helped bring down his predecessor.
The former vice president installed a business-friendly cabinet Thursday, just hours after senators voted to suspend his boss-turned-nemesis, Dilma Rousseff, and open an impeachment trial against her.
The tumultuous transfer of power ended 13 years of rule by the leftist Workers’ Party, which helped lift tens of millions of people from poverty with progressive social programs but became mired in corruption scandals, recession and political paralysis.
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“We don’t have much time,” Temer, a veteran of the center-right PMDB party, said on taking office.
“We must rebuild the foundations of the Brazilian economy and significantly improve the business environment for the private sector so it can get back to its natural role of investing, producing and creating jobs.”
But Temer faces many of the same stumbling blocks as his predecessor, plus a few of his own.
Political analysts warned his honeymoon may not even last until he opens the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 5 – South America’s first.
Temer is just about as disliked as the deeply unpopular Rousseff. A recent poll found he would receive just two percent of the vote in a presidential election.
He will also face a deeply hostile left resentful of being sidelined in what it calls a “coup.”
And he will have to coexist with Rousseff, who will still be holed up in the presidential residence mounting her defense during an impeachment trial that could drag on for up to six months.
Temer appealed on Thursday for “dialogue” to heal the wounds of the impeachment battle, but stoked opponents’ outrage with his cabinet appointments: all 24 of his ministers are white men.
That was a bitter pill to swallow for supporters of Brazil’s first woman president.
And Temer remains exposed to the swirling scandal at state oil company Petrobras, which has snared top members of his party, the PMDB, as well as Rousseff’s PT.
Temer, 75, is not under investigation himself. But some of his ministers are.
A onetime Marxist guerrilla tortured under Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, Rousseff was suspended over allegations she illegally used loans from state banks to boost public spending and hide the depth of the budget deficit during her 2014 re-election campaign.
She claims the accounting maneuver, known as “fiscal backpedaling,” was commonly accepted practice in Brazil and is not an impeachable offense.