Reposted with permission from A Brazilian Operating in This Area
Back in January 1st of 2003, about 100,000 Brazilians showed up to see Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva take office. It was a big party for the former metal worker whose motto was “hope will beat fear,” in a reference to critics that considered him as unfit for the job as Argentina’s troubled president Fernando de la Rúa.
Twelve years later, about 6,000 came to watch Dilma Rousseff’s second inauguration. Corruption scandals, a very conservative cabinet and unpopular measures ahead left a sentiment of malaise even among her voters. Hard to say much of that will change until 2018.
I covered all inaugurations since Lula’s historic first. The difference between the expectations then and the recent reality is staggering. Now the Worker’s Party (PT) has paid activists — people that make money out of showing up to public events. The most fanatical fans of the administration are now defending Rousseff’s new ministers, even those involved in scandals. It is all because corruption investigations into state oil company Petrobras might hit her allies and will demand a strong base in Congress so she can govern. But by appointing so many conservatives, how can a leftist govern anyway?
Some activists in the Praça dos Três Poderes tried to be optimistic. But the vast majority seemed to be there just to avoid embarrassment for the reelected president.
“It is not her fault, we need to be behind her so she doesn’t depend on this reactionary Congress,” said a psychiatrist from Recife. A real estate agent from Maranhão said he came to Brasília “to halt the coup against president Rousseff, a coup plotted by the media that doesn’t recognize her efforts on tackling misdeeds.” A sociologist from Rio tried to convince two cleaning ladies that their lives were better now. He failed.
Conservative religious activists weren’t afraid of showing up. A pro-life group pressured Rousseff to forget any plans for having a more lenient legislation on abortion. As far as I could hear, not even one of those present criticized the new finance minister, austere Joaquim Levy, or golden chainsaw agribusiness leader Kátia Abreu, Brazil’s new agriculture minister. There wasn’t a single banner against homophobic evangelical bishop George Hilton, the new sports minister who will be the federal government’s face for Rio 2016.
“Only a political reform can change that cabinet,” a lawyer said.
A political reform that is unlikely to come, he means.
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