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Brazil’s new challenge

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In the aftermath of Operation Carwash and the ensuing fallout, Dilma Rousseff’s successor Michel Temer has plenty to think about.

Since the impeachment of the left wing president, Dilma Rousseff, a little over a month ago, Michel Temer has been trying to consolidate his power as the new president of Brazil with mixed results.

Temer has repeatedly stated that his goal is to improve Brazil’s economy, and as time goes on it is clear that he will do anything to do this, and to reverse the changes that 14 years of Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) governments have made.

Foreign focus

One of his first trips as the new president of Brazil was to the UN General Assembly, where he defended his predecessor’s impeachment as constitutional, and presented Brazil as a country open to foreign investment. As his maiden speech was about to begin, six Latin American delegations walked out. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela all boycotted the new leader’s speech as a protest against the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

Analysts noted that his speech, which praised the thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States, the deal between Colombia’s government and the rebel group FARC, and his support for a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was very different to other right wing leaders.

But he was criticised for saying Brazil had accepted over 95,000 refugees from Haiti when official statistics place the number at 8,800 – (government officials later stated that he was including Haitians with humanitarian visas as well). Temer also expressed his pride in the diversity of his country, without touching on the controversy surrounding his appointment of an all-white, all male cabinet. Notably absent from his speech was the subject of corruption, which is highly relevant since Rousseff was impeached due to breaking budgetary laws, and Temer himself is under suspicion of having received illegal campaign funding through the Petrobras corruption scheme.

The PT governments had promoted close relations with the other countries in South America, Temer is looking to create closer relations with the United States, and other major economies, such as the European Union, at the detriment of relations with his neighbours.

Protests, polls and proposals

Temer has been facing protests and low poll rates since he officially became president of Brazil. During his first public appearance after Ms Rousseff was impeached on Independence Day, where he was booed in the capital, there were also protests against him in various cities throughout the country. The same thing occurred during the Olympics. During his stay in New York for the UN General Assembly, there were protesters outside the hotel where the Brazilian delegation was staying.

Temer’s new controversial proposal to change the constitution will definitely not decrease protests against him. It’s called PEC241, and it is a constitutional change that would cap spending. It would apply to the executive, legislative and judiciary branches and would cap spending for up to 20 years. Government spending would be capped at the amount they spent the year before, with a leeway for inflation. The spending most affected would be health and education. Educational spending is one of the most important ways that Brazil has decreased inequality in the past years. The cap would also affect the minimum wage, the proposal does not mention the minimum wage, but capping spending would directly affect the amount that minimum wage would be.

The Ministério Publico Federal has put out a statement declaring PEC 241 unconstitutional because it puts the autonomy of the legislative and judiciary branches of government at risk, since the executive is controlling their spending. However, the government is determined to pass it by the end of this year, so that it can partly come into force in 2017. It has already passed the first vote in the Chamber of Deputies, with 58 more votes than necessary and it needs to pass two more, one in the Chamber and two in the Senate.

The changes in educational spending will only come into force in 2018, however there is a lot of anger against the proposal.

Temer’s success in government depends on whether he can improve the economy, however if he continues with such radical changes that would massively increase inequality in an already unequal country, his popularity will not increase.

Words by Leila Scola

Picture by The Apracity Forum

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