New era for Brazil as Rousseff cedes power to Temer

New era for Brazil as Rousseff cedes power to Temer

BRASILIA – Agence France-Presse
New era for Brazil as Rousseff cedes power to Temer

AP photo

Brazil entered a new era on May 12 as interim president Michel Temer took power from suspended leader Dilma Rousseff, installing a business-friendly government that ends 13 years of leftist rule in Latin America’s biggest nation.

The center-right former vice president wasted no time in putting his stamp on Brazil, naming a new government he said would restore “credibility” after months of economic and political turmoil.

One key nomination was a respected former central bank chief, Henrique Meirelles, for finance minister, with the task of helping the huge economy claw out of the deepest recession in decades.

“We must significantly improve the business environment for the private sector,” Temer said in the presidential palace just hours after Rousseff left, amid emotional scenes, to start her six-month suspension pending an impeachment trial on charges that she broke government accounting rules.

“It is urgent to restore peace and unite Brazil,” said Temer, 75, who at one point lost his voice while addressing allies and a crush of journalists.

Temer offered an olive branch to Brazil’s left, which accuses him of having engineered the impeachment process to mount a coup. He vowed “dialogue” and promised to maintain the generous social programs run by Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, lifting tens of millions of people from shocking poverty.

However there was immediate criticism of the fact that the new cabinet of 24 ministers consists entirely of white males - a dramatic shift from the more diverse cabinet presided over by Brazil’s first female president.

“It’s a government of white men and quite frightening,” said analyst Ivar Hartmann, a public law expert at the FGV think tank in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s the first time since the (1964-1985) dictatorship that there has not been a single woman. This is worrying.”

A small but noisy group of female protesters chanted “putschist!” as Temer and his new ministers entered the executive building.

Defiant to the end, Rousseff used her final minutes in the presidency to denounce the “coup” and urge supporters to mobilize as she braces for an impeachment trial set to drag on for months - including through the Olympics, opening in August in Rio de Janeiro.

“What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people and the constitution,” Rousseff said in what could be her final address from the presidential palace, dressed in a white jacket and flanked by her soon-to-be-sacked ministers.

“I may have made mistakes, but I committed no crimes.” 

Several of her staff were in tears.

She then exited the building to shake hands, hug and wave to some 500 supporters in a cheering, red-clad crowd gathered outside the modernist capital’s seat of power.