Rousseff’s inauguration shows Brazilians gave up on hope

Back in January 1st of 2003, about 100,000 Brazilians showed up to see Luiz Inacio 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 in 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 on 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”, a psychiatrist from Recife said. A real estate agent from Maranhão said he came to Brasilia “to halt the coup against president Rousseff, a coup plotted by the media that doesn’t recognise her efforts on tackling misdeeds.” A sociologist from Rio tried to convince two cleaning ladies that their lives were better. He failed.

Conservative religious activists weren’t afraid of showing up. A pro-life group pressured Rousseff to forget any plans on having a more lenient legislation on abortion. As far as I could hear, not even one of the present criticised the new Finance minister, austere Joaquim Levy, or golden chainsaw agribusiness leader Katia Abreu, Brazil’s new Agriculture minister. There wasn’t a single banner against homophobe evangelical bishop George Hilton, the new Sport 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.

The only hope I could find among the president’s fans was actually plain hopeless. Some media critics (and Brazilian media do deserve loads of criticism) say that Rousseff’s new Communication minister could bring an economic reform that would impact on journalism. But Brazilian media, despite being so tiny, are sure no changes will be made. The new minister has little political leverage after an election in which the media’s open discontent with the government went beyond reporting facts: it contributed to the worsening of the political debate. The opposition didn’t offer better for the most, but the current discontent can be contagious.

Brazil 2015 is surely a better country than Brazil 2003. But the general public that were present at Rousseff’s second inauguration weren’t nearly as enthusiastic or critical as that of twelve years ago. These folks don’t expect much from the president they elected, even the hardcore fans. All they want is to stop a conservative wave that was detonated by angry oppositionists.

To please financial markets and get some stability in Congress, the president seems to have given away the rest of hope many Brazilians had in a country that has a regressive tax code, high spend on interest rates and little efficiency. If the next four years under president Rousseff are better than the four last, I will be amazed.

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email: savarese.mauricio@gmail.com

Posted on 02/01/2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’d say you are partly right, Maurício. Enthusiasm has certainly dimmed. But hope is still very much there. I went to her inauguration from Pernambuco and joined the party there with friends. We wondered about the so called ‘paid activists’ and quite frankly, if they were there, it was in very small numbers or they were not the ‘usual suspects’. Maybe the total number was small – there really isn’t the same excitement as when Lula was president, but what we saw were families, groups of friends, children running around eating cotton candy – a lovely day and hope is definitely still in the air. We are not happy with many of the Ministers, but we know very well she didn’t have much choice. Let’s give her at least 6 months before we start judging very harshly, shall we?
    Cheers!

  2. Mauricio, I have never seen an election process like this 2014s.
    How we could evaluate it?
    If it does not give us much hope, it certainly make a lot of things clear about Brasil division between left and right.
    We did not have a right wing group of militants before, and the protests of june 2013 took them out of the closet.
    That is good, because now the left can also get more mature and learn that they also have to conciliate and negociate things with the rest.
    I dont if its good or bad, but I am sure it is a truth that now reaches a new country, and maybe a more mature one.
    Take a look at this analisys:

  3. sandrothemaster

    I think the best translated term would have been “Eliseu Gangbanger”, other than that it really is a weird ministry, but there was so much pressure for “reaching out” and “accommodating the opposition” that I see this less as much less surprising. This really exposes the weakness of our democratic process, it is just impossible to have politicians worried about long-term plans when all the can worry about is gathering enough support for the next election.

    China can be wrong on a lot of levels, but at least their politicians worry a lot about long-term planning.

  1. Pingback: Rousseff's inauguration shows Brazilians have given up on hope - Latin Correspondent

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