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.