With the unpopular government of president Michel Temer losing ground in the battle to reform Brazil’s pension system and candidates jockeying for position in October's presidential race lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia made headlines recently when Brazilian media announced he would be making an official pre-campaign trip to the United States and on to Mexico.
Having to face global politicians and business leaders on the heels of Brazil’s sovereign credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s— due to economic and politcal concerns— instead of Maia jump starting a presidential campaing he would more likely be jumping the shark.
After landing in Trump territory the scion of one of Brazil’s powerful political clans changed the script, telling journos that he's not a candidate after all.
Maia, as lower house speaker, is already constitutionally next in line to succeed president Michel Temer, or act in his stead when he is outside the country. Temer vacated the job of vice-president to lead the nation following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in August, 2016.
Maia will become president for a few days on January 23rd now that doctors have green lighted the 77 year old Temer to travel out of the country to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. Temer has been dealing with heart and prostate issues, Just last month doctors ordered the unpopular leader to cancel a trip to southern Asia.
This means that Maia will be running the country on Wednesday the 24th, when a court in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre will rule on an appeal by former president Lula to have his conviction on a corruption charge, and the 9 1/2 year sentance that goes with it, overturned. The Workers’ Party and their allies have organized pro-Lula demonstrations in several cities and if the court turns down Lula’s appeal he will go directly to jail that very same day, thus becoming inelgible to run for president in October.
Because Lula leads all candidates in the polls his being sent off to serve a long jail bounce could cause things to get real ugly real fast for acting president Maia while Temer and his coterie are hob-nobbing in the rarefied world of multilateralism on the Magic Mountain.
While some financial pundits and are enthusiastic about Brazil’s extremely modest recoveryn from recession organized by fianance minister— and presidential candidate Henrique Meirelles— frustration over the level and quality of services provided at the federal, state and local levels has created cracks in Temer’s once powerful “big center” coalition and social upheavals by “factions” (criminal organizations) and militant grass roots groups representing the working poor, homeless and disenfranchised.
According to Globo, Temer has either fired or accepted the resignation of 15 ministers due to performance or political differences since taking over as president 20 months ago. Another 13 to 15 ministers are expected to resign before the April deadline so they can be free to run for elected office in October.
That considered Temer’s ability to stay in power by playing musical chairs comes with an average cost of one new minister every 33 days, slightly off the pace of impeached former Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff, who ran through 86 ministersg during her 5 1/2 years in office (one new minister every 22 days).
Although Temer’s close political advisers are enthusiastic about developing closer economic and political ties with the European Union, continuity, stability and quality of government (governance) are major challenges. For example, only 20% of Brazilian federal government ministers finish a presidential term, while the figure in EU nations is 70 percent.
Rodrigo Maia made the smart move by backing away from the presidenciavel tag Brazil’s MSM pinned on him. The last time a Brazilian politician was showcased in the United States as a presidential contender it was Rio governor Sergio Cabral back in 2012.
Cabral is no stranger to Rodrigo’ Maia’s powerful father, former three term Rio mayor Cesar Maia, who still sits on the Rio City Council, and fends off charges of improper activity as if he was swatting flies.
Sergio Cabral didn’t have a fly swatter though. He was sentanced last year to 72 years in prison for effectively running the government of Rio de Janeiro state as a criminal organization in an adjunct of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation that ensnared Lula.
If he is serious about taking the risks associated with making a serious run for the presidency, 47 year old Rodrigo Maia can build political equity and coalitions over the next 8-12 years and then when he is 59 or 60, after the next wave of scandals and half-baked reforms comes and goes, decide if he wants once again to play tweet the press.