Institutions And Competition

Brazil presidential hopeful meets the press then quits race

January 17, 2018
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Eric Ehrmann

Brazilian columnist and RIAC blogger

Blog: Institutions And Competition

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UPDATE 2FEB 2018 1920hrs (BRT) Reuters,and Brazil media are reporting that a federal judge has ordered that the passport of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ("Lula";) be returned to him by authorities, and that his name be removed from a national register of people who should be watched and impeded as flight risks that is maintained by the Federal Police. If Lula is ordered to go to jail in the next few weeks he will still have to do so. Lula remains the most popular candidate with 34% among citizens sampled in a recent "scientific poll." However in another poll, by Datafolha, 53% responded saying they think Lula should go to jail. But when factoring in a margin of error of 2%, the information makes a great dramatic news story but is in reality a "too close to call" situation. Even if he does do some jail time there are legal options that could still allow him to run for president. For background, the basic reasoning behind requiring Lula to surrender his passport was that Ethiopia, where the UN-OAU event he was to attend was being held, does not have an extradition treaty with Brazil. UPDATE ENDS

UPDATE 25 JAN 2018 2200hrs Brazil's Justice Minister has prohibited former president Lula from traveling and has ordered him to surrender his passport. His trip to Ethiopia is cancelled.

UPDATE: 25 JAN 2018 A panel of judges voted yesterday unanimously 3-0 to condemn Lula in the "second instance" (deny his appeaal challenging his conviction on the matter before them). His jail time (to be served in "closed confinement" was extended from 9 years to 12 years and one month. His chances for being able to run for president in 2018 are now nil to small. On Jan 26th he leaves for a trip to Addis Ababa, Ethioipa for 48-72 hours to paricipate in a UN event that was scheduled long ago. Ironically, he feels persecuted and is now comparing himself to former South African Communist Party- and CIA asset- Nelson Mandela. As for Sergo Moro, the actual subject of article below, some Brazil media continue to suggest that he still has ambitions to run for president this year and is waiting for the right situation to make his move. UPDATE ENDS

Musical chairs ministers and a sovereign credit downgrade pose tough challenges for presidential candidates.

With the government of president Michel Temer losing ground in the battle to reform Brazil’s pension ss ystem and candidates jockeying for position in October’s presidential race lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia made headlines recently when Brazilian media announced he woul be making an official trip to the United States and Mexico.

Having to face global politicians and business leaders on the heels of Brazil’s sovereign credit rating downbrade 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 it is possible-- but not likely-- that he could go directly to jail that very same day, thus becoming inelgible to run for president in October. Forbes magazine notes that even "liberal democrats" in the United States have rallied in favor of Lula.

UPDATE 23 JAN: In addition, the center right Americas Society-Council of the Americas has published an article stating that Lula should be a candidate in the October presidential vote.The article has been buzzed up on the popular "Brazilanissimo" blog in Brazil.

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.

note: the original text- before updates- in this column was cross-posted from HuffPost

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