Dilma Rousseff’s suspension in impeachment vote hands power to ex-deputy who has promised unity while installing all-male, conspicuously white cabinet
Brazil’s interim president, Michel Temer, has unveiled an all-male, conspicuously white cabinet to run one of the world’s most ethnically diverse nations as he promised to restore confidence in Latin America’s biggest economy.
Following the suspension of Dilma Rousseff, the country’s first female president, the new head of state called for unity and said his primary task was to form a government of “national salvation” that could restore Brazil’s credibility so it could attract investment.
“Trust me,” he said in his inaugural speech at the Planalto presidential palace. “Trust the values of our people and our ability to recuperate the economy.”
His message came a few hours after he was accused of treachery by his former running mate Rousseff, who claimed she was forced out of office by “sabotage”, “open conspiracy” and a “coup”.
The sharply contrasting statements highlight the rancorousness of an impeachment battle that has curtailed 13 years of Workers’ party rule and divided the nation.
Rousseff was stripped of her powers on Thursday after losing a preliminary impeachment vote in the Senate. This followed a similar crushing defeat in the Congress in April. She now faces trial by the Senate on charges of doctoring government accounts to give an unrealistically healthy impression ahead of the 2014 election.
‘Democracy is our oxygen’: Brazilians speak out about Dilma Rousseff Temer – a senior figure in the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement party – was elected on Rousseff’s coat-tails in 2014, but recently abandoned his former government partner on the grounds that the country needed new leadership to get out of its deepest recession in decades.
The economy was the focus of his first speech. “It is essential to rebuild the credibility of the country abroad to attract new investments and get the economy growing again,” he said.
Adding fuelling to claims of betrayal, the 75-year-old constitutional lawyer had spent the past few weeks putting together the centre-right administration that he unveiled on Thursday.
Although he promised to maintain welfare programmes such as bolsa familia poverty relief, he has touted balancing the budget and getting inflation back under 10% as his priority.
In a sign of his commitment to austerity, Temer has slashed the number of cabinet posts from 31 to 22. But he may find it hard to cut other costs ahead of municipal elections and with unemployment already in double digits.
Whether this tough task can be achieved will depend largely on new finance minister Henrique Meirelles, who gained considerable kudos as central bank president under the first two Workers’ party governments. He will be charged with reining in expenses and encouraging other ministers to push ahead with privatisation, outsourcing and weakening stringent labour and pension laws.