Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Recession and Rousseff

A lot of testosterone and not a touch of melanin is present in Brazil’s new all white, all male cabinet, writes Gamal Nkrumah

world
world
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Lebanese people laughed, much too loud. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and a Brazilian of Lebanese descent, Michel Temer, became president of the fifth largest economy in the world. But who runs Brazil? Transparency in Brazil is still in short supply.

Resentment at the state of the Brazilian economy is easy enough to observe. The impeachment of Brazilian President Rousseff was blatant and unacceptable to a large percentage of the 210 million Brazilians. Brazil has to weigh carefully the need to take measures with the broader need to work with the disadvantaged and people of colour in the country. It goes without saying that Brazil is at a crossroads.

Who says that Rousseff is clipping obituaries from old newspapers? Rousseff was betrayed by so-called socialists who claimed that she represented them. She glanced around, taking in the situation in Latin America, disapproving of everything about it.

Brazil has a new interim president, Michel Temer, who previously served as vice-president under Rousseff.

Rousseff is a leftist and a very angry woman. She had dug a bit online and learned that her vice-president was traitor. “I call for the people to remain mobilised, together, in peace … It is a fight we are going to win, it depends on all of us. Let’s show the world the millions of people who defend democracy in our country,” said Rousseff in her first comments from the presidential palace from Brazilia, the capital.

Such damming details offer unusual insights into a most corrupt country. Democracy for the “selfie” generation in Brazil is a serious conundrum, a vexed question. Brazil is a very competitive marketplace. Blacks and whites have survived for centuries together to create a multiracial and multi-ethnic nation. But more and more, political developments in Brazil will focus on scenarios that children born in the Internet age will no doubt confront. Rich and poor, black and white, for Brazil has the largest population of people of African descent outside the African continent. What is to become of the 100 million Brazilians of African origin?

Taut prose describing the stifling atmosphere of a nation trapped in despair is indicative of the social tensions that envelop Brazil. In the end, racism in Brazil is at once a simple thing, and an endlessly complex one. Meanwhile, Brazilians are on a more ideologically loaded territory when it comes to gender.

“Over the course of my life, like all women, I confronted many challenges. Now, what hurts most is this situation that I’m living … the pain of injustice,” said Rousseff.

Twenty-two cabinet ministers were sworn in, along with Temer, at the presidential palace Thursday. There was not a single woman or a person of colour among them. Strange, because Brazil has ten million people of Lebanese origin, double the number of Lebanese citizens in Lebanon. Lebanon cannot elect a Lebanese president because of sectarian strife, and yet Brazil elects its first ethnic Lebanese president. The evolution of this historic event seems deliberately contrary to what one expects in a country that embraced social democracy, and as a result is often wryly amusing.

Protests calling for the arrest of Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house of Congress who spearheaded the impeachment process against Rousseff, have spread across the sprawling country. “There are two main ideas: First, to denounce the institutional coup … and demand the departure of Temer: he was elected to be vice-president, not president. Second, ask for the arrest of Eduardo Cunha, whose corruption is proven,” said Laryssa Sampaio from the Popular Youth Uprising, which is organising the nationwide protests. So what makes the disadvantaged and the black kids of Brazil tick?

Rousseff gave a defiant speech before leaving the presidential palace, where she was greeted and hugged by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Recession-ravaged Brazil, buffeted by the global economic downturn, is poised to host the Olympic Games. The football World Cup of 2014 was a disaster for Brazil. Sporting action will no doubt be a huge goal for Brazil.

Germany won the football World Cup much to the consternation of Brazil. This deep motivation alone will not be enough to return the trophy to Brazil. The ousting of Rousseff provides a striking synopsis of where the Olympic Games are heading. Does race and class matter in Brazil? Dodge the question? Quite the opposite, Brazil was never a Banana republic of the United States, and never will be. Rousseff’s supporters may undergo a youthful overhaul of its own, and Brazilian blacks are hardly scared by the prospect of competing with global giants.

Rousseff vowed to fight the impeachment, which she calls a “coup”.

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