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The Caretaker President and Poet Taking Charge of a Troubled Brazil

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On May 12, Michel Temer became Brazil’s interim President, taking over from suspended Dilma Rousseff as she awaits an impeachment trial over corruption accusations. The 75-year-old said on May 15 that he has no interest in seeking permanent office, naming his priorities as job creation and unifying Brazil–not easy tasks in a country facing its worst recession since the 1930s.


Once described by a rival as resembling a “butler from a horror movie,” the son of Lebanese immigrants entered politics in 1987 and gained a reputation as a dealmaker, rising in 2001 to become leader of the Democratic Movement Party, a centrist grouping of lawmakers who make up the largest party in Brazil. A legal scholar, Temer is also the author of a book of poems, titled Anonymous Intimacy.


Despite having no mandate, Temer has said he will present reforms to Brazil’s Congress. Breaking from the 13-year leftist rule of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, Temer plans to take a neoliberal approach to reviving the economy through spending cuts, privatization of state assets and a radical overhaul of the bloated pension system.


Rousseff insists Temer’s government is “illegitimate,” which will make it difficult for him to pass reforms through Congress, and his selection of an all-male, mostly white Cabinet has angered liberals. He has also been tarred by scandal; in addition to being linked to the giant corruption probe surrounding state oil firm Petrobras, Temer faces impeachment proceedings by the Supreme Court over allegations similar to those that dog Rousseff. Brazil’s political soap opera may have yet more twists to come.


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