Life after the Coup: Temer’s first 60 days

Video: Artist demonstrators adapted Orff’s Carmina Burana to the slogan “Temer Out” at their occupation of the Ministry of Culture building in Rio de Janeiro.

Michel Temer has been acting President of Brasil for two months, despite the election fraud conviction which bans him from running for public office for 8 years. Swept to power by a technically illegal impeachment effort led by the now disgraced Eduardo Cunha, this former Military Dictatorship official has failed at implementing many of his policy objectives.

The opening hours, days and weeks of his Presidency brought a raft of policy shifts which demonstrated the revanchist character of the Post-Coup administration, which drew worldwide criticism for being initially made up of an all male, all white cabinet.

Elsewhere he was criticised for his dictatorial-sounding “Don’t think about the crisis, work!” remark, and having his 7 year old son choose the new branding for a country of over 200 million inhabitants.

Temer was forced into several subsequent policy U-Turns, in particular regarding cuts to some social programmes, but here are a few highlights of things he actually succeeded in pushing through.

1) Raising the salaries of the Supreme Court Justices who are currently deliberating whether they will keep him in office or not.

Before Temer increased Supreme Court Justice’s salaries by 16%, Brasil already had one of the most expensive judiciaries in the World, representing 1.8% of it’s GDP. This percentage was 9 times higher than Italy’s and roughly six times higher than France or Great Britain and represented over three times the value spent on the Bolsa Familia welfare program. At a time when he is citing lack of money as an excuse for shutting down ministries and cutting social spending, the cascade effect caused by the relationship between raising Supreme Court justice salaries and automatic raises to the rest of the judiciary will cost Brazilian taxpayers R$58 billion.  But this isn’t the main problem that many Brasilians have with Temer’s move. In July, 2015, Dilma Rousseff vetoed a huge pay raise for the judiciary.  Despite the recent Senate and Federal Public Prosecuters‘ investigations  proof that Dilma Rousseff is  innocent of the so called “fiscal peddling” accusations that criminal ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha used as excuse to impeach her, her fate now lies in the hands of the same judiciary who were furious about her blocking their pay raises.

2) Shutting down the National Ministries of Womens’ Rights, Racial Equality and Human Rights and delegating control over their policies to a former cocaine mafia’s defence lawyer

It’s no secret that Brasil has a long history of problems with Sexism, Racism, torture and death squad activities. President Lula created three national ministries to address these issues. Despite Brasil having US$362 billion in foreign reserves and over US$200 billion in outstanding loans to the US government which will be paid back with interest, Temer cited lack of funds as an excuse to shut the ministries down. Their policies are now under the supervision of national Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes, who as São Paulo State Justice Minister: 1) tried to intimidate a federal prosecuting attorney who filed a complaint about military police torture and death squad activity; 2) Continued practicing law,  defending the PCC cocaine trafficking organization against 123 separate money laundering charges;  and 3) Was accused of using excessive force, against non-violent protestors.

3) Appointing a violent sexist as National Youth Affairs Secretary.

In September 2015, a woman filed charges that she was sexually harassed in a government office in Minas Gerais. Another woman filed charges that she was “punched, slapped, kicked, had her hair pulled and was threatened with a knife”. Both charges were filed against Bruno Moreira Santos, the 24 year-old son of a prominent PMDB Congressman. Temer appointed him as Brasil’s new Secretary of Youth Affairs.

4) Appointing the owner of a helicopter that was apprehended carrying 450 Kilos of cocaine as National Football Secretary.

In April, 2013, a helicopter was aprehended on a ranch in Minas Gerais owned by one of Aécio Neves’ biggest campaign contributers. The owner of the helicopter itself, Gustavo Perella, like most millionaires accused of drug charges in Brasil, was not arrested. Even so, he doesn’t seem like the best choice to take over regulating one of Brasil’s most corrupt institutions. Meet the new National Football Secretary.

5) Temer’s National Anti-Corruption Czar forced to resign on corruption charges after 18 days in office

In February, National Justice Council member Fabiano Silveira paid a social visit to his friend, Senate President Renan Calheiros. During the visit they had a long conversation about Operation Lava Jato, the huge scandal involving Petrobras corporation and most of the leading members of Temer’s PMDB party. Calheiros said he was worried about an Operation Car Wash accusation that his campaign offices received an R$800,000 bribe. Silveira gave him advice on how they could slow down the investigation. One of Michel Temer’s first moves as acting president was to appoint Silveira as the national Transperancy Minister. Two weeks later Sérgio Machado,  ex-president of Transpetro, revealed that he secretly taped the entire conversation and released it to the media. Corrupt anti-corruption minister Silveira was forced to resign.

6) Establishing the World’s highest retirement age, while cutting benefits

In 2007 IPEA, the national applied economic research institute, conducted a huge linear regression analysis on the causes for the record levels of poverty reduction. The second most important cause, after large minimum wage hikes, was Lula’s linking retirement pension payments to the minimum wage. Less then a week after taking office Temer announced his plans for lower retirement payments. Then, in late june he rose the retirement age to 70.  13 Brazilian states have an average male life expectancy below 70. While part of the cause for this is infant mortality, car accidents and homicide, millions of Brazilians will now have to work for the rest of their lives.

7) Abolition of the Ministry of Culture

Brazil has long had one of the most globally exportable popular cultures outside the United States. In one of the Post-Coup Temer administration’s opening moves, Culture was folded into a new Ministry of Education, Culture, & Sport. The loss of a dedicated Ministry of Culture provoked a public outcry, occupations of MinC buildings across the country, with appearances by the country’s top artists & actors. What followed from the interim Temer administration was a spectacular U-Turn – a failed series of attempts to find a high profile female politician who would accept the position of Culture Secretary, and ultimately the reinstatement of the Ministry itself.


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.