The Curmudgeon on the First 100 Days

Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sunday April 10th marked the 100th day in office of President Dilma, “a Presidenta” as she styles herself. In the U.S., this period of time is often called “the honeymoon”, when presidents remain cozy with congress and the courts; on day 101, the backbiting and squabbling begin in earnest.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

The question most asked this week is “how well did she do?” But there is another question always lurking in the background: “what has she done differently from Lula?” The answer to that is, quite a bit.

First, her appointees to the first and second level of government positions (y compris the influential positions in state-owned companies) have been much more favorable to her own party PT than to its chief ally PMDB.

Moreover, although she has maintained several of Lula’s chief people, they have been fewer in number than one might suppose; she has been putting together her own team, led by Antonio Palocci, her Chief of Staff. Third, she’s not gone out on the road doing stump speeches, a la Lula; rather, she’s maintained a very low public profile, very little campaigning.

One thing she has done is take some decisions Lula wouldn’t take, the most important being to confess that the economy has overheated and needs slowing down if heavy inflation is not going to return to chastise Brazil. That means R$50 billion in budget cuts, a drop in the hat for the U.S. but a significant amount for Brazil.

Where and when these cuts will occur is another story, because, as the “Mother of PAC” she can’t be seen to orphan her child by cutting off spending—even though her Finance Minister keeps making noises that she will have to do so.

Internationally, it would seem that Dilma, in her own way, has begun some re-approximation to the U.S.. For one thing, her foreign minister, who happens to be married to an American citizen, is less likely to engage in the knee-jerk anti-Americanism of his predecessor.

For another, she was able to coax a favorable if guarded reaction out of President Obama on the question of Brazil’s possible permanent seat on the UN Security Council. For another, she ended Lula’s policy of supporting anything Iran said or did, by voting in favor of a UN resolution condemning its violations of human rights. And, surprisingly, she did not veto the invasion of Libya, voting rather to abstain, as did the other BRICs.

Which leads us to the next topic, i.e. who’s going to rule the world in the future? The answer given by many is China, so as this goes to print, Dilma’s in China to talk to its leaders about working together. It can’t be easy for a dedicated supporter of human rights to talk to one of the countries which most often violates those rights, but she’s nothing if not game.

So, what will happen during the next 1000+ days before her term ends? Will she be successful in keeping inflation at bay? Will she be able to cut R$50 billion without cutting into her pet project PAC? Will Lula continue to keep quiet on the sidelines? The Curmudgeon waits with bated breath.

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Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)

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