Opinion, by Michael Royster
The Curmudgeon had predicted the results of the second round election would be sixty to forty percent in favor of Dilma Rousseff. The actual result was 56 to 44, meaning his crystal ball was cloudy. Nevertheless, he has taken it out of its protective cloth and will look at what the future holds for Lula, Brazil and Rio de Janeiro under President Dilma.
Taking things chronologically, what will President Lula do until New Year’s Day 2011, other than inaugurate public works projects? One thing he should do is resolve some pending matters that are fraught with international and national political consequences, rather than leaving them for Dilma.
One is the choice of the new fighter plane for the Air Force. Lula has indicated the choice will be political, not technical. He’s been tending towards a better relationship with France so the odds are he’ll make that choice now. Another question is whether or not to extradite Cesare Battisti to Italy, where he was convicted of homicide. A decision by a divided Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) in late 2009 left that hot potato in Lula’s lap. Leaving this decision to Dilma would be widely construed as cowardice.
Also waiting on Lula is the appointment of the 11th Justice for the STF. This has become politically charged by the recent fifty, fifty split of the court on the question of the applicability of the Ficha Limpa (Clean Rap Sheet) law. A newly-appointed 11th Justice could vote, in a new case, to overturn the decision, which would directly affect the party composition in Congress. The Curmudgeon predicts Lula will wait until all pending decisions in electoral matters have been resolved, before he makes an appointment.
Closer to home, Dilma’s election is a boon for Rio de Janeiro. Since 2008, for the first time since Brazil became a republic, the federal, state and municipal governments are all part of the same political coalition. This has, happily, resulted in the 2016 Olympic Games coming to Rio, with a sort of sneak preview being the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The cooperation of all three levels of government was absolutely essential for these efforts and will continue over the next four years under Dilma.
It should not be forgotten that the Olympic Games will require money from all three levels of government—lots of money. Now that the pre-salt finds have been confirmed, Rio has had to face the prospect that its sixty percent share of all the revenue from offshore drilling will cease—other states want a much bigger share in this windfall. One of the things Lula needs to do before leaving office is cobble together a solution with the congressional coalition, whereby non-producing states get more than they now do, but Rio is not left empty-handed. Dilma will administer this solution (with Lula looking over her shoulder).
Other than looking over Dilma’s shoulder, what will Lula do for the next four years? One option is to become the Secretary General of UNASUR, the Union of South American States. That office had been reserved to the late Nestor Kirchner till 2011, but it is now Lula’s for the asking. He’ll ask, because it will give him lots of international exposure, which is what he craves. That will leave him plenty of time to be a roving ambassador for expanding Brazilian influence in Africa, particularly the Lusophone states where he won’t have to speak any language other than Portuguese.
POSTSCRIPT. In 2014, Lula will be a candidate for President and Sérgio Cabral will be his running mate. Dilma will run for Senator in the State of Rio Grande do Sul.