Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon, together with almost everyone else in Brazil, is still on tenterhooks today — Saturday March 19th. The question on everyone’s mind is “Will he or won’t he?” The “he” is Brazil’s former President Lula, and the question is whether he will, or will not, take office as current President Dilma’s Chief of Staff.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

The question has left the administrative sphere, because Dilma did appoint Lula, Lula did accept and was hastily sworn in last Thursday. In a normal world, that would have made the question of his appointment moot; Brazil, however, is far from normal.

As everyone now knows, the release of the wiretapped conversation between former and current Presidents showed (to put it mildly) an unseemly haste on the current President’s part to drag the former President out from his shadowy éminence grise position, into the public spotlight of Saviour of the Republic.

Haste makes waste, people say; it also makes for litigation. Within hours of the release of the tape, and within minutes of the swearing-in ceremony, lawsuits began to pop up all over Brazil, all of which sought injunctions against the former President becoming the de facto President. Two of these cases were filed in lower courts, and injunctions issued; both were overturned within 24 hours by appellate courts.

But then, in the immortal words of the Coaster’s eponymous 1959 hit, “along came Jones” in the reincarnated form of STF Justice Gilmar Mendes. Unlike the musical Jones, Mendes has never been known for being the “slow-walkin, slow-talkin” sort. Indeed, he’s the most extroverted and controversial Justice on the STF.

Holding in favor of a complaint brought by an opposition political party, Justice Mendes said “Halt!” to the appointment, on the grounds that the manner in which the appointment came about indicated several breaches of constitutional norms applicable to ministerial appointments.

This “monocratic” decision is subject to review by the full STF, or at least by one of its five-member panels, and it will be appealed. But over the weekend, former President Lula is still in limbo and we the people are still on tenterhooks.

The Curmudgeon will emit more dismal columns as long as limbo persists.


  1. If anyone in Brazil believes that ousting Dilma prematurely is what happens in a democracy then their wrong.

    They are all criminals but you unfortunately you need to wait for the elections to get rid of her, or she needs to willfully resign, or be legally impeached. Anything else is a clear violation of democracy. I can’t stand Dilma or the PT, but they were voted in by the people.

  2. Dan: If the election were fair and legal, I accept your point, even though I believe that by Dilma staying in power the economic crisis will be prolonged. However, if Dilma won the closely fought election by using illegal campaign funds and by dipping into the finances of public institutions to increase spending in an election year, would you still feel the same? The fiscal responsibility law was designed in part to try to stop incumbents from spending a lot in election years, leading to higher inflation and leaving the bill for the next administration. There seems to be evidence supporting that Dilma did indeed do this and attempted to cover up her actions by cooking the books. Had she not had the campaign contributions and been forced to tighten the fiscal belt as government receipts fell as the law requires, she likely would not have won the election.

  3. I believe that ousting Corruption is Democracy in its finest hour. Democracy is also transparent.

    Brasil could be in the top five Countries of the World

    The Commodity boom coupled with the oil discoveries were the Goose that lays the golden egg. Corruption killed that Goose.

  4. Criminals in a democracy cannot be allowed to prosper. Toss the Brazilians out like President Nixon was forced out.

  5. Brasil needs a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. That way governments serve at the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies or in the case of the semi-presidential system at the confidence of the president and/or the Chamber of Deputies depending on the political party composition of the Chamber of Deputies.

    Research has shown that parliamentary systems last longer under democracy than Presidential systems.


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