Brazil­ian pres­i­dent reshuf­fles her cab­i­net to end threats of im­peach­ment


Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff an­nounced a ma­jor gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle Fri­day, ax­ing eight min­istries in a cost-cut­ting mea­sure that also aims to end po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis and threats of im­peach­ment.

At a time of re­ces­sion, a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, Rouss­eff said the shakeup would help put the world’s sev­enth big­gest econ­omy and Latin Amer­ica’s big­gest coun­try back on track.

The reshuf­fle aims “to guar­an­tee the po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity of the coun­try which is needed to re­new growth and strengthen re­la­tions be­tween the par­ties and mem­bers of par­lia­ment who sup­port the gov­ern­ment,” Rouss­eff, 67, said in the cap­i­tal Brasilia.

Rouss­eff, who was nar­rowly elected last year to a sec­ond term, has al­ready turned into a lame­duck pres­i­dent, strug­gling to pass bud­get cuts and tax in­creases that her gov­ern­ment says are nec­es­sary to help the floun­der­ing econ­omy re­cover.

With the cor­rup­tion scan­dal cen­tered on state oil com­pany Petro­bras badly taint­ing Rouss­eff’s Work­ers’ Party, the pres­i­dent has seen her pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings sink to 10 per­cent and faced im­peach­ment threats even from within her un­ruly coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment shakeup ap­peared aimed at shoring up that fray­ing power base.

“Coali­tion gov­ern­ments need sup­port from Congress. We live in a democ­racy,” she said.

“It’s Congress, elected by the Brazil­ian peo­ple, that my gov­ern­ment must have a di­a­logue with on get­ting sup­port for ways and laws to speed up the exit from the cri­sis.”

Not that the op­po­si­tion was im­pressed.

“The re­forms deepen the gov­ern­ment’s lack of cred­i­bil­ity. It’s a scheme for try­ing to es­cape im­peach­ment,” said Sen­a­tor Cas­sio Lima from the PSDB, which de­spite also be­ing left­ist is op­posed to Rouss­eff’s Work­ers’ Party.

Power Shifts

The changes cut num­ber of min­istries from 39 to 31 in Brazil’s sprawl­ing bu­reau­cracy.

“To­day, we are mak­ing a first and ma­jor step to­ward the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the fed­eral public ad­min­is­tra­tion. We are be­gin­ning by re­duc­ing eight min­istries,” Rouss­eff an­nounced.

A big win­ner in the reshuf­fle was the cen­ter-right PMDB, which is Rouss­eff’s most pow­er­ful, but not al­ways re­li­able, part­ner in the rul­ing coali­tion.

An­a­lysts said Rouss­eff boosted the PMDB’s min­is­te­rial port­fo­lio in hopes of win­ning sup­port for eco­nomic re­forms that have come un­der heavy crit­i­cism since she un­veiled them a month ago.

They in­clude spend­ing cuts and the re­in­state­ment of an un­pop­u­lar tax on bank­ing trans­ac­tions.

Rouss­eff said what Brazil needs is po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity so that it can pur­sue the com­mon goal of restor­ing eco­nomic growth.

“We have to put the in­ter­ests of the coun­try above those of the par­ties,” she said.

The PMDB now gets seven min­istries, up from six.

That in­cludes chang­ing the health min­istry, which has the big­gest bud­get and con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal im­por­tance, from the Work­ers’ Party to the PMDB.

The Work­ers’ Party re­mains the big­gest player with nine min­istries.

But the reshuf­fle also re­flected in­ter­nal party shifts and the pos­si­bil­ity of party founder and for­mer pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva seek­ing a re­turn to power in the 2018 elec­tions.

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