Are political troubles brewing under the surface in Brazil?

Political attention may be focused on who will be the next president of the House of Representatives in Brasília, but elsewhere the government looks like it may be running into trouble.  Questions may well be asked about the government getting itself embroiled in a financial arrangement with São Paulo’s mayor which it may come to regret.

On Tuesday (11 January), the new mayor of Fortaleza (the Ceará state capital in Brazil’s Northeast), Luizianne Lins, headed to Brasí­liato seek financial assistance for the estimated R$400m costs left by her predecessor.


This followed her announcement of a three-month state of emergency last Friday, during which time she will be able to contract services without the need to tender.


What makes Luizianne think she can get help?  Probably for two reasons: first because she’s a member of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT); second – and perhaps more importantly – because the government has already set a precedent by helping São Paulo – which is now under new management by the opposition Social Democrats (PSDB) – and with its own financial difficulties last week.


Unfortunately for Luizianne, she is not exactly flavour of the month in Brasilia.  Her victory was achieved with little party support, being happy to ally herself with the opposition wing in the PT.  Unlike her moderate party colleague, Marta Suplicy, who received a lot of attention during her failed bid to win re-election in São Paulo with assistance coming from Lula himself, Luizianne claimed that the only similarity between the two women is the colour of their hair.


Another observation Luizianne made after her win was to stress the ‘irreparable’ damage that the São Paulo (and Porto Alegre) defeat signified for the PT and the shift in the balance of power within the party from the Southeast to the Northeast.


That may well present additional problems for the government, especially after its decision to assist Marta’s successor, José Serra.  Last Friday Maranhão’s governor, José Reinaldo Tavares (PTB), criticised the decision and threatened to call a meeting of all Northeast governors to establish a position, ‘because,’ he said, ‘we can’t allow privileges.’


Nevertheless, don’t be too surprised if something is worked out which will satisfy all sides.

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