Marcos Chagas Reporter Agência Brasil
Brasília – When the president of Brazil’s allies in Congress get restless they vote against the government. That has happened to Dilma Rousseff twice. The first time was when over 400 out of 513 deputies in the Lower House voted against the administration’s Land Use Law (“Codigio Florestal”) at the end of last year. It happened again this week for the first time in the Senate with a vote of 36 to 31, with one abstention, against the nomination of Bernardo Figueiredo, for the position of director-general of the National Agency of Land Transportation (“ANTT”). Figueiredo was formerly a close aide to president Dilma who has been handling the Rio-São Paulo high-speed train project that the government wants very much to get moving.
Senator Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), the leader of the government in the Senate, commenting on the defeat of the nomination of Figueiredo, put it this way: “The administration will have to make up for this loss. And although the PMDB, as the biggest party in the Senate, had the most votes against the government it can be seen from the many votes against in other parties that you are dealing with generalized dissatisfaction across the board in all the parties and it is a situation that will demand special attention.”
According to Jucá, talks to calm the restless congressional base can begin as soon as the government makes an appointment. He added that the minister of Institutional Relations, Ideli Salvetti, will participate in any such talks.
The government has been aware of growing discontent among allied senators from various parties for some time, Jucá revealed. Party leaders communicate constantly with the administration regarding complaints by members, he explained, passing along problems with access to ministers and unanswered telephone calls, for example. There are also requests for jobs at the state level and delays regarding what Jucá called euphemistically “budgetary matters” (“questões orçamentárias”) [translation: money].
The leader of the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil), senator Inácio Arruda (CE), who voted against the government, said there was a communication problem. Along with Jucá, he said he was in favor of each political party having separate meetings with representatives of the government to discuss problems of individual members.
“There will always be a battle for territory within the government’s base for the simple reason that there is no single party capable of providing sufficient support,” said Arruda, adding that the territory being disputed is in the cabinet and in other positions at lower levels of government.
Meanwhile, the leader of the PT (Dilma Rousseff’s party), Walter Pinheiro (BA), declared that the moment is ripe for learning from the Figueiredo nomination defeat, time to open up channels of communication with allied political parties. He added it was a good moment to regroup.
That seems to be what senator Lindbergh Farias (PT-RJ) had in mind when he halted the progress of two other nominations for the ANTT to give time for the Senate to ponder the advice and consent process further and, perhaps, allow president Dilma an opportunity to make changes in the nominations if that is what she wants to do.