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LATIN AMERICA | 01-02-2023 16:58

Brazil's Congress elects new authorities under tight security

Brazil's Congress on Wednesday elects presidents of both chambers; Inauguration of lawmakers takes place amid reinforced security after attacks on the government buildings in Brasília.

Brazil's Congress on Wednesday elects the presidents of both chambers, which will be decisive for the governability of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in an act with reinforced security after the attacks on the headquarters of the public authorities in Brasília.

Elected in October, the new congress (2023-2027) that is being installed is even further to the right than the previous one, a challenge for the reform programme of the new left-wing president.

In Brazil, the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which are renewed every two years, determine the voting agenda. The leader of the lower house, de facto the country's third highest authority after the president and vice-president, also decides whether to admit impeachment requests or table them.

It is assumed that Arthur Lira, a figure from what is known as "Centrão" (the great centre), a loose coalition of conservative parties known for negotiating votes in exchange for positions or investments for their constituencies, will repeat as president of the chamber.

Rodrigo Pacheco, of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), is favoured to be re-elected as Senate leader but could run up against Rogério Marinho, of the Liberal Party (PL) of the far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro.

The PL will hold 99 of the 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the largest bench of any party since 1998. In the Senate, which renewed a third of its 81 seats in the elections, it will be the second-strongest party with 13, behind the PSD, which recruited new senators in the last few hours.

Lula is aware of the political reality: "We don't rule Congress, we depend on Congress," he told his ministers last month. 

The fragmentation of the chambers, with no fewer than 23 parties, will also make it difficult for the government to negotiate with the legislature.

Lira told the GloboNews channel that he has a "calm and friendly" relationship with Lula.

For his part, Bolsonaro said on Tuesday during a public appearance at an event in Orlando (United States), that the Senate election is "very important." 

"It represents, depending on who wins, a return to normalcy, a certain pacification. We have hope in the election of Marinho," said the far-right leader, who also expressed his intention to continue in politics.

 

Reinforced security

Before the respective elections of the heads of both chambers, the elected deputies were sworn in, amid protests by some Bolsonarista MPs against the possible election of Pacheco to the Senate. 

The deputies, among them Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the former president, held up signs inside the chamber with the phrase "Pacheco Não" (Pacheco, no).

The inauguration of the lawmakers takes place amid a heavy security operation, less than a month after the riot in Brasília by thousands of radicalised Bolsonaro supporters.

"We will be ready to act in diverse scenarios, from the simplest to the most complex, should the need arise," said Brasilia's public security secretary Sandro Avelar, quoted in a statement. 

Access to the Esplanade of the Ministries, where Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Federal Court are located, is closed to traffic, and only authorised persons are allowed to enter, the statement said. 

On January 8, thousands of pro-Bolsonaro supporters, dissatisfied with Lula's victory over the far-right former president in the October presidential elections, invaded the country's congress, presidential palace and supreme court.

They smashed part of the building, broke furniture and priceless works of art, and left graffiti calling for a coup d'état. 

More than two thousand people were arrested, and almost a quarter of them have already been charged.

At the annual opening of the Supreme Federal Court's proceedings on Wednesday, Chief Justice Rosa Weber promised that those guilty of taking part in the coup "will be held accountable to the full extent of the law," while assuring that Brazil's democracy remains "unshakable."

 

––TIMES/AFP

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