Brazil is slowly sinking beneath the weight of its enduring political turmoil — a situation only trumped in the continent’s total-implosion stakes by the sorry plight of Venezuela’s beleaguered government. In Acting President Michel Temer, the country now finds itself with an oft-ridiculed pantomime villain at the helm of its listing ship.
Even those in favor of suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s infamous impeachment, which followed an investigation that ultimately led to her suspension in relation to an intricate money laundering ring dubbed ‘Lava Jato’ (‘Car Wash’), were divided on former Vice President Temer’s suitability for heading an interim government.
Now, to confirm Temer’s unpopularity, a study by pollsters Ipsos on June 3rd has found that the “horror film butler” now bears the weight of an unenviable 70 percent disapproval rating as he goes about steadying Brazil’s ship. Rousseff, meanwhile, has seen her popularity jump five percentage points to 20 percent in her absence from office.
Temer, who ran as Rousseff’s running mate in 2010’s election and has held the vice presidency ever since, has regularly been characterized as vampire-like, sinister and brooding: a shadowy and darkly peripheral figure that has long eyed the country’s top job. That his surname is the Portuguese verb for “dread” or “fear” does nothing to stem the numerous unflattering social media comparisons drawn between the 75 year old’s gaunt, waxy features and a host of cartoon vampires.
It was no surprise that in the wake of Rousseff’s suspension, Temer moved quickly — indeed Dracula-like — in performing his most treacherous maneuver yet, this time taking him right to the top of the tree. In light of some oddly-presumptuous leaked WhatsApp recordings and a widely mocked letter to the President bemoaning his lack of involvement in the political process; Rousseff denounced Temer as a traitor who had fueled the “conspiracy” against her. “I don’t want it to seem like I’m conspiring to take over,” Temer pleaded in an interview before promptly assuming power.
Temer kept a particularly low profile as Brazil’s situation deteriorated, while he has always attempted to avoid the public spotlight — save for his marriage to ex-model Marcela Tedeschi, 43 years his junior, whom he began dating when she was just 17. However, in 2015 he was himself the subject of calls for impeachment on the same charges as those for which Rousseff was eventually suspended. He was also accused of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing operation.
As Brazilian politics attempt to set a long and arduous clean-up operation in motion, a history of alleged corruption is likely to be the fuel to the fire of his unpopularity; only exacerbated by his seemingly self-serving and malevolent involvement in the ousting of Rousseff. When he became the country’s de facto interim President, a poll found that just 2 percent of Brazilians surveyed would have voted for him for the role — many others would not have recognized him in the street, such was his preference for anonymity.
Now with the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro just over the horizon and an end to the current political turbulence and social unrest nowhere in sight — and the relative unknown of the Zika virus outbreak threatening the lot — it is difficult to see Temer’s popularity growing any time soon. And there is very little he will be able to do about it.