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Cablegate: Brazil: Political Roundup

VZCZCXRO0650
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #0564/01 0891823
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301823Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8537
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6019
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 4680
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 6818
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 6159
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 6437
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 4114
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 9515
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 000564

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAIR BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: POLITICAL ROUNDUP

REF: A. BRASILIA 457
B. BRASILIA 501
C. BRASILIA 555
D. BRASILIA 485

-------------------------------
Cabinet Shuffle Appears Complete
--------------------------------

1. (SBU) President Lula has apparently wound up his cabinet
shuffle after four rounds of swearing-ins, on March 12, 16,
23 and 29 (refs a, b and c). The new cabinet aims to satisfy
all parties in his coalition, although the Brazilian
Socialist Party was left with, in its view, inadequate
representation. Lula may create a Secretariat of Ports, to
be headed by the former Transportation Minister, Pedro Pritto
(PSB). The new head of presidential communications is a
former underground guerrilla fighter who participated in the
1969 kidnapping of the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Charles
Elbrick. The Defense Minister, widely expected to be on his
way out because of a persistent commercial air traffic
crisis, stays, at least for now. Further cabinet shuffle
details are reported septel and reftels.

2. (SBU) The coalition faithful are mainly satisfied with
the results. Federal Deputy Wilson Santiago (PMDB, Paraiba)
the immediate past leader of the PMDB in the Chamber, is
typical. He told poloff on March 27 that he approved of the
cabinet shuffle, "Above all for of its 'political
accommodation.'" He also said the shuffle brought competency
in the health and justice ministries. But opposition Federal
Deputy Fernando Coruja, the Chamber leader of the Socialist
People's Party (PPS), from Santa Catarina, told poloff on
March 27 that the new cabinet is "weak, and Lula will be weak
throughout his second term." Senator Jarbas Vasconcelos
(PMDB, Pernambuco) went further. Speaking from a prepared
text on March 29 in the Senate plenary, Jarbas said "the
ministerial reform seems to have turned into only a means to
meet the voracity of the coalition to the detriment of a
technical profile more in tune with the country's needs." He
also criticized the appointment of Tarso Genro as Justice
Minister, noting that the appointment of a PT leader to
oversee the Federal Police now makes all Federal Police
actions politically suspect.

--------------------------------------------- ----------------
Electoral Court Rules Against Party Switching After Elections
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

3. (SBU) The Superior Electoral Court ruled on March 27
that elective offices belong to the parties, not the
individual. With this ruling it is expected that the seats
of politicians who switch after taking office may be declared
vacant and assigned to the alternate ("suplente"). Suplente
are usually of the same party as the party of the principal
("titular") holder of the seat at the time of the election.
Large parties are celebrating the decision, especially the
Liberal Front Party (PFL), which filed a case before the TSE
that brought the decision. Poloff spoke this week with a
number of federal deputies from large parties, including the
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), the PFL and the
PSDB, and they welcomed the decision.

4. (SBU) The party that stands to lose from the decision is
the mid-sized, non-ideological Party of the Republic (PR).
The PR has been raiding other parties in the Chamber of
Deputies and has wooed 15 deputies (from 25 to 40) into its
ranks since Congress took office in February 1.

5. (SBU) The losing parties have mainly been in the
opposition camp: the Socialist People's party (PPS) elected
22 deputies last October, had 17 by February 1, and now has
only 14. The PFL and Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
elected 65 and 66 deputies respectively but now each have
only 58. Party switching had an impact in the Senate as
well, where the PMDB surpassed the PFL to become the largest
party between election day and now.

6. (SBU) Federal Deputy Carlos Cadoca (PMDB-Pernambuco) and
Federal Deputy Alceni Guerra (PFL, Parana) told poloff in
separate conversations on March 28 and 29 that they
understood the decision to be an interpretation of existing
law, rather than a new ruling, and therefore can be applied

BRASILIA 00000564 002 OF 002


retroactively. Guerra added that it was rare for the Supreme
Court to overturn a decision of the Superior Electoral Court.

-----------------------
PFL Becomes "Democrats"
-----------------------

7. (SBU) The Liberal Front Party (PFL) jettisoned its name
and took on a new identity as the Democrats ("DEM" in
Brazilian political shorthand). In a national convention in
Brasilia on March 28, party members elected Federal Deputy
Rodrigo Maia, age 36, as the new president. He is the son of
Cesar Maia, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro. Federal Deputy Jose
Carlos Aleluia (DEM-Bahia), told poloff over lunch on March
20 that the party wanted to project a new image, with young
leaders and a deliberate identification with the U.S.
Democratic Party, although there is no official connection
and many in the PFL had always maintained contacts with the
U.S. Republican Party. He said the party needed to move away
from association with the military dictatorship and its aging
leaders, such as outgoing PFL president Jorge Bornhausen, age
69, Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhaes, age 79, and Senator
Marco Maciel, age 66. (Note: The connection with the
military regime comes from the PFL's origins in factions of
other, now defunct, parties that supported the military
regime. End note.) Aleluia said his party still has a
serious problem because it has a dearth of good candidates,
and he has always believed that parties need, above all, good
candidates.

--------------------------------------------- -----------------
Supreme Court Gives Green Light for Air Traffic Crisis Inquiry
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

8. (SBU) A Supreme Court judge ruled that the Congress may
go ahead with a committee of inquiry ("CPI") into the air
traffic crisis (ref d). In a decision that was interpreted
differently by government and opposition politicians, Judge
Celso de Mello ruled in favor of opposition forces who want a
court intervention to override the Chamber plenary's decision
last week not to establish an inquiry. Still, the Surpreme
Court plenary must consider Mello's opinion, and could
disagree. For now, the opposition is celebrating, while the
government side says they await the Court's final decision.
Even before Mello's ruling, though, Federal Deputy Fernando
Coruja (PPS-Santa Catarina), told poloff on March 27 that he
had no doubt the CPI would be established one way or another,
whether in the Chamber after a Court ruling, or in the
Senate, or even as a joint committee of inquiry. He said the
CPI will reveal improper loans for campaign financing, and
irregularities in Infraero, the state entity that runs
airports. Deputy Nilson Mourao (PT, Acre) told poloff on
March 27 that "CPIs are not what they appear to be; once
established, they expand their scope." He said the
government's objection to the CPI is that all CPIs become
political fishing expeditions. For this reason, he said, any
investigation into the air traffic crisis must be conducted
differently.

Chicola

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