TITLE

Bending the Rules

AUTHOR(S)
Margolis, Mac
PUB. DATE
May 2004
SOURCE
Newsweek (Atlantic Edition);5/24/2004 (Atlantic Edition), Vol. 143 Issue 21, p39
SOURCE TYPE
Periodical
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
José Sarney currently presides over the Brazilian Senate, but in the past half century he has held every political job imaginable--from city councilor to president--clinging to office even as the country careened from democracy to dictatorship and back. Until now he has also been perhaps the most critical ally of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the onetime leftist firebrand who needs all the establishment backing he can get to push through painful economic reforms. Sarney played a crucial role steering bills to reform the country's profligate pension system and onerous tax code through the legislature, which is divided among 17 different parties. The problem is that Lula has not supported his bid, and last week Sarney announced he would not seek another term. The question political observers have is whether that means he will also withdraw his support for the president, who, with just two and a half years left in office, faces tough legislative battles to reform the judiciary, labor laws and party politics. Sarney came of age in national politics during Brazil's infamous 1964-80 military dictatorship, faithfully serving the same generals who threw Lula, then a young union activist, into jail. Brazilians have been surprised at the degree of cooperation between the two men. Lula has clearly found strength in the senator's support. Less clear is Sarney's motivation for helping the president. Although Sarney gave up his bid--after weeks of sparring with senator Renan Calheiros in public--he will remain in the Senate, and remain hugely influential.
ACCESSION #
13213903

 

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