Michel Temer, Brazil’s interim president, takes the reins of Latin America’s biggest economy Thursday after the Brazilian Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff while a trial examines whether she violated government budgetary rules.
After hours of debate that stretched into early morning, Brazil’s Senate voted 55-22 to suspend Rousseff for up to six months. Temer, 75, is a familiar face in Brazilian politics described as a business-friendly politician. He will now act as Brazil’s president for up to six months, and if the Senate finds Rousseff guilty, he will serve until the next presidential election in 2018.
A constitutional lawyer by training, Temer has a reputation for being a backroom political player. He entered politics in the 1980s and became the leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB). He served as the speaker of Brazil’s lower house three times before becoming Rousseff’s vice president in 2011.
Temer doesn’t come to the presidential position with a completely clean slate. He could be investigated in a large-scale corruption kickback scheme at state oil company Petrobras after his name was mentioned by people involved in the case. Temer has denied any wrongdoing or link to the Petrobras scandal.
“I want to regain the trust of the Brazilian people and all the sectors of society,” Temer told CNN at the end of April. “I am aware that if I do become the president, I, too, could be processed for any political wrongdoing.”
Regaining trust will be a difficult task for Temer. More than half of Brazilians think he also should be impeached. While Brazilians might not be big fans, investors are cautiously optimistic Temer could help improve economic conditions as Brazil deals with its second year of recession.
Temer’s life outside politics also has made headlines in Brazil. He has been married three times. His third wife, Marcela, is a former beauty queen less than half his age who has his name tattooed on the back of her neck. In a break from his usual scholarly legal writings, Temer authored a collection of poetry said to have been inspired by his young wife. “What desire is this that leads you to denude yourself, to unmask yourself,” he wrote, according to a translation by the Financial Times.
While Temer will have to work to regain trust and popularity in Brazil, he has a small group of fans overseas in Lebanon. Temer’s parents immigrated to Brazil in the 1920s from the village of Btaaboura. A main street in Btaaboura was named “Rua Michel Tamer, vice president of Brazil.” They should have checked their spelling before printing the sign.