When new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented his very gender- and race-diverse ministry cabinet, a reporter asked: “Why did you make gender diversity a priority in your cabinet?” Trudeau simply replied: “Because is 2015”. The answer was followed by very enthusiastic round of applause and praise from Canadian and international media.
The news of new Brazilian President Michel Temer’s nomination of an all-white male ministry cabinet, Brazilian mainstream media received that news with little criticism, and, as usual, memes flooded social networking sites defending the nominations.
The general feeling was, “It doesn’t matter that there is no women or blacks (sic) as long as they are competent”. International news sites were much more critical about the lack of diversity, like this article from The Guardian.
On top of that, after just 5 hours, Temer terminated 9 ministries, including important ones like the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Telecommunications and not surprisingly, the Ministry of Women and race equality and human rights. Now, Brazil simply has no budget or planning dedicated to Culture. What baffles me is that, even countries with the most serious monetary and human issues, like Haiti have a Ministry of Culture.
Going back to the argument that only competent people are important: The new Minister of Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, is one of the country’s biggest soy producers and a fierce proponent of destroying environmental regulations.
The new Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce, Marcos Pereira, is a bishop (on leave) of the Universal Church from the Kingdom of God (UCKG) – an evangelical church which is owned by Edir Macedo, multimillionaire and owner of the second biggest TV channel, Record. Just for the record, from time to time Macedo and UCKG always pop on the news, around allegations of tax evasion and money laundering.
Until a few days ago, Pereira was almost certain to take over the Ministry of Science and Technology, but Temer backed down after some media scrutiny over his religious background.
The new Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, is better known for his tenure as Security Secretary in São Paulo, when he ordered the police to beat up poor high school students after they had occupied their buildings to protest the planned closure of several public schools (the government eventually backed down from its plans).
The new health minister, Ricardo Barros, has no background in medicine. In his first press conference, when question about the “cancer pill” that had been just allowed to be used for treatment in the country, despite the lack of scientific evidence, he responded “At least it can cause a placebo effect, faith can move mountains”.
On top of all that, seven ministers are involved on Petrobras (the Brazilian oil company) “Lava-Jato” corruption scandal.
Indeed, Temer’s cabinet’s lack of diversity portrayed a government that doesn’t respect gender and minorities, and that is a very dangerous message.
The diversity in a government is very important for a number of reasons. One is representation. In a democracy, the idea is to have leaders who represent the people and their interests. When people feel that their interests are not being represented or people who look like they (male & white) have a voice in government, it creates an atmosphere of injustice. And the international press really picked on that.
I don’t think public opinion alone will be enough to change the macho mentality that Brazil has. Nor do I think president Temer is in a hurry to care about what the international press has to say.
In this excellent N+1 article, Alejandro Chacoff says “What they’ll [Brazilian population] remember in ten, twenty years, is that there was an impeachment in 2016, a break with institutional norms that set the country back. That in 2016, the opposition engineered a coup.”
I have to disagree with him, I sincerely don’t think this moment will make into the history books as a coup. It will be remembered by what portrayed by the mainstream media – that “Brazil had to be saved from corruption brought by PT (Worker’s party)”.