The Political Heir Who Will Help Decide Temer’s Fate

  • Bonifacio de Andrada recommends shelving corruption charges
  • Deputies began debate in lower house committee on Tuesday

Michel Temer on Aug. 1.

Photographer: Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images

As Brazil’s President Michel Temer faces another round of criminal charges, his chances of avoiding a trial have been given a boost by an 87-year old man whose family has been in power since the 1820s.

In a meeting of the lower house’s Constitution and Justice Committee on Tuesday, Bonifacio de Andrada, a federal deputy whose father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather also sat in Congress, recommended the charges be shelved. His report may influence whether a full session of the Chamber of Deputies votes to put Temer on trial, a move which would suspend him from the presidency.

The 77-year old president is expected to survive the accusations of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, as he did in August when the chamber voted to suspend a related criminal charge. Once again, however, securing the votes means delaying his reform agenda and jeopardizing his austerity measures with pork-barrel spending. With less than one year to go until the 2018 elections, Temer is likely to last until the end of his term despite rock-bottom approval ratings and questions over his legitimacy that have dogged his administration from the outset.

"Temer is backed up against the wall with the upcoming vote on the charges, and legislators will take advantage of this," Eurasia Group analysts wrote in a note to clients on Oct. 9, adding that the president should be able to see off any threats to his rule. "The executive has enough resources to dole out to its coalition."

Andrada Clan

In a sign of fractious state of Brazil’s politics, Andrada’s selection was actually opposed by leaders of his own party, the PSDB, due to accusations he was too close to Temer. Andrada voted in support of the president following the first round of criminal charges. Last week he shrugged off attempts by the party to remove him from his post, telling reporters that his duty was to the committee.

Currently in his tenth mandate, Andrada is the oldest member of the lower house. He is also a direct descendant of Jose Bonifacio Andrada e Silva, an adviser to Dom Pedro I, the emperor who declared Brazil’s independence. In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday evening he said that he was considering running for re-election in 2018.

For some analysts, however, his lineage highlights how much the country’s political system needs renewal.

"He is the perfect symbol of the lack of renovation in Brazilian politics," said Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist from the State University of Rio de Janeiro. "In how many other countries can you find a family that has been in power for almost 200 years." 

A survey by Fundacao Getulio Vargas published on Monday indicated that Brazilians are looking for fresh faces from outside of the political establishment in the 2018 elections. The poll found that over half of all Brazilians would not vote for the same candidate again for the presidency, for a governorship or for either of the two houses of Congress.

For Andrada, however, the demand for change is nothing new.

"Every era is like this," he said. "They say they want new people. But then the new lot take over and they become old, and the cycle repeats itself."

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