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Mac Margolis

Brazil Really Needs Its Most Hated Politician

President Michel Temer may be the country's last best hope for badly needed reforms.
But reforms would be lost without him.

But reforms would be lost without him.

Photographer: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Pick almost any indicator, and Brazilian President Michel Temer comes up short. Job approval? 10 percent. Jobs creation? Brazil has 13.5 million out of work, a five-year high. Office ethics? All but one of Temer's most trusted aides has fallen to corruption scandals, and conceivably Temer himself may go if the electoral court that convened briefly in Brasilia this week finds that dirty money financed the presidential ticket he was elected on in 2014. Put it all together and the conclusion is inescapable: Michel Temer is the worst Brazilian president since Dilma Rousseff.

OK, so there's plenty to disdain in the former vice president, who assumed office last year when Rousseff was impeached for fiscal crimes. A furtive political operator who turned on his commander, he has a tin ear for public opinion, indulges scoundrels in high office and pens embarrassing poetry. And those are just a few of the sins fueling the popular refrain "Fora Temer" ("Be gone, Temer!") trending on the street and the web. For all his shortcomings, however, crisis-addled Brazil is better off with Temer than without. It's not just that he's the constitutional leader, and that a working constitution is the firewall that safeguards Brazil from the convulsions roiling its dysfunctional neighbors in Venezuela and Paraguay. It's also because Temer's stand-in government may be the country's last best opportunity to reverse colossal errors that have sabotaged Latin America's biggest economy and disgraced its governing establishment.