When new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, presented his very gender and race diverse ministry cabinet, a reporter asked: “Why did you make diversity a priority in your cabinet?” – he then simply replied: “Because it’s 2015”. The answer was followed by a very enthusiastic round of applause and praise from Canadian and international media.
With the news of new Brazilian president Michel Temer nomination of a all white male ministry cabinet, Brazilian mainstream media reacted with little criticism. As usual memes flooded the social network sites defending his choice.
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
“it doesn’t matter that there is no women or blacks (sic) as long as they are competent”
On top of that, after just 5 hours of becoming president, Temer extinguished 9 ministries: Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Telecommunications and not surprisingly, the Ministry of Women and race equality and human rights, to name the three most talked about. Now, Brazil simply has no planing dedicated to Culture. What baffles me is, 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 is 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 (UCKC) – an evangelical church which is owned by Edir Macedo, multimillionaire and owner of the second biggest TV channel, Record. From time to time Macedo and UCKC always pop on the news due to 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 questioned why the ‘cancer pill’, that despite the lack of scientific evidence, had just been allowed to be used for treatment in the country, 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 lack of diversity portrayed a government that don’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 don’t look like they (male & white) have no voice, 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 chance the macho mentality that Brazil has. Nor I think president Temer is in a hurry to care about what the international press has to say.
In this excellent N+1 magazine 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 the mainstream media reported: that ‘Brazil had to be saved from corruption brought by PT (Worker’s party)”. And of course, the ‘all white male cabinet” will be forgotten too.
Main photo: Soninha Guajajara – Member of Guajajara people of Maranhao, graduated in Language and nursing and has represented Brazilian Indians in various international events, such as the Climate Conference in Paris in 2015.