Rousseff appears determined to do things herway, but she has yet to prove her political leadership, both to the PT and its power-hungrymain coalition partner, Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB). A technocrat at heart, this was always going to be her biggest challenge, especially given the precedent set by Lula, a highly experienced politician. The risk is that if she fails to get a handle on congress sooner rather than later, her four-year term will stall, and potentially lapse into a long waiting period, amid calls for Lula’s return in 2014. “The desire is alwaysmuch bigger than the possibilities,” declared Ideli Salvatti, the new minister-secretary for institutional relations, in reference to congressional pleas for the release of funds, after her inauguralmeeting with the lower chamber president,MarcoMaia (PT). Salvatti’s brief is tomanage the executive’s relationshipwith the federal parliament, in particular the unruly 513-seat lower chamber. Her predecessor Sérgio, who was quickly observed to be in over his head,was removed soon after Palocci lastweek and unceremoniously dumped in the fisheries ministry, from whence Salvatti came.
Salvatti, 59, who served under Lula as a government leader in the senate, is renowned for being tough. After a failed bid for the state governorship of Santa Catarina inOctober 2010, shewas selected for the cabinet by Rousseff.Upon her promotion she said she would not be “Idelizinha paz e amor” (“Little Ideli peace and love”) but promised to “listen more” and to work “eye to eye” with the lower chamber. Deputies there, including among the PT, are suspicious of the former senator, who has no working experience of the lower chamber. Maia backed up Salvatti and promised there would be “no retaliation” from the allied base if the government were unable to release the funds demanded by the lower chamber. That is a promise he may rue. Brazil is heading into municipal elections in 2012 and deputies are keen to secure the release of earmarked funds (routinely added onto the annual federal budget as passes through parliament) for pet projects in their local municipalities by late 2011, so as to begin the 2012 campaign with flush wallets. Prior to approving the 2011 budget, congress approved a huge R$21bn (US$13bn) in these so-called emenda parlamentares.