During six days up to the year’s end, when Lula travels outside the country, Brazil will have a communist as acting president, the first time this happens in the land.
While the president is away the post will be filled by José Aldo Rebelo Figueiredo, 50, the speaker of the House of Representatives and a member of the Partido Comunista do Brasil (PC do B) one of the last Stalinist parties in the planet.
Created in 1922, the Communist Party was only completely legalized in 1985 after the fall of the military dictatorship.
When the president is absent the nation’s leadership usually goes to the vice president. Brazilian Vice President, José Alencar, however, is in medical leave in New York for a cancer surgery and probably will be out of the picture for at least a few weeks after his operation scheduled for this coming Tuesday, November 14.
Rebelo, who has been linked to the communist party since he was a teen, is known for a controversial bill passed by the House in 2001 but never approved in the Senate, which limits the use of foreign words, mainly English ones.
In another bill introduced by him, Halloween Day would be renamed Saci National Day. Saci is a mythological, forest-dweller, one-legged black boy who keeps on playing tricks and always sports a pipe in his mouth.
During the recent election campaign Rebelo had a few chances to assume the presidency, but he never did it. Since he was a candidate to reelection, which he won, the electoral legislation prevented him from assuming the post lest he become ineligible for the House spot.
Every time Lula travelled outside the country he also had to get out of Brazil so that the president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, from the PMDB, might become president.
The House speaker will finally have his first shot at the presidency this Sunday, November 12, when Lula travels to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chávez and inaugurate a bridge.
On November 30, the president flies to Nigeria and Rebelo once again becomes president. Then Lula goes to Cochabamba, in Bolivia on December 8 and 9.
Commenting on his chance to become an acting president, the speaker, didn’t sound as a communist when he told Reuters "This fact is a reflection of Brazil’s democratic life maturity. Even though this might be only a constitutional formality, it shows the world the exemplary dynamism and mobility our democracy provides."
Rebelo, who was born in Minas Gerais but was elected to the House by São Paulo state, ended up becoming speaker of the House due to several scandals that hit the ruling Workers Party in 2006, leaving him untouched. The PC do B, his party, has elected only 12 among the 513 representatives in Congress. His ability to dialogue with the center, left and right made him a valuable ally of president Lula.
While an admirer of Stalin, Lenin and Mao Zedong, Rebelo is also a fan of American President Lincoln. Commenting on the US administration and the Iraq war he says, "Abraham Lincoln might advise President George W. Bush to base the United States power much more on the belief of freedom than on fear in the face of apparent or true threats."