Lebanese celebrate Michel Temer's rise to power in Brazil

Lebanese celebrate Michel Temer's rise to power in Brazil
Lebanese people have celebrated sudden the promotion of Michel Temer to Brazil's interim president, due to his parent's roots in the coastal country.
3 min read
13 May, 2016
There are six to seven million Brazilians of Lebanese origin [Getty]

The rise of Brazil's interim president Michel Temer has been greeted with pride and amusement in his ancestral homeland, Lebanon.

It has been found to be particularly ironic as a long-running political deadlock has left Lebanon without a president for two years.

Things are not trouble-free in the Lebanese parliament either.

On Thursday, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ceded power to Temer - known in Arabic as Tamer - after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to suspend her for six months to face impeachment.

Back in the small mountain village of Btaaboura in central Lebanon, where Temer's family hails from, the talk of the town has been his sudden promotion of the vice president to acting president and his origins in the village.

"We celebrate his promotion with all our heart and we are very proud of him," said municipality chief Bassam Barbar.

Barbar added that a street sign that carries Temer's name with his former rank of vice president will be replaced on Friday to read "President Michel Temer Street".

Across Lebanon and the Middle East, people have laughed at the fact that a Lebanese man is now leading Brazil, while his country of origin has had no premier for two years.

Translation: "Congratulations Lebanon for the president… but in Brazil."

Translation: "Lebanese Michel Temer is the President of Brazil meanwhile Lebanon still has no president."

Deep political divisions have left Lebanon without a president since May 2014 when the mandate of Michel Sleiman expired. Parliament had extended his own mandate twice since 2009.

Temer's cousin Nizar remembers the first time they met at the Lebanese village.

"It was in 1997 when he was speaker of parliament. We didn't know him then," said Nizar Tamer, an engineer now in his 60s.

"He came a second time in 2011 to mark Lebanese independence day. We liked him and he liked us," he said.

During one of his two visits to Btaaboura, Temer insisted on visiting the ruins of the family home, where only a few stone walls still stand.

"He was very emotional when he saw a portrait of his father in the living room," said Nizar.

"He went down on his knees and took a fistful of earth that he then put on his head," he said.

Temer's parents and older siblings immigrated to Brazil in the 1920s to escape instability caused by the First World War.

The interim president has said although he does not speak Arabic fluently he can understand the topic of conversation when people speak.

"Growing up in my house every Saturday and Sunday we ate Arab food… I like Arabic music and keep up to date with what is going on the region," Temer told Brazilian media.

According to a source at the Lebanese foreign ministry, there are between six to seven million Brazilians of Lebanese origin – a higher number than the population of Lebanon, which is 4.4 million.