Lebanese community continues to bask in Michel Temer's Brazil glory

Social media reactions on Temer's rise range from pride to frustration

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As Brazil decided on Thursday to go ahead with the impeachment process of Dilma Rouseff, Michel Temer - the son of Lebanese migrants who is now interim president of South America’s largest nation - found himself under the spotlight all over again.

However, a man of Lebanese origin rising to presidency – even in faraway Brazil – was still a reason to celebrate for the twitterati. Temer’s family comes from the northern town of Btaaboura where his distant cousin Bassam Barbar is the mayor. Temer has visited his parents’ home country twice, once in 1997 and the second time in 2011 as vice-president.

More of his kind

Temer isn’t the only one of Lebanese origin to make a name for himself in Brazilian politics. Families of Sao Paulo’s mayor Fernando Haddad and former Sao Paulo Governor Paulo Maluf also emigrated from Lebanon to Brazil.

“There are 10 million Lebanese spread around the world, and around 4 million of them are in Brazil. The ones who became politicians, entrepreneurs and artists and welcomed and seen as winners,” Brazilian professor Roberto Khatlab, historian in Kaslik Univerity, told BBC Brasil.

Temer has himself been open about h is roots. “We, as Brazilians, must further strengthen our ties with our Lebanese brothers,” said Temer in a post he wrote in Portuguese for his own website back in the year 2014, describing his second visit to Lebanon when he met with former president Michel Sleiman.

Family ties

Temer is popular in his parents’ home town and even has a street named after him in Btaaboura. Following his eventful rise to presidency, the small town has now decided to build a small park in his honor.

“We don’t have anyone in Btaaboura who has achieved such a high position. This park in honor of Michel Temer is still something small for him, but for us it is something big,” mayor Barbar said adding that the town will remain by Temer's side until the end.

Barbar also said that in 2011, Temer promised to visit the town again once he was president. What seemed like a far-fetched dream has now become reality, as he takes power amid the worst recession since the country faces since the 1930s.

Social media

The people of Btaaboura aren’t the only Lebanese supporting the interim president. Temer seems to be making waves in the country’s social media.

Samy Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb Party tweeted, “After two years of presidential vacancy in Lebanon, a new Lebanese president... In #Brazil @MichelTemer #Rousseff

Temer’s presidency was also mentioned by hundreds of people all over social media mentioning the same thing: Brazil has a Lebanese president, but Lebanon doesn’t. There were elements of irony alongside pride and even frustration.

Following his previous visit to Lebanon, Temer had talked about trying to enhance the prospects of greater economic engagement between the two countries. “I returned [from Lebanon] with the certainty that the ties that unite us will take us into a future of extreme proximity and great opportunities,” he wrote in the post.

Two years on, the country of his roots waits to see if Temer will honor his word, and visit Lebanon as President of another country. Moreover, will he inspire Lebanon to finally elect a new president?

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