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President-Elect Ill, Brazil Seats Veep : Foreign Officials Witness Return to Democracy

March 15, 1985|Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil — With President-Elect Tancredo Neves hospitalized after emergency surgery, Jose Sarney was sworn in as vice president of Brazil today and stepped immediately into the role of acting president as 21 years of right-wing military domination gave way to a civilian government.

Neves, the 75-year-old opposition political leader, had an emergency intestinal operation just a few hours before he was to take the oath of office.

Nevertheless, bands played and people waved signs saluting the return of civilian government to this nation of 134 million people.

Doctors said Neves is in good condition and recuperating quickly. A three-member medical team said the president-elect was operated on for an "acute abdominal condition" diagnosed as diverticulitis, an ailment of the small intestine.

Will Call Special Session

Congressional leaders said they will call a special session to inaugurate Neves as soon as he is physically able to assume office.

Under the constitution, the president-elect has 10 days to be inaugurated as chief executive. But Senate President Jose Fragelli said the 10-day limit could be extended under "extenuating circumstances," and added that officials could be sent to Neves' bedside to swear him in there.

When U.S. Vice President George Bush pulled up in his limousine to attend Sarney's swearing-in, there were shouts of "Go home!" and "Give us our money back!"

The latter was presumably a reference to Brazil's $100-billion foreign debt, the Third World's largest, much of which is owed to American private banks.

Many Foreign Delegations

More than 100 foreign delegations were in Brasilia for the inaugural events. Several Latin American countries sent their presidents--among them Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.

Bush's press secretary, Shirley Green, said "a request for a meeting (with Ortega) came to us," but there were no plans to arrange a meeting because Bush's schedule had already been set.

Bush, who did chat briefly with Ortega at the swearing in, met with West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and representatives of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

With his links to the military's political party, Sarney was instrumental in getting Electoral College approval for Neves to succeed the string of generals who had governed Latin America's biggest country since a 1964 right-wing military coup.

General Upholds Pledge

The outgoing president, Joao Figueiredo, 67, the fifth general to rule Brazil since the takeover, went this morning to the hospital where Neves was confined. Doctors would not allow a visit to Neves' room, so Figueiredo paid his compliments to the president-elect's wife.

Figueiredo took office exactly six years ago and promised to "turn Brazil into a democracy."

Sarney, 54, a senator, lawyer, career politician and noted poet and writer, smiled broadly and waved as he entered the twin-domed modernistic Congress to take the oath of office.

He raised his right hand and swore to "maintain, defend and carry out the constitution . . . and uphold the integrity and independence of Brazil."

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