RIO DE JANEIRO – Protestant bishop, gospel singer and senator Marcelo Crivella on Sunday took office as Rio de Janeiro’s new mayor with a speech including many religious quotations and emphasizing family values, and in which he promised significant austerity and announced several spending cutbacks.
“The order is the following: It is prohibited to spend,” Crivella – the first Protestant leader to become mayor of a regional capital in Brazil – said in his address at City Council headquarters.
“The country is in crisis. Rio de Janeiro is in crisis. It’s a time of caution,” said the mayor, referring to the serious recession besetting the country over the past two years and which has significantly reduced municipal tax revenues everywhere.
Brazil’s economy contracted by 3.8 percent in 2015, its worst performance in 25 years, and – according to the latest projections – will shrink another 3.5 percent in 2016, the first two consecutive years of negative growth since the 1930s.
Crivella, a 59-year-old engineer, said that Rio’s coffers had not escaped the crisis, despite the fact that the city managed to ameliorate the negative impact by hosting the Olympic Games.
He added that regions and cities will have to work hard to avoid going bankrupt, given the dire economic straits.
Crivella is a bishop with the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and a senator for the conservative Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) representing Protestants.
He said that among the 78 decrees he issued on Sunday, several pertain to cutting spending and implementing other measures to adjust the city’s finances toward an anticipated period of lean years.
Crivella thanked his supporters, saying that 90 percent of Rio’s Protestants had voted for him. Despite the fact that his campaign was a conservative one, including controversial demonstrations against gays and in favor of the subordination of women, he surprised many on Sunday by announcing a city Cabinet including several women and even an ex-guerrilla.