Brazil's new democratic government, hobbled during its first week by the hospitalization of President-elect Tancredo Neves, was encouraged Friday by the announcement that he is recovering quickly from the abdominal surgery that has kept him from taking office.
Dr. Henrique Pinotti, the chief of the surgical team that operated Wednesday on Neves to relieve an intestinal block, announced Friday night that the 75-year-old Neves would be able to leave the hospital by midweek and formally take office within 15 days. Installation of his government March 15 ended 21 years of military rule here.
"Now we can take off," said a jubilant Ulises Guimaraes, president of the Chamber of Deputies, who is also president of Neves' Brazilian Democratic Action Party.
Neves underwent surgery a week ago for diverticulitis, an intestinal inflammation, only hours before he was scheduled to take the oath of office. In the emergency, Congress swore in Jose Sarney, Neves' vice presidential running mate, and Sarney has been acting president while Neves was incapacitated.
Congressmen and other officials who had been waiting for the Neves government to introduce measures to relieve inflation and provide more jobs were shaken by the president-elect's unexpected illness and the post-operative complications that seemed to endanger his life.
The hospital where Neves is being treated in the inland capital of Brasilia has been the center of political attention for a week as the new government marked time, waiting for the medical outcome. National television networks broadcast news bulletins and special reports on every turn of Neves' illness, and churches have been filled with people praying for his recovery.
After the latest bulletin from Neves' physicians, stock markets here and in the nation's industrial center of Sao Paulo, which had been driven down by political uncertainty, rebounded in late trading.
Sarney installed a 26-member Cabinet chosen by Neves before his illness, but the government has been handicapped by the absence of the policy decisions that only Neves can make. Many mid-level appointments that are necessary for the administration to take over government ministries and state companies have yet to be made.
Neves talked in his hospital room with Sarney on Friday and reportedly began giving some instructions on political and administrative matters. Political leaders believe that if Neves is able to take up a more active role next week, a near-paralysis of government that had been feared will be avoided.
In a formality, Neves notified Congress that he would not be able to take office Sunday, when the 10-day limit set by the Constitution for an elected president to assume his post expires. The Constitution also provides, however, that the swearing-in can be postponed for health reasons, and the message to Congress was accompanied by a medical statement saying that Neves is still temporarily unable to take office.
Dr. Pinotti said in a news conference that Neves, despite his age, is in excellent physical and mental condition. "He will be able to exercise his function with full faculties as soon as he completes recovery from his operation," the doctor said.