SAN PÃULO, Brazil — At 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, the government of the Federative Republic of Brazil was headed by Aldo Rebelo, a parliamentary deputy and a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). It was the first time a communist has held the presidency in the nation’s history, albeit only for one day.

At that hour the recently re-elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was embarking on a trip to Venezuela, temporarily handed over his presidential powers Rebelo at a ceremony at Congonhas’ Airport in São Paulo, the nation’s largest city.

Normally Brazil’s vice president, José de Alencar, would have assumed the role of acting president in Lula’s absence. But Alencar was in the U.S. for cancer treatment. Since Rebelo is speaker of the House of Representatives, he was next in line to assume the top post.

At a press conference at the airport, Rebelo said the handover must be viewed as “a normal act of government.”

But this was not exactly a common occurrence in Brazilian history. Rebelo acknowledged as much, saying, “The fight of many generations of progressive and democratic Brazilians to conquer democracy and liberty allowed us to live this rare moment. And today it is possible for a communist, a member of a Communist Party, even for a few hours, run the nation in normality, tolerance and respect.”

Rebelo said it is important to remember that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the founders of scientific socialism, “planted the seeds of the ideals of democracy, liberty and independence of nations.”

“Others have made contributions, too — and they were not necessarily Marxists — men of struggle like Simon Bolívar in the Latin America and Abraham Lincoln in United States,” Rebelo said. He also invoked the memory of those “who have struggled for independence, for the Republic as Tiradentes — José Bonifácio, Frei Caneca, Luís Carlos Prestes, João Amazonas, Getúlio Vargas, Floriano Peixoto and Juscelino Kubitschek. A lot of people have struggled in order to create a country where people respect each other.”

Rebelo said the Communist Party of Brazil has tried in every possible way to make its contribution to the construction of a sovereign, democratic Brazil in the almost 85 years of the party’s history.

The party was founded in 1922 and for most of its existence, because of the fierce repression by the country’s reactionary forces, has had to operate underground. That is not the case today.

Rebelo added that Brazil’s communists have dedicated their best energies to promoting the defense of the country’s sovereignty and the independence, as well as to increasing grassroots democratization, so as to free the country of poverty, guarantee political freedom, reaffirm Brazil’s national identity and promote a form of economic development that values and honors the role of labor.

Rebelo is expected to assume the presidency again on Nov. 30, when President Lula visits Nigeria.