Brazil’s acting president Michel Temer vowed to get Latin America’s largest economy back on track after a cascade of crises put an end to 13 years of leftist rule.
Temer presided over the first meeting of his new business-friendly cabinet, setting out its priorities: creating a leaner government, balancing finances to address a crippling recession, and rooting out the corruption that a huge judicial probe has uncovered at the highest levels of Brazilian politics and business.
“I want to get the country back on the rails,” Temer told weekly magazine Epoca in his first interview as president after taking over from suspended predecessor Dilma Rousseff, who faces an impeachment trial in the Senate.
Temer’s chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, said the new government faced a challenging to-do list.
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“We’re living through the worst economic crisis in the history of Brazil,” he told a press conference.
The solution, he said, is “out with corruption and in with efficiency.”
Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, the man tasked with restoring confidence in Brazil’s economy, said his priority would be cutting spending.
He pledged not to cut the popular social programs launched under the sidelined Workers’ Party (PT) — initiatives credited with helping lift tens of millions of people out of poverty — as long as beneficiaries really need them.
But he warned: “Maintaining a social program doesn’t mean maintaining the misuse of a social program.”
Temer asked for patience as his team works to turn around an economy stuck in its worst recession in decades.
“I’m not going to be able to work miracles in two years,” he said.
That time frame belies the strange leadership limbo in which Brazil finds itself pending an impeachment trial that could last up to six months.
Political analysts say Rousseff will likely be removed from office for good by a two-thirds vote in the Senate — and Temer is clearly betting he will hold power until the next presidential election in 2018.
But for now he is stuck coexisting with his running mate-turned-enemy, who is holed up in the presidential residence planning her defense and attacking the new government.