Brazil's Temer urges pension reform in Christmas message

Brasília (AFP) –


Brazilian President Michel Temer took advantage of his Christmas message broadcast Sunday night to once again urge congress to approve his controversial pension reform plan.

Referencing the recent approval of pension reform in neighboring Argentina, he insisted the issue is not "ideological or partisan" -- but rather a "question of the future of the country" to "guarantee pensioners of today and tomorrow their pensions."

The centerpiece policy of scaling back pensions has been met with dismay by most Brazilians -- but it is considered vital to bring the country's deficit under control.

However, lawmakers have been reluctant to support unpopular measures with the 2018 election on the horizon. Around 10 days ago, the vote was postponed until next year -- in a move opposing the president.

Temer, a conservative who came to power in 2016 following the impeachment of leftwing Dilma Rousseff, has faced controversy in 2017 -- facing two now-dropped corruption charges and a struggle to approve unpopular austerity measures.

But, without referencing the scandals that have surrounded his presidency, Temer focused his Christmas message on Brazil's economic achievements, branding 2017 "a year of great challenges for all of us."

"In a short space of time, we got the economy in order, came out of recession and we have interest rates lower than recent years," he said.

The GDP of Latin America's largest economy rose 0.6 percent in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 after two years of recession -- which saw GDP shrink 3.5 percent in 2015 and 3.6 percent in 2016.

The rise did not boost Temer's popularity, however, with 71 percent of Brazilians expressing disapproval in a recent poll.

"We don't adopt populist models, nor do we hide from reality," Temer said, adding his government does not wait for "miracles."

The 77-year-old has confirmed multiple times that he will not run for re-election next October.