RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Michel Temer refused on Thursday to rule out the early withdrawal of army troops deployed for public safety in Rio de Janeiro state and denied any political motivation for their deployment since he will not run for re-election in October.
“I am not a candidate,” said Temer in an interview with Tupi radio amid speculation regarding his presumed interest in running for re-election and improving his popularity rating, which is below six percent, according to recent surveys.
“That is not my intent,” he said. “If I go down in history as someone who provided a solution to the country, who gave shape to the country, I’m already very happy.”
Given that in 2016, a court banned Temer from seeking office for eight years after finding him guilty of violating campaign laws, it is not clear how he would be able to take part in this year’s contest.
“The feeling of safety is already starting to appear and we will see good results not only for Rio de Janeiro, but for the whole country,” he added, convinced that his mid-February decision has yielded positive results but without offering any data to support the assertion.
He said that, should the “right course of action be followed,” the troops could be withdrawn as early as October – ahead of the planned end date of Dec. 31 – which could open the door to the debate regarding the right-wing administration’s proposed overhaul of the pension system.
Temer was not able to garner the legislative support needed to pass the controversial reform, which requires a constitutional change that cannot be approved as long as the military intervention within the territory continues, as per Brazilian law.
Ahead of a meeting Thursday with state governors to discuss security, Temer called for a “joint effort” in dealing with criminality and acknowledged that Brazil is – as Gen. Walter Braga Netto, the commander of the military operation in Rio put it – one of the country’s “showcases.”