BRASILIA – President Michel Temer said in an interview with EFE that he wanted to be remembered as the person who put Brazil back on the right course after the disaster caused by populist predecessors Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.
Amid the acute crisis generated by a succession of corruption scandals, Temer told EFE that his principal objective was to rescue the Brazilian economy from the deep recession that began two years ago.
The president said that fixing the economy required implementing “tough,” “profound,” and unpopular reforms.
Temer, whose approval rating is hovering at around 10 percent, said that public recognition was something that would come over time if his program was successful.
He sought to distinguish his approach from “populist acts, which were irresponsible because they produced a good effect tomorrow, but a disaster the day after tomorrow.”
The president said that the scenario he described “was what happened in the past,” a clear allusion to Lula and Rousseff.
“I took over with a deep recession and monumental unemployment,” Temer said, referring to his accession to the presidency in August after Congress voted to oust Rousseff for alleged budget irregularities.
Temer served as vice president for Rousseff’s first term, from 2011-2015, and remained on the ticket when she was re-elected in October 2014.
Though their political alliance was ruptured by the impeachment process, Rousseff and Temer remained linked as co-defendants in a court case over the financing of their 2014 campaign.
While a conviction would require Temer to step down, he insisted that he would complete Rousseff’s term and hand over power on Jan. 1, 2019, to the winner of the October 2018 election.
“I will be obedient to the decisions of the judiciary,” he said, though adding that a conviction would give rise to various appeals and that he would remain president throughout the “long judicial process.”
Temer also addressed the massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, which has already landed dozens of politicians behind bars and is threatening to do the same to around 100 others, including eight members of his Cabinet.
He reminded EFE that the accusations against his ministers and others had yet to be proven.
The president also rejected the assertion of Marcelo Odebrecht, the disgraced former CEO of construction giant Odebrecht, that no Brazilian politician was innocent when it came to financing campaigns.
“It’s an opinion of Odebrecht,” Temer said of the testimony given by the ex-CEO to reduce the amount of time he will serve for his company’s role in the kickback scheme at Petrobras.
The president said that he knew “many” officeholders and party leaders who did not accept illegal contributions.
Temer said that his administration would continue to go about its business as the corruption cases linked to the Lavo Jato (Car Wash) probe wound their way through the courts.
“The country cannot stop for Lava Jato and must continue working. The executive, by governing; the Congress, by legislating; and the judiciary in its tasks,” the president said.
For his administration, he said, the priorities were to heal the economy, regain the confidence of the business class, and attract the investment needed to recoup lost jobs.
Temer said he was confident that his reform agenda would spur a new wave of investment from Spain, the No. 2 foreign investor in Brazil.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is due in Brasilia on Monday for talks with Temer.
Prospective investors won’t be scared off by the corruption crisis or political tensions, Temer said, because they “know” that his government has begun to adopt the measures “necessary” to create a good business climate in Brazil.
Temer said he hoped to bequeath to his successor a Brazil that was “more at ease, not only socially, but especially in regard to investment and employment.”