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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazilís President Michel Temer Fights His Corner

BRASILIA Ė Michel Temer is the man and the name of the moment in Brazil, the worldís seventh-largest economy, a nation of 200 million people with more than twice the land area of the European Union, a country that accounts for 40 percent of Latin Americaís GDP and has spent decades as a preferred destination for Spanish investment.

A veteran lawmaker who served on three occasions as speaker of the lower house and numerous times as acting president, Temer became head of state last August, at the age of 76, after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff amid the fallout from the Lavo Jato (Car Wash) corruption probe and damaging revelations from disgraced construction magnate Marcelo Odebrecht.

The smiling, impeccably dressed Temer received us warmly at the Planalto Palace, an Oscar Niemeyer creation that reflects the pop aesthetic of the 1960s and the concept behind Brasilia, a utopian administrative city built from scratch in the middle of nowhere.

Temer allotted us a precisely measured 45 minutes, coming across as a calm, self-assured man not overly concerned about the allegations leveled by prosecutors against many of his Cabinet ministers, nor even by the fact that he, along with Rousseff, former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and 100 other politicians have been named as recipients of illegal campaign contributions from construction giant Odebrecht.

Under fire, Temer misses no opportunity to state his case in interviews with a range of media outlets, including Agencia EFE. He knows that his time in power will end in December 2018 and he is determined to use the time to effect the big reforms that Brazil needs, so that his successor will find the job done: a nation that has emerged from crisis ready to lead Latin America, thanks in part to the commitment of multinationals based in countries such as Spain.

On Monday, Temer will welcome Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to Planalto Palace with all of the requisite pomp for the leader of a country that is second only to the United States in terms of investment in Brazil.

The president understands the importance of Spain and Spanish companies and is hoping for a second wave of investment from the Iberian nation in the context of Brazilís ambitious plan for privatizations and public works concessions.

For 12 years, Temer has led the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), which is the countryís most important political formation, contrary to the erroneous impression of many that the Workers Party (PT) of Lula and Rousseff is the dominant force.

It is true that Rousseff won the 2014 election and that the PT is the second-largest bloc in the lower house. But the largest is the PMDB, which also has a majority in the Senate and leads all other parties in the number of state governors and legislators, mayors, and municipal councilors.

By virtue of all that, the PMDB is in command of economic policy and in a position to implement the six major reforms Temer wants to achieve in the areas of pensions, social security, employment, business regulation, education, and the budget.

In other words, everything Brazil needs to leave the crisis behind and return to growth.

The youngest of eight children born to a Lebanese couple who immigrated to Brazil in 1925, Temer, a Catholic, made a distinguished career as a lawyer and professor.

Regarded as one of Brazilís foremost experts on constitutional law, he has written several books on the subject, one of which went through more than 20 editions with upwards of 200,000 copies sold.

Temer is also a man of culture. Three years ago, he published a volume of poems he scribbled on paper napkins during long airplane flights on official trips as vice president.

Above all, however, he is a politician of the first rank: a unifier, a man of dialogue, a peacemaker, and for years the voice of Brazil in international forums.

Temer is very unpopular in the streets, but he is clear in his ambition of being remembered not as the president of Brazilís stormiest era, but as the most reformist president in the countryís history. Time will have the last word.

For the moment, Temer has given the EFE team (Eduardo Davis, Carlos Meneses, Joedson Alves Ferreira Lima, Carmen Gurruchaga and your humble servant) 45 minutes of his time and we thank him.

 

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