Brazil's interim President Michel Temer, installed by the Senate's removal of suspended President Dilma Rousseff, called on Wednesday for sacrifices in the name of getting the economy back on its feet amid growing concerns that funding for key public programs will be slashed.
The conservative politician argued that Brazil can’t survive with a “bloated and inefficient state,” reiterating his call for “national reconstruction." Temer, who took office three weeks ago, did not specify what kind of sacrifices he has in mind, but his record suggests the social programs championed by previous center-left governments could be impacted.
Although the installed president has promised not to cut successful social programs, what defines "success" in his interim government remains unclear and many fear that foundational funding will be cut. The interim health minister has even gestured toward dismantling the cornerstone universal health care program, a foundational policy from the early days of Brazil’s democratic transition. Temer claims health and education spending will not be touched.
Despite being only the interim head of state, Temer has moved swiftly as if he has an elected mandate to make major changes, including axing key ministries, shrinking state spending, and pushing for privatization of – and increased foreign access to – Brazilian resources.
The Coup That Ousted Brazilian Democracy
Many of these moves are politically unpopular, lending credence to arguments that the plan to remove Rousseff was a conservative grab for power that couldn't be won at the ballot box.
The statements come after Temer secured approval from Congress to change this year’s fiscal target. He’s planning to send a proposed constitutional amendment to Congress to limit federal spending in line with the previous year’s inflation rate. Health and education spending would be subject to the new limits, according to Temer’s Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles.
Protests have erupted around the installed president, fueled by a series of new leaked recordings that reveal that members of his cabinet and other key opposition figures schemed to use Rousseff’s ouster as a way to put a stop to corruption investigations targeting many of her rivals.
Unions have called the removal of Rousseff a "coup against the working class," while the former head of the now-defunct Ministery of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights, Nilma Lino Gomes, labeled it a multidimensional coup with gender, race, and class consequences.