Thu, Feb 21, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Bolsonaro suffers his first defeat

REFORM:The Brazilian president was to present a plan to overhaul the pension system, which analysts said would still be passed, albeit in a less ambitious form


Brazil’s lower chamber on Tuesday handed right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro his first defeat in the Brazilian National Congress, one day before his government was to present its most important legislative proposal to rein in a gaping budget deficit and spur growth.

The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies voted overwhelmingly to suspend an executive order by the Bolsonaro government that altered Brazil’s freedom of information law to broaden the number of officials allowed to designate data and documents as secret or ultra-secret.

Lawmakers voted 367-57 to fast-track a bill overturning the secrecy measure and government whips were unable to muster votes to avoid defeat.

The bill must still be voted on by the Brazilian Federal Senate, but the reversal showed that Bolsonaro, who took office on Jan. 1, has not yet been able to organize a coalition in congress to back his legislative agenda.

Bolsonaro was yesterday to send to congress his plan to overhaul Brazil’s generous and costly pension system that eats up more than half of federal spending and is the main factor behind an unsustainable budget deficit.

Approval of pension reform is vital for the recovery of investor confidence in Latin America’s largest economy.

The defeat on the floor of lower chamber came one day after the president fired a senior minister amid a scandal involving campaign financing for some of his party’s congressional candidates in elections in October last year.

The ousted minister, Gustavo Bebianno, was instrumental in getting Bolsonaro elected, but had a run-in with one of the president’s sons, triggering the weeks-old government’s first Cabinet crisis.

In a note to clients, analysts at Eurasia Group said that the scandal indicated the administration’s political team was in disarray, but added that they still expected the pension reform to get passed, albeit in a less ambitious version.

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