Brazil deputies pick acting president's ally as speaker

AP News
Posted: Jul 14, 2016 11:31 AM

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The lower house of Brazil's congress elected a new speaker Thursday, conservative deputy Rodrigo Maia, who had received half-hearted support from acting President Michel Temer.

Maia won 285 votes against 170 for Rogerio Rosso, who is closer to Temer and to disgraced former speaker Eduardo Cunha. Maia's term ends in February.

Cunha has led impeachment proceedings against suspended President Dilma Rousseff and expected Rosso to help him avoid losing his congressional seat on corruption charges.

Rousseff's impeachment trial is expected to begin in August after the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Maia was backed by parties opposed to Rousseff as well as by some of her allies, who saw Rosso's victory as a way for Cunha to keep hold of the speakership.

Temer said he was "very happy indeed" with the election, though he recently had rejected Maia in favor of a Cunha ally for the job of his coalition's leader in the lower house.

In his first address as speaker, Maia said he will help pass what the acting president calls "unpopular measures." Although Temer is yet to specify what those are, his allies insist Brazil needs to cut social programs, reform the pensions system and overhaul labor laws for the economy to grow again.

The country's economy shrank almost 4 percent in 2015 and is expected to dip more than 3 percent this year, according to central bank projections.

"We are here to vote on what is urgent. Some might be unpopular in the short run, but with these (measures) Brazil can be better within five years, Maia said.