Brazil's Temer delays pension-vote talks as he recovers after surgery

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 14, 2017 8:21 AM

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer has postponed meetings scheduled for Thursday to discuss a crucial pension vote as he recovers after minor surgery and will not be back on the job until Friday, his office said.

Temer was due to swear in Congressman Carlos Marun as his political affairs minister, who will be charged with drumming up support for an unpopular overhaul of the costly social security system, his key measure to bring Brazil's budget deficit under control.

The president was also due to meet leaders of Congress' two chambers to discuss whether the proposal has enough support to go to a vote or if it should wait until February, after the year-end recess.

Romero Jucá, the government's chief whip in the Senate, stunned Temer's administration on Wednesday by declaring that the ruling coalition had agreed a postponement until next year would be necessary to allow time to secure votes needed for the bill's approval.

Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who wants the legislation enacted as soon as possible to help balance government accounts, said there was no such agreement and urged lawmakers to vote by next week, the last before Congress packs up for Christmas.

Marun told reporters the administration had not given up and was still trying for a vote next week, but said Temer's cabinet was already considering the need to delay until 2018.

The bill would require Brazilians to work longer before retiring and cut back generous pensions for public-sector employees. Lawmakers will be more reluctant to back the austerity measure in 2018, an election year.

Investors fear that a failure to streamline social security could weaken Brazil's currency and stock market, while boosting interest rates and possibly fueling new credit rating downgrades for the nation next year.

Temer warned on Wednesday that the economy would suffer if the pension bill does not pass. But he had to interrupt a flurry of meetings to rally support for it and fly to Sao Paulo for surgery for a narrowing of his urethra.

His office said Wednesday's surgery was successful and that he needed 48 hours to recover, remaining in the hospital until Friday.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)