Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff began the new year on the offensive declaring the impeachment proceedings she faces as “unfair” and overruling by veto more than 50 amendments made by lawmakers to the nation’s budget, including reductions to her flagship Bolsa Familia social program.
The under-fire Workers’ Party (PT) also said she believed the new year will be better than the last 12 months.
In a leader for the influential Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Rousseff wrote that the economy for 2016 will be “better than current predictions.” Market specialists have projected a two-percent economic dip this year after a 3.5% plunge last year, as Brazil struggles to shake off its economic downtown.
Noting that slumping commodity prices have slammed Brazil, Rousseff even argued the developing Operation Car Wash scandal, which has dragged in many from the country’s political elite and exposed systemic, endemic corruption at flagship state-run oil company Petrobras, is helping to strengthen the country’s institutions.
The corruption scandal has hurt investment, but Rousseff wrote that the probes are making them “more robust and protected.” She said the proceedings they shouldn’t paralyze the economy.
Rousseff also declared that attempts to impeach her for alleged budget irregularities are “unfair” and suggests they stem from her tight re-election victory in 2014.
The president, who was elected to a second term last December, said that she held no “bitterness” within her, despite the opposition’s attempts to remove her from power.
“Even when unfairly questioned in an attempt at impeachment, it does not hurt me, nor do I hold grudges,” she said, calling for “all who desire it to build a better reality.”
The process of impeachment was approved late last year by the president of the Lower House, Eduardo Cunha, but the Supreme Court identified some “procedural errors” in the selection of a key committee and ordered that the entire process be restarted.
Rousseff wrote that the “political instability” of Brazil was being exacerbated by the behavior of “often immature” sectors of the opposition, who, in her opinion, have “not accepted the outcome of the polls (in 2014).”
Along with the ongoing political instability and economic crisis, Rousseff will face a series of other challenges this year, none more so than the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will bring some two million people to Rio de Janeiro in August.
Before the year’s end, Rousseff announced a 11.6% minimum wage hike, to come into effect January 1. She also replaced her Finance minister, market-friendly economist Joaquim Levy, with PT ally Nelson Barbosa.
Rousseff also moved to approve the budget, which she pushed through by overruling large numbers amendments made by lawmakers to the nation’s budget guidelines law for this year.
According to the government’s official gazette, Rousseff signed the so-called “LDO” law on Thursday. Congress passed the LDO last month, following months of bickering over Rousseff’s failure to meet deficit-reduction targets that almost led to a government shutdown.
According to the gazette, Rousseff reversed a congressional ban on the approval, disbursement and refinancing of existing or new loans by state development bank BNDES to help Brazilian companies fund investments outside the country. Rousseff overruled that decision, saying the ban could weigh down the ability of local corporations to compete globally.
Rousseff also overruled congressional restrictions on the way the PT’s flagship Bolsa Familia program, which gives low-income families a monthly stipend under certain conditions, could be financed. According to the gazette, maintaining the restrictions would force Rousseff’s government to cut existing beneficiaries of the stipends or add new ones.
The online edition of newspaper O Globo cited Senator Eunício Oliveira, the leader of ruling coalition member Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) party in the Upper House as saying that Rousseff’s vetoes “could create more problems” to the already tense relationship between lawmakers and the president.
Rousseff ensured her new positive tone was distributed widely, tweeting: “I know we have had a tough year, but I am optimistic about 2016. I believe in the strength of our people and the agenda we have set for Brazil. Happy 2016.”
“The state’s reform agenda will deepen democracy and strengthen the foundations of sustainable growth,” she continued.