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August 23, 2017
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Several Latin American delegations walkout in protest as Temer debuts at UN

UNITED NATIONS — In a dramatic illustration of Latin America’s political divisions, the delegations of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica walked out during Brazilian President Michel Temer’s speech at the UN General Assembly.

Venezuela’s UN Ambassador Rafael Ramírez said yesterday that Temer is “an illegitimate president, the product of a coup d’etat. We do not recognize him.”

Ecuadorean diplomat Carola Iñiguez said her country’s delegation walked out “to protest against the political situation in Brazil.”

Temer became Brazil’s president after Dilma Rousseff was dismissed by the Senate on August 31 over accusations of fiscal mismanagement.

Brazil’s Senate convicted Rousseff, the country’s first female president, of breaking budget rules, marking the end of 13 years of left-wing Workers’ Party rule. Then vice-president, Temer will serve out her term through 2018.

His UN appearance was part of an effort by his government to attract investment to South America’s biggest economy while dispelling questions about his legitimacy as president after the rancorous impeachment of Rousseff that divided Brazil.

The president told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that Rousseff’s removal from office was carried out within the rules set by Congress and the Supreme Court. “The process took place in absolute respect to the constitutional order.”

He also said that confidence was returning to the country’s battered economy and his task now was to restore economic growth and create work for millions of Brazilians who have lost their jobs in the worst recession since the 1930s.

“We are clear that the way forward is to take the path of fiscal responsibility and social responsibility,” Temer said. “Confidence is being restored.”

Investors are watching Temer’s steps to plug a budget deficit that has ballooned to 10 percent of GDP from three percent in 2013. Brazil’s currency has strengthened and the stock market has surged on the ouster of Rousseff, but doubts remain about Temer’s commitment to curbing profligate public spending.

He is known as a quiet, calculating political deal maker unencumbered by ideology.

He honed his craft over several years in Brazil’s bare-knuckle lower house of Congress, where he was an ally to both centrist president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and left-wing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Temer’s pro-business programme includes a multibillion-dollar plan to auction off oil, power rights and infrastructure concessions to try to bolster private investment to revive a moribund economy.

Temer, part of a regional shift toward the political right, has sought to offset criticism of planned austerity measures by denying that a proposed ceiling on public spending would impact health and education expenditures.

Argentina ties

In neighbouring Argentina, the November election of free-markets advocate Mauricio Macri as president put another centre-right leader in charge of a major South American economy after years of left-wing rule.

In front of the UN, Temer yesterday stressed the importance of their bilateral relationship, especially as this year is the 25th anniversary of the Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, a bi-national entity.

“The promotion of trust between Brazil and Argentina in the nuclear field is the source of our experience of integration, on the basis of projects like Mercosur. Latin American integration is an ongoing priority of (our) foreign policy,” Temer said, while also mentioning the cooling of relations between Brasilia and several countries in the region.

“Governments of different political leanings coexist in the region today, naturally and healthily, so it is essential that there is mutual respect and that we are able to work together on basic objectives such as economic growth, human rights, security, liberty and social progress,” the Brazilian president said.

Herald with AP, Reuters

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