RIO DE JANEIRO – President Michel Temer, whose popularity is the lowest for a Brazilian head of state in decades and who last week was spared from standing trial on corruption charges by the vote of his allies in Congress, was booed on Wednesday at the conclusion of his appearance at a trade fair in this metropolis.
Boos and shouts of displeasure with his administration rained down on Temer as he left the stage at the SulAmerica Convention Center in Rio after presenting his administration’s austerity proposals at the ENAEX trade fair to an audience consisting of dozens of business leaders and students.
People also held up signs demanding that general elections, currently scheduled for October 2018, be moved up.
It was Temer’s first public appearance in Rio since last Wednesday’s vote in which the lower house of Congress voted 263-227 to block prosecutors’ efforts to put the president on trial before the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over cases involving sitting lawmakers.
The vote means that the corruption case against Temer – whose approval rating is around 5 percent, the lowest since democracy was restored in 1985 – cannot be taken up again until his term in office ends on Jan. 1, 2019.
The accusations against Temer – who in June became the first sitting president in Brazilian history to face criminal charges – stemmed from plea-bargain testimony by the owners of meatpacking giant JBS, who admitted to prosecutors that they had paid bribes to Temer in exchange for “political favors” since 2010 and continued to do so even after he had taken office.
Congress’ vote went against the wishes of the Brazilian people, 81 percent of whom wanted Temer to put on trial for corruption.
The vehement expressions of displeasure with Temer came on Wednesday after a speech in which he said his administration had successfully tackled several challenges threatening the future of all Brazilians.
The president hailed moves to cut public spending, bring down elevated inflation and interest rates and reduce an alarmingly high unemployment rate.
Temer, who took office when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted via an impeachment process last year for alleged irregular accounting aimed at masking the extent of Brazil’s budget deficit, also noted that Brazil’s economy grew 1 percent in the first quarter after two years of recession.
During his speech, Temer took aim at the two Workers’ Party (PT) administrations that preceded him, accusing the administrations of Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of “setting (Brazil) back more than a decade” and saying his government could not right the ship overnight.