Brazil's Bolsonaro Aims to Pass Some Pension Reform This Year

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro aims to secure congressional approval of at least some aspect of pension reform this year, the president-elect said in interviews with three separate TV stations on Monday evening.

The former army captain offered more details on his plans for government. He pledged to maintain the spending cap put in place by President Michel Temer, privatize state companies running deficits, cut taxes, and implement at least part of a pension reform this year.

"Any steps that we can take now will help us hugely next year," he told Band TV, adding that he would discuss with Temer what could pass Congress. Sticking with a minimum age of 65, as the current bill proposes, "the chances of defeat are greater."

The former army captain also dialled down at least some of his more hardline rhetoric, stating that he was committed to freedom of speech and that he welcomed opposition. The interviews followed an exchange of cursory pleasantries with his defeated rival, Fernando Haddad, on Twitter. He also said that he no longer intended to expand the number of judges on the Supreme Court, and he confirmed that he was considering asking Sergio Moro, the lead judge in the Operation Carwash corruption probe, to serve as his justice minister.

Elected with 55 percent of the vote, Bolsonaro spent Monday at his house in Rio de Janeiro, receiving several members of his inner circle as he began planning the government transition. Numerous global leaders called him throughout the day, including the presidents of the U.S and Israel. Bolsonaro wants to strengthen Brazil’s ties with both countries.

The former paratrooper offered support for his presumptive finance minister, Paulo Guedes, who told reporters in a testy exchange on Sunday evening that the South America customs union, Mercosur, would not be a priority for the Bolsonaro administration. He also said he wanted to streamline Brazil’s labor laws.

"It’s very hard to be an employer in this country, and I am worried about the unemployed," he said. "They have no rights whatsoever."

Regarding law and order, one of the key themes of his election campaign, the president-elect said that he would push to lower the age of criminal responsibility, loosen Brazil’s gun laws and categorize any type of land invasion as terrorism. He also ruled out the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela.

While moderating his tone somewhat, he also said he did not regret any of the praise he had previously offered for Brazil’s period of military rule, reiterating that it was not a dictatorship.

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