SAO PAULO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer denied that his administration would give up on passing pension legislation that some in Congress have opposed, according to an interview published on Saturday.
Temer told newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that approval of the proposal, which raises the retirement age, remained a key target for his administration, even though analysts and politicians say it would be nearly impossible to pass such a bill in an election year.
“I want to say that the possibility to approve the reform is very strong,” Temer said.
“Several congressmen have changed their views,” and the bill is slowly gaining more support, he added.
The pension proposal is seen as critical to reduce Brazil’s large fiscal deficit and guarantee that the government will have resources to pay a growing number of beneficiaries in a country that is getting older.
Temer said his administration “will not end” if the bill fails to pass, since it has other priorities, such as a plan to simplify the tax system.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been convicted with corruption, is leading the polls in this year’s presidential election.
With a new trial for the former president only days away, Temer, who is not running, said he would prefer to see Lula losing in the election than in a court of law.
Temer was once an ally of Lula’s Workers Party, but they split during the impeachment process that ousted Dilma Rousseff from the presidency.
“We have to admit that if (Lula) were to be politically defeated, it would be better than being beaten (in a court), because he would be victimized,” Temer said. “Victimization is not good for a country and not good for a former president.”
Lula could lose the right to run if his appeal of the corruption conviction is denied in next week’s trial. He could leave the trial arrested. (Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Lisa Von Ahn)