World Bulletin / News Desk
Efforts by Brazil's embattled government to push through unpopular austerity reforms face ever greater headwinds after the eruption of a corruption scandal weakening President Michel Temer.
Temer has rock-bottom public approval ratings but he has been able to rely on a friendly Congress since legislators impeached leftist president Dilma Rousseff last year, automatically raising Temer, her conservative vice president, to the top job.
Since the Supreme Court's decision last week to open corruption probes on some 100 politicians, including a third of Temer's cabinet and many of his allies in Congress, the president's position has deteriorated further.
He already faces widespread anger from voters over the austerity reforms, which also include liberalizing labor laws and an already-approved 20-year federal spending freeze.
Temer says market reforms are needed after more than a decade of leftist rule as the only way to lift Brazil from its worst recession in history.
But on Tuesday, angry police union members stormed the entrance of the lower house of Congress, scuffling with congressional police, to demand that police be allowed to retire earlier. Pressure is also coming from legislators themselves.
In a rare show of defiance to Temer, the lower house on Tuesday refused to fast-track the labor-law reforms. It then reversed this decision Wednesday after a rowdy debate marked by the kind of insults and shouting matches common last year during Rousseff's impeachment.
"Brazilian society has not bought into these reforms," said Sylvio Costa, founder of the political news website Congreso em Foco.
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