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Brazil president says military should have benefits reduced

Brazil’s president said Thursday that military personnel should have their benefits reduced as part of a reform of the country’s troubled pension system, a concession aimed at helping a controversial proposal get past near-certain opposition in Congress.

President Jair Bolsonaro made his remarks in a short speech to marine troops in Rio de Janeiro as lawmakers prepare to debate changes which would increase the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women.

The prospect for reform is unknown, but securing any modification to the system is a difficult undertaking that requires super majorities in both chambers of Congress.

“I want the armed forces to make a sacrifice and accept the pension reforms,” Bolsonaro told troops. “The new pension system will affect the military.”

He did not provide additional details.

Critics of the pension reform have previously condemned Bolsonaro’s proposals to curtail generous benefits without requiring the military to share in the pain.

As a congressman for 27 years, Bolsonaro often voted against such proposals himself.

But the far-right leader, who said during the election campaign he did not know much about the economy, now says he was wrong to do that and has made pension reform a central pillar of his administration’s agenda in a bid to boost Latin America’s largest economy.

Bolsonaro, a staunch supporter Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, said Thursday: “Democracy and freedom only exist when the armed forces want them to.”

The speech to troops was Bolsonaro’s first public event since he sparked outrage by sharing a video on Twitter showing a man urinating on the head of another man during a Carnival party. Bolsonaro said in the tweet he was showing how debase Carnival celebrations had become.

The far-right president was one of the main targets of revelers’ mockery during this week’s Carnival, which is a time when samba schools and organizers of thousands of street parties traditionally take politicians to task.

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