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New Brazilian Minister: Even Military Must Compromise on Pensions

Every Brazilian, including current and former members of the armed forces, will have to compromise under the next administration’s pension reform plan, a former general set to become government minister said in an interview.

Retired General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz told Reuters in Brasilia last week that it was “inadmissible” in today’s world for some Brazilians employed in the public sector to retire in their 40s or 50s.

On December 4, right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said he planned to tackle the overhaul of Brazil’s fiscally burdensome pension system with piecemeal reforms that can pass Congress, starting with an increase in the minimum age of retirement.

Many economists say cuts to Brazil’s social security system are essential to controlling a huge federal deficit and regaining Brazil’s investment-grade rating.

“There are some professions that will need to cede some things, as is the case with the justice system workers, the prosecutor’s office, and all public sector employment,” Santos Cruz said. “The military is in the same situation. The idea of retirement, for example, is going to have to be tweaked.”

One of a group of former army generals who have become close advisers to Bolsonaro, Santos Cruz will be Bolsonaro’s main liaison with Congress, state and local governments, when he takes office on January 1.

Brazil would have to take a long hard look at the age people stop working in order to protect public finances, said Santos Cruz, who is 66.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain and staunch defender of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, had pledged to protect military pensions and retirement rights, but the realization that they are responsible for nearly half of the pensions deficit led his economic advisers to push him to rethink that stance. In recent comments, Bolsonaro has said he is willing to countenance a minimum age for military retirement.

Santos Cruz also said any austerity measures should be leveled against top-earning public workers, for whom the pain is relatively less, rather than lower paid employees.

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