Brio is Gone, but Brazil's Leader May Be Back

By: Diana Jean Schemo
The New York Times, October 4, 1998

During his administration's so-far-unsuccessful push to restructure social security benefits, Mr. Cardoso aid people who wanted to retire early were "bums." Although the President later explained that he meant to attack professionals who tire after 20 or 25 years, millions of Brazilian pensioners who had begun heir working lives as children felt themselves maligned.

Worse yet, word leaked that the 67-year-old President has himself been collecting a pension, currently at a month, ever since Brazil's military dictatorship forced him to teaching at the University of Sao Paulo in 1969. Although the President could have returned to teaching years later, he chose to keep the pension instead.

Sergio Amaral, the President's spokesman, said Mr. Cardoso saw no reason to give up the pension, since he had been "retired by an arbitrary of the military Government, and he continued working for the country as politician and then President." He said Mr. Cardoso gave up a second pension he could have collected for having been a Senator.

And in an August speech at the Parque Royale slum outside Rio, the President stunned residents when he "There's no way to make everybody rich. I don't even know if it's worth the trouble, because the life of person, in general, is very boring."

He later explained that as a work- man he did not count himself wealthy, but that only made his mis-step worse. President Cardoso's $6,000-a-month base salary, along with his pension, puts him in the top 2 percent of Brazilians who make more than $2,100 a month, according to Government statistics.

"I'm one of the bums," announced Milton Peixoto, 64, a retired river, adding that there was no way he would vote for President Cardoso. "Last time I voted for him, but this time, he can go to hell. My life's only gotten worse."

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