South American delegations walk out on Brazil's Temer during UN General Assembly speech

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President of Brazil, Michel Temer, speaks during the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, NY, US, Sept. 20, 2016. (EPA Photo)
President of Brazil, Michel Temer, speaks during the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, NY, US, Sept. 20, 2016. (EPA Photo)

In a dramatic display of Latin America's political divisions, the delegations of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua walked out during Brazilian President Michel Temer's speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

"It is common practice when one wants to send a strong signal of rejection," said Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Guillaume Long, who was among the diplomats that left.

Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez told The Associated Press Tuesday that Temer is "an illegitimate president, the product of a coup d'etat. We do not recognize him."

Ecuadorean diplomat Carola Iniguez says her country's delegation walked out "to protest the political situation in Brazil."


Temer took office on August 31 after the impeachment over accounting irregularities of elected president Dilma Rousseff, whose supporters said Brazil's right-wing forces had staged a bloodless coup.

In his speech, Temer defended the impeachment process, insisting it was an example of democracy at work. He said "impeaching a president is certainly not a trivial matter in a democratic regime. But there is no democracy without rule of law — without rules applicable to all, including the most powerful. This is what Brazil is showing the world."

Brazil's Senate convicted Rousseff, the country's first woman president, of breaking budget rules, marking the end of 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule. Then vice president, Temer will serve out her term through 2018.

After Rousseff's ouster, Brazilian prosecutors filed corruption charges against her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, accusing him of a pay-to-play scheme at state oil company Petrobras. The leftist icon accused Brazilian elites of trumping up charges to destroy him politically ahead of 2018 elections.

As expected, he said that Brazil on Wednesday would become the latest major economy to ratify the Paris global accord on climate change, bringing the agreement closer to coming into force.

Brazil, one of the world's most biodiverse countries, "is an environmental powerhouse, one that has an uncompromising commitment to the environment," Temer said during his speech.

Investors are watching Temer's steps to plug a budget deficit that has ballooned to 10 percent of gross domestic product from 3 percent in 2013. Brazil's currency has strengthened and the stock market has surged on the ouster of Rousseff, but doubts remain about Temer's commitment to curbing profligate public spending.

He is known as a quiet, calculating political deal maker unencumbered by ideology.

Temer honed his craft over several years in Brazil's bare-knuckle lower house of Congress, where he was an ally to both centrist President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Temer's pro-business program includes a multibillion-dollar plan to auction off oil, power rights and infrastructure concessions to try to bolster private investment to revive a moribund economy.

Temer, part of a regional shift toward the political right, has sought to offset criticism of planned austerity measures by denying that a proposed ceiling on public spending would impact health and education expenditures.

In neighboring Argentina, the November election of free-markets advocate Mauricio Macri as president put another center-right leader in charge of a major South American economy after years of leftist rule.

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