Brazil’s Rousseff downplays opposition to fiscal policy during Google tour

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff downplays Congressional opposition to her controversial fiscal policy while touring Google’s California headquarters where she took a spin in one of the company’s self-driving cars.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JULY 01, 2015) (REUTERS) – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff downplayed recent political losses back home in Brazil while visiting Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters as she continued her tour of the United States on Wednesday (July 01).

Rousseff had a meeting with Google CEO Larry Page, toured the facility, and even went for a spin in one of the company’s experimental self-driving cars.

“I just got out of the future. It’s fantastic, because you have the impression – before getting in (the car) and going around – that it is going to be unsafe, but it’s not. It feels like you have a driver driving and that this driver respects traffic signals, respects cars up ahead, bicyclists and pedestrians,” Rousseff said of the test drive in the Google car.

But meanwhile, back home in Brazil, Congress sent Rousseff another blow on Tuesday (June 30) by voting to raise salaries for court workers by as much as 78 percent over the next two years, pressuring government coffers at a time the president is trying to cut spending and attract investment – one of the main motives behind her U.S. trip.

Rousseff’s government opposed the measure due to the high cost burden it puts on the budget in coming years.

Rousseff had already raised taxes and cut spending with pension and other social benefits to rebalance public accounts and avoid losing Brazil’s coveted investment-grade rating.

Tuesday’s setback was the latest in a string of hindrances highlighting strong congressional resistance to an unpopular austerity push led by Finance Minister Joaquim Levy.

But Rousseff said it was just part of the political process and that the idea of some kind of governmental showdown was just being played up by the press.

“The political climate is part of the reality in Brazil. I like Brazil and the political climate just makes me pay even more attention and dedicate myself even more to resolving the problems that necessarily exist between the executive branch and Congress. The approval or not, I want to say to you, I have to thank Congress. A significant portion of the fiscal adjustment was approved. So I think sometimes you (journalists) create a climate that doesn’t exist. We lose some and we win some,” Rousseff said.

A team of Brazilian journalists trailing Rousseff pressured her on the congressional losses and recent criticisms from her predecessor and mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, as he is known in Brazil, has said his Workers’ Party, which is currently led by Rousseff, had lost its way and called for changes within the party and for younger members to step up to take the reins.

“Dear President Lula (former President Lula Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) has every right to make criticisms of whomever he wishes and especially of me,” Rousseff said.

Her California visit coincided with a new low in her national polling numbers, following a massive corruption scandal at state-run oil firm Petrobras and an economy that is heading towards recession.

The number of Brazilians considering Rousseff’s government “great” or “good” dropped to just 9 percent, according to an Ibope opinion poll commissioned by the National Industry Confederation, or CNI.

She did not comment on her poll numbers, but concluded her U.S. trip had been productive.

Earlier in the week, Rousseff met with U.S. President Barack Obama, and agreed to a series of steps to ease trade.

She said “things have changed” since October 2013, when she canceled an official state visit after revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the United States had spied on her.