October 18, 2015 / 6:18 PM / in 4 years

Brazil's president backs finance minister, austerity drive

Brazil's Finance Minister Joaquim Levy and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff participate in the signing ceremony for the concession contract of the BR-101 Rio-Niteroi Bridge at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia May 18, 2015. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday expressed support for Finance Minister Joaquim Levy and said the government will continue efforts to push austerity measures through Brazil’s Congress.

“Finance Minister Levy stays,” Rousseff told reporters during a visit to Sweden, following a flurry of speculation in Brazilian media in recent days that the finance chief was getting ready to step down.

The comments come as Rousseff, a beleaguered leftist struggling to revive an economy now in its worst recession in nearly three decades, seeks to counter criticism against Levy by many officials from within her own Workers’ Party.

Levy, a former banker seeking to introduce austerity measures needed to rebalance overdrawn government accounts, faces increasing criticism from ruling party officials who oppose the measures and support economic stimulus instead.

In her comments to reporters in Stockholm, Rousseff said a meeting last Friday with Levy was a discussion about how to move forward with economic policy, not a conversation, as widely reported, about his possible departure.

The government, she added, will continue efforts to push the austerity measures through a Congress that has been reluctant to approve them. “Crucial,” she said, is a proposed tax on financial transactions that is needed to boost government revenues that have plummeted in recent years.

On Sunday, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper published an interview in which Rui Falcão, president of the Workers’ Party, said Rousseff should shift away from the austerity push and that Levy should leave if he did not agree,

Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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