(Adds Temer quotes, political context)
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA Feb 3 President Michel Temer promoted
his point man for infrastructure investment to a ministry
position on Friday and added a politician from an allied party
to his cabinet to help push austerity measures through Congress.
Temer swore in his close aide Wellington Moreira Franco as
minister in charge of communications and strategic affairs with
a special brief to continue drumming up foreign investor
interest in upgrading Brazilian infrastructure.
Moreira Franco has been named for allegedly taking a bribe
in plea bargain testimony in the Car Wash graft investigation,
which could land him in court, raising speculation that the
promotion was aimed at partially shielding him from prosecution.
"It is just a formalization of his job, since he was already
acting as a minister," said Temer, who took office last year
vowing to fight corruption and reduce the number of ministries.
Moreira Franco has denied any wrongdoing. His first public
statement as minister was to reject any ulterior motive for his
cabinet appointment, which means that any case against him must
be tried by the Supreme Court where it is likely to drag out.
In coming months, Moreira Franco will open concessions for
the building and operation of roads, railways, ports and
airports in Temer's strategy to draw local and foreign private
investment to help pull Brazil out of a two-year recession.
Temer brought into his inner cabinet a leading lawmaker from
the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, Antonio
Imbassahy, who will be responsible for maintaining smooth
relations with Congress to win approval of Brazil's costly
pension system, the main cause of a bulging budget deficit that
lost Brazil its investment grade credit rating in 2015.
The government hopes to pass pension reform by June, but it
faces opposition. The unpopular measure will mean Brazilians
have to work longer to have a full pension.
Temer, who took over from impeached leftist Dilma Rousseff
last year, enjoys a majority in Congress but he has bolstered
the chances of passing divisive austerity measures by adding
Imbassahy to his political team.
"We will air all our differences and reach a solution that
is best for the nation," Imbassahy told reporters.
The PSDB has pledged to support the government through 2018,
when both they and Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party,
or PMDB, plan to field their own presidential candidates.
"We will have time to put Brazil back on the tracks. Whoever
comes afterwards will find balanced accounts and a pacified
country," Temer said in his speech.
(Additonal reporting by Leonardo Goy and Lisandra Paraguassú;
Editing by James Dalgleish)