Brazil's president may lead a 'walking dead administration'

Ivan Schwartz
May 19, 2017

Brazil's President Michel Temer defiantly refused to step down Thursday after being put under investigation for allegedly authorising payment of hush money to a politician imprisoned for corruption.

"At no time did I authorize the paying of anyone", he said in a national address Thursday.

It was the first appearance since the Globo newspaper published a report Wednesday night that Temer was recorded supporting payments to former Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Temer's announcement caps a dramatic 24-hour period that included police searches at Brazil's Congress and the top electoral court, spontaneous protests in the country's main cities.

Temer is deeply unpopular but has been able to rely on a dominant alliance between his center-right PMDB party and the PSDB Social Democrats, along with a coalition of smaller parties.

The tape, reported by O Globo Wednesday evening and released on Thursday, revealed that Temer had given his blessing to hefty bribes in the name of keeping a key witness, Eduardo Cunha, quiet in the countries largest-ever corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash.

Despite all the calls for his head, the veteran center-right politician - who took over past year after the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff - came out swinging.

"The news sent stocks into a tailspin, amid investor fears that Temer will now be unable to carry through his long plans to overhaul pension and labor laws - and pull Brazil's economy out of deep recession".

Senator Randolfe Rodrigues from the opposition Rede party promised demonstrations until Temer quits.

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He is being investigated in several corruption cases related to the "Car Wash" probe into kickbacks to politicians. He had served three times as speaker of the lower house of Congress and been president of the PMDB for 15 years.

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According to the report the president discussed the matter with Joesley Batista, an executive from the meatpacking giant JBS, on March 7.

Temer allegedly told Batista: "You need to keep doing that, OK?"

The conversation, which was provided to prosecutors as part of a plea bargain with Batista, is now evidence with the Supreme Court. He has denied any wrongdoing but the Supreme Federal Tribunal has suspended him from office indefinitely. Neves has already been removed from his post, and his sister has been arrested, according to O Globo.

More than 90 leading business and political figures have been convicted so far in the probe, and dozens of leading lawmakers and a third of Temer's cabinet are under investigation.

To judge by the impeachments and scandals, money is evidently trickling down to the Brazilian political class.

Although alleged to have participated in large-scale bribery deals, he could not be prosecuted for crimes prior to his mandate.

Rousseff was impeached previous year for breaking budgetary laws, but she and her supporters have accused Temer, her vice president, of orchestrating her ouster as part of a soft "coup" meant to halt the Car Wash investigation.

Rousseff, from the leftist Workers' Party, was found guilty by Congress of having illegally manipulated government accounts to hide the true extent of Brazil's financial woes. I have a contact within the task force who's also providing me with information.

Other reports by GizPress

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