Brazil's Temer: 'I won't resign' amid corruption allegations

Ruben Ruiz
May 19, 2017

Brazil's political crisis deepened on Thursday as government allies began openly discussing scenarios for the replacement of Mr. Temer after federal police carried out search and arrest warrants throughout the capital, Brasilia.

Dozens of leading lawmakers and a third of Temer's cabinet are under investigation over billions in political kickbacks paid by Brazil's biggest construction companies in exchange for contracts at state-run oil producer Petrobras and other government enterprises.

Stocks plunged, both chambers of Congress canceled sessions, and the office of President Michel Temer canceled his planned activities in the wake of a Globo newspaper report that he had been recorded endorsing the bribery of a former lawmaker. The Supreme Federal Tribunal suspended Neves from office indefinitely.

Temer's administration has been embroiled in corruption scandals since being installed in power past year, but the Batista tape is perhaps the strongest blow to the stability of the unelected government yet, plunging the already highly unpopular executive deeper into crisis.

The embattled leader spoke in a national address after Globo newspaper reported Wednesday night that Temer was recorded supporting payments to former Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Brazil's Supreme Court has approved an investigation of President Michel Temer after he was purportedly taped agreeing to bribe a powerful witness in a sprawling anti-graft investigation, Globo TV reported on Thursday without citing a source.

Cunha was jailed for 15 years in March for corruption.

Temer replied: "You need to keep doing that, OK?"

It did not say how it obtained the information, or what Mr Cunha was being asked to keep quiet about.

Mr Temer took over office previous year after the impeachment of his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff.

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There were immediate demands late Wednesday from leftist opponents for Temer's removal.

Protests calling for Temer's resignation broke out in several cities Thursday, most attracting a few hundred people.

But news that the president himself may have been party to a cover-up shook the scandal-weary nation. Claims surrounding a complex web of bribery and hush money, known as the "Car Wash" scandal, have snowballed over the years to engulf numerous country's top politicians and companies.

Already a Who's Who of the elite has been imprisoned or placed under investigation.

Among those mentioned as possible candidates in an indirect election of president by Congress are Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, Chief Justice Carmen Lucia Rocha and former Defense Minister Nelson Jobim.

The Podemos party said Thursday that its 13 members in the lower house have left the governing coalition.

The investigation raised the possibility Brazil could see a second president fall in less than a year and sent Brazilian financial markets tumbling on doubts Congress would pass Temer's ambitious austerity agenda. The new scandal could further undermine support in Congress for those reforms, particularly a push to raise the minimum age for retirement in an attempt to rework the costly pension system.

Before Rousseff, Luiz Inacio da Silva or Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2011, was involved in the Petrobras scandal himself and is now facing trial for it. The historic Lava Jato case has changed the image of Brazil of a country marked by corruption scandals to one that is facing the problem head-on.

In his speech, Mr Temer categorically denied the allegation and insisted he will stay in his job.

Other reports by GizPress

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