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

Brazil's President Michel Temer leaves the Jaburu Palace in Brasilia Brazil
Brazil's President Michel Temer leaves the Jaburu Palace in Brasilia Brazil
Author

19 May, 2017

One of the country's largest newspapers, O Globo, reported on Wednesday that two senior executives from JBS, a giant meat-packing firm, have submitted a tape to the Supreme Court of a secret recording of Mr Temer approving a payment to Eduardo Cunha - the mastermind behind last year's impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff - in return for his silence as a witness in a corruption case.

The allegations in O Globo, which is part of the most powerful media group in Latin America's biggest country, were a new shockwave from a corruption scandal tearing apart the country's political elite.

Temer had managed to avoid being tainted by the scandal, going so far as to fire ministers who tried to interfere in the investigation.

"The country is in a state of shock", Marina Silva, a former environment minister and presidential aspirant, said in a video posted on Facebook.

On Thursday, Temer emphatically refused to step down after the Supreme Court authorized a probe against him. The government is on the verge of sending a long-anticipated and highly controversial pension reform proposal to the lower house of Congress. At this point, Temer appears to still have support from more than a third of Congress (the threshold needed to avoid impeachment).

The scandal is the latest shockwave from the wider "Car Wash" graft probe ripping through Brazilian politics, involving vast bribes and embezzlement.

It remained unclear whether Temer's defiance will be enough, with cracks growing in the ruling coalition, which is centred on Temer's PMDB party and the PSDB Social Democrats, along with a coalition of smaller parties.

Although previously alleged to have participated in large-scale bribery deals, Mr Temer had limited immunity.

Recorded the conversation: Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS.

Brazilian President Michel Temer is once again under fire, this time amid reports that prosecutors have obtained recordings of him discussing hush money payments with a jailed associate.

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

The statement from Temer's office acknowledges a meeting took place between Temer and Batista, adding "there was no dialogue that could compromise the President of the Republic's conduct".

According to the O Globo report, Batista allegedly recorded the discussion with Temer about hush money the executive paid to Cunha, according to the newspaper.

The first man then says: "You have to keep that up, see?"

In his statement Thursday, Mr Temer angrily responded to the claim, saying: "I never bought anyone's silence". Through plea bargains, in which defendants provided prosecutors with information in exchange for more lenient sentences, authorities have been able to trace a major kickback scheme from a Brasilia auto wash to the highest echelons of the government. Investors had been counting on Temer to push through austerity reforms, including a hike in the minimum retirement age, to fix the economy.

Unelected, Temer quickly became as unpopular as the loathed Rousseff, with approval ratings sinking into single digits.

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.

However, from its beginning, Michel Temer's government has shown a weak hand in efforts to fight corruption.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on indigenous rights and environmental conservation in Brazil said removing the agency would leave Brazil's indigenous tribes unprotected from an advancing agricultural frontier.


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