Brazil's Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 19, 2017

Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday authorized an investigation into President Michel Temer and allegations that he condoned bribery of a potential witness in the massive "Car Wash" graft probe.

Ahead of Temer's address just after 4:00 p.m. local time, four members of his Cabinet - Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann, Minister of Culture Roberto Freire, Minister of Cities Bruno Araujo and Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes - said they planned to step down if Temer did not resign, Brazil's Estadao reported.

The JBS chairman recorded a conversation in which he and Temer allegedly discussed making illegal payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha to keep him from testifying about corruption in March, according to a source familiar with the matter.

It remained unclear whether Temer's defiance will be enough, with cracks growing in the ruling coalition, which is centered on Temer's PMDB party and the PSDB Social Democrats, along with a coalition of smaller parties. Cunha was instrumental in the 2016 ouster of President Dilma Roussef, paving the way for Temer to take office.

"I will not resign, I repeat, I will not resign!"

When the news broke on Wednesday evening, opponents started to call for Temer's resignation or impeachment, Xinhua reported.

After that, according to Brazil's constitution, congress would elect a president to serve the rest of Temer's term, which ends next year.

During the discussion, Batista could be heard saying, "I'm under investigation but haven't been condemned". The question is whether Michel Temer and his supporters - including Senator Aécio Neves, also caught up in the investigations - are the people to be leading Brazil in its historical fight against corruption - when the recordings show that they may have been powerful obstacles to it. Officers could be seen entering Neves' property in Rio de Janeiro and his sister Andrea was arrested in Belo Horizonte.

Globo published what seemed to be pictures showing men delivering a suitcase of cash for Neves, who was suspended Thursday from his position. Cunha has been convicted and jailed in the sprawling corruption probe into kickbacks at the state-run oil giant Petrobras, but many believe he could still give damning testimony about dozens of politicians.

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

Until now Temer has managed to stay above the fray, enjoying presidential immunity for alleged crimes prior to his mandate.

On the tape, which was made public Thursday, Batista told Temer that he was paying money every month to Cunha "to keep things under control" and Temer replied: "You need to keep doing that, OK?"

Rousseff and her leftist allies accuse him of having engineered her impeachment and his own rise to power previous year in what they say amounted to a coup d'etat.

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.

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