BRAZIL POLITICS: Supreme Court Authorizes Investigation into Temer

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By Politicoscope May 19, 2017 00:00

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Temer strongly denied allegations of wrongdoing and told allied lawmakers in a morning meeting that he would not be driven from office.

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BRAZIL POLITICS: Supreme Court Authorizes Investigation into Temer

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. Temer denied any wrongdoing and strongly resisted growing calls for him to resign.

The news sent Brazilian stock and currency markets tumbling and raised doubts that Congress would pass Temer’s austerity measures.

Temer’s situation grew far more perilous after the Supreme Court officially approved an investigation into allegations against him, according to a source with direct knowledge of the decision.

Also, a top court justice approved plea-bargain testimony and an audio recording that allegedly captured him conspiring to obstruct justice with Joesley Batista, chairman of meat company JBS SA (JBSS3.SA). The approval allows the court to quickly make both the testimony and audio public.

Leaders of Temer’s top allied party in Congress, the PSDB, said that if the allegations proved true, they would demand that three of their members who are in the president’s cabinet resign.

Temer strongly denied allegations of wrongdoing and told allied lawmakers in a morning meeting that he would not be driven from office. He cleared the rest of the day’s schedule to react to the crisis and was expected to address the nation on national TV at 4 p.m. (1900 GMT).

“We need to see what the Supreme Court says and whether it accepts this tape as evidence,” a presidential aide said. “The president is absolutely convinced he committed no crime, but that has to be made clear to the eyes of everyone.”

Brazilian markets slumped on concerns that the investigation could derail Temer’s economic and fiscal agenda. Shares of state-controlled companies, such as Banco do Brasil SA (BBAS3.SA) and Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras (PETR4.SA), lost about a fifth of their value, and the nation’s currency fell 7 percent, wiping out its gains for the year.

Brazil’s Treasury and central bank said they stood ready to keep markets liquid and working properly.

Sergio Praça, a political scientist at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation university, said Temer would have “zero chance of surviving this” once the audio recordings are released.

“After that, it’s difficult to say what will happen,” Praça said. “But I believe that even if he resigns, the reforms, which are already before Congress, still have a good chance of passing in the medium term.”

Some Temer allies tried to shore up confidence, but others said his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, was in tatters.

“Nobody right now knows what to do or what is going to happen,” said a senior aide to party leadership in Congress.

Federal police, meanwhile, closed in on Temer allies as they intensified their work in the three-year Car Wash investigation centering on 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.

Officers in the southern city of Curitiba searched the home of federal deputy Rodrido Rocha Loures, a longtime confidant of Temer and a member of the president’s party. Loures is accused of receiving bribes on behalf of Temer, which he denies.

The O Globo newspaper reported on Wednesday night that Temer met with Batista in March.

Batista, who has secured a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors, recorded the conversation in which he and Temer allegedly discussed making illegal payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, of the PMDB, to keep him from testifying about corruption.

Three people with direct knowledge of the investigation said the O Globo report was accurate.

JBS, which grew rapidly under 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule due largely to low-cost loans from Brazil’s national development bank, said on Thursday that it had no comment on the situation.

TEMER IN TROUBLE
More than 90 leading business and political figures have been convicted so far, and dozens of leading lawmakers and a third of Temer’s cabinet are under investigation, while still-powerful former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is facing five separate corruption trials.

Temer himself has been named in plea bargain testimony as negotiating millions in illegal campaign funding, which he denies. However, top federal prosecutor Rodrigo Janot has said that under Brazilian law, Temer cannot be investigated for crimes committed before he became president until he leaves office.

But the new allegations refer to an incident that took place after Temer took office, which would open the door to an investigation against him.

If Temer resigns or is impeached, Brazil’s constitution calls for the lower house leader to temporarily take over and for Congress to name a successor within 30 days.

But with lawmakers under the cloud of corruption, there are widespread calls in Brazil that the constitution be changed to allow for direct elections now.

Activist groups from across the political spectrum took to social media, calling for protests this weekend. Should large demonstrations occur, pressure on Temer to step aside would increase significantly.

Also on Thursday, Janot asked the Supreme Court’s permission to arrest Senator Aecio Neves, a key government ally who lost the 2014 presidential election against former president Dilma Rousseff. The top court suspended Neves from the Senate.

Local media reported that Neves was recorded asking for 2 million reais ($638,000) from Batista, which the senator denies.

Rousseff was impeached last 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.

– Reuters


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Politicoscope
By Politicoscope May 19, 2017 00:00

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Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help

There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
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