Brazil prepares to vote on removing second president in a year
Brazil Brazil prepares to vote on removing second president in a year
Brazilâs congress will vote on corruption charges against Michel Temer, who has been plagued by scandal following Dilma Rousseffâs impeachment
The lower house of Brazilâs congress will on Wednesday vote on corruption charges against the president, Michel Temer. If two thirds of its deputies approve the char ges â" and Brazilâs supreme court agrees â" Temer will be suspended for up to 180 days and put on trial.
The latest twist in Brazilâs political nightmare will mark the second time in a year that lawmakers vote on whether to remove a president.
But if more than a third of lawmakers vote to reject the charges â" which political insiders regard as increasingly likely â" Temerâs troubled administration could survive until presidential elections in 2018. And the persistent pall of corruption that hangs over Brazilâs political leaders will linger on.
Temer, who took over from the Workersâ party president Dilma Rousseff after her impeachment, is accused of corruption after a close aide was given $150,000 in cash â" part of $12m in bribes prosecutors allege he and the aide were due to receive after intervening in a business deal.
âThe accusation was very strong, the facts speak for themselves,â said Carlos Lima, a leading prosecutor in Opera tion Car Wash, the far-reaching corruption investigation that has shaken Brazilâs political and business classes.
Rousseff denounced her impeachment as a coup and accused Temer, her former vice-president, of conspiring to usurp her. Since taking over he has been hit by one scandal after another. And with his 5% approval rating even lower than Rousseffâs was, Brazilians are wondering whether his government is even more compromised than the one it forced out.
But there is little appetite for a fresh round of street protests like those which helped drive Rousseff from power, said MaurÃcio Santoro, a professor of international relations and political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.Operation Car Wash: The biggest corruption scandal ever? Read more
âWhat people hoped for was something very different,â he said. âThere is a certain apathy in the Brazilian population and this is benefitting Temer. He would be in much more difficulty if he was facing big demonstrations.â
Since the Operation Car Wash investigation began unpeeling a multibillion-dollar graft scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras in 2014, a long list of executives, middlemen and politicians from Rousseffâs Workersâ party and its congressional allies have been jailed.
But Temerâs new administration ran into problems from the start. His planning minister, Romero JucÃ¡, was forced out almost immediately after being secretly recorded plotting against the graft inquiry.
In April this year, after executives from the construction giant Odebrecht agreed plea bargain deals, a supreme court judge authorised investigations into eight ministers.
One was Wellington Moreira Franco, a close Temer ally. He denied allegations he solicited illicit campaign donations from Odebrecht executives and said the corruption investigations had become a âsavageryâ, characterised by vague, unproven testimony leaked befo re cases went to trial.
âThe objective here is to demoralise political characters, demoralise the powers,â he told the Guardian.
He said the government was pressing ahead with a series of unpopular austerity measures designed to reboot Brazilâs economy â" including an overhaul of the generous pensions system. âWe have not lost focus,â said Moreira Franco.
But pension reform has been on hold while the government fights its corruption crisis, which began in May when O Globo newspaper revealed a secret late-night meeting Temer held with Joesley Batista, , a wealthy businessman whose family controls a meat conglomerate.
Already under investigation, Batista secretly recorded the meeting to help negotiate a generous plea bargain for himself and his brother Wesley that meant they would serve no jail time and later accuse 1,829 politicians of receiving bribes.
During the meeting, Temer appeared to encourage Batista to keep making payments to Ed uardo Cunha, the former speaker of Brazilâs lower house, jailed for receiving millions of dollars in bribes, and recommended Rodrigo Rocha Loures, a lawmaker and close aide, as someone Batista could liaise with.
Rocha Loures was filmed leaving a SÃ£o Paulo pizzeria with more than $150,000 in a suitcase after intervening in a business dispute on Batistaâs behalf and was later arrested. He has since been released and given the money back.
In June, the prosecutor-general, Rodrigo Janot, charged Temer with corruption, arguing that the money in the suitcase was destined for him and that he and Loures were due to get another $12m. Temer denied the charges, called Batista a ânotorious criminalâ and attacked the generous plea bargain deal.
He said there was no evidence he had received any of the money. But his government has had to work hard â" and dig deep into federal funds â" to convince deputies to reject the charges.Brazil's right on the ris e as anger grows over scandal and corruption Read more
According to calculations by Open Accounts, a not-for-profit congress watchdog, in June and July the government agreed $1.33bn in funding for lawmakersâ projects in their own states.
âIt is a commercial relationship,â said Gil Castello Branco, Open Accountsâ founder. âThe government should be embarrassed.â
Temerâs party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement party (PMDB), is a network of regional bosses that likes to ally with whoever is in power at the time. The party has run Rio de Janeiro state since 2007. A year after hosting the Olympics, the state is broke and paying salaries late, crime is soaring, and the former PMDB governor SÃ©rgio Cabral is in jail, accused of pocketing up to $100m in bribes.
âParties like PMDB are based on local chiefs,â said Lima, the prosecutor. âEach one has their own scheme of financing, their own way of laundering money, their own treasurer. It is much more personal and less party political.â
In a poll released on Monday, 81% of Brazilians said deputies should accept the charges. And Janot, the prosecutor-general, is expected to present more.
Robeano Carneiro, a second-hand car salesman in the city of Natal, said Temer should stand trial.
âIf he was wrong, he should be punished for this,â he said.Topics
- Michel Temer
- Dilma Rousseff
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