May 27, 2017

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

19 May 2017, 07:12 | Winifred Adams

Brazilian President Michel Temer. Adriano Machado Reuters

Brazilian President Michel Temer.   Adriano Machado  Reuters

The political storm erupted late Wednesday, when the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that Temer had been the target of a police sting operation in which he was recorded condoning a payment by a Brazilian businessman to the jailed speaker of the house aimed at ensuring that the politician stayed silent on corruption.

"At no time did I authorize the paying of anyone", Temer said emphatically, pounding his index finger against the podium.

Free webinar: Register now to learn about Closing the Gap between Government and IT with Army and Military Health System. "I won't resign, and I demand that everything be fully cleared up", the head of state said in a message to the nation from the Planalto presidential palace.

Piling on the pressure, the Supreme Court greenlighted a formal investigation into Temer's alleged involvement with the hush money.

The country's media giant O Globo reported Wednesday night that, as part of a plea bargain deal, a prominent business executive had turned over tapes to the country's Supreme Court.

The Sao Paulo stock market's Bovespa index crashed more than 10 per cent after opening, triggering an automatic suspension of trading for 30 minutes.

The New Zealand dollar fell, and is heading for a 0.4 percent weekly decline, as a scandal surrounding Brazil's President Michel Temer took the spotlight off US President Donald Trump and US data printed strong enough to keep intact bets on a US rate hike next month. Both chambers of Congress cancelled sessions and Mr Temer's office axed his planned activities. There was talk that Cabinet ministers were considering quitting their posts, and the culture minister did step down by day's end.

Of more concern to Mr Temer may be signs of dissent within his administration, with a leader of his coalition allies, the social democrat PSDB, saying they were considering leaving the government. "Even if the recordings don't show something that bad, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube", said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank.

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Michel Temer is the ultimate political insider who quietly and ruthlessly worked his way to the summit of Brazil's political pyramid - before finding himself teetering in spectacular fashion.

There had been speculation that Temer would use his televised address to resign.

"Michel Temer is like that boyfriend who doesn't know it's over", one Twitter user said.

The scandal is the latest shockwave from the wider "Car Wash" graft probe ripping through Brazilian politics.

Globo reported late on Wednesday that Mr Neves had been recorded asking JBS meat-packing company executive Joesley Batista for 700,000 USA dollars (£540,000) to pay for his "Car Wash" defence. According to the account, Temer told Batista: "You need to keep doing that".

Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house, the chief mastermind behind the parliamentary coup against former President Dilma Rousseff and an ally of the unelected president, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in March for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

Temer was implicated in bribery scandal in December 2016 when the CEO of Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht admitted to paying Temer bribes, reported Brazilian publication Plus55 - a claim Temer firmly denied.

A separate secret recording made by Batista allegedly caught Senator Aecio Neves, head of the PSDB party and a close Temer ally, asking him for a bribe of two million reais, or around United States dollars 600,000.

There were protests by several thousand people in Rio de Janeiro and the capital Brasilia which ended in clashes with riot police.

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