A de­fi­ant Te­mer main­tains claims of in­no­cence amidst ma­jor cor­rup­tion probe

New Straits Times - - World -

BRAZIL’S Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer on Thurs­day de­fi­antly said he would not re­sign after the Supreme Court au­tho­rised an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions he con­doned bribes to a po­ten­tial wit­ness in a ma­jor cor­rup­tion probe.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion raised the pos­si­bil­ity Brazil could see a sec­ond pres­i­dent fall in less than a year, and sent Brazil­ian fi­nan­cial mar­kets tum­bling on doubts Congress would pass Te­mer’s am­bi­tious aus­ter­ity agenda.

In a terse five-minute speech broad­cast na­tion­wide, Te­mer said he had done noth­ing wrong, that his pres­i­dency was help­ing turn around Brazil’s stalled econ­omy, and he wel­comed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion so that he could prove his in­no­cence.

“I did not buy the si­lence of any­one,” Te­mer said, re­fer­ring to the al­le­ga­tions made against him. “I will not re­sign.”

A Supreme Court jus­tice ap­proved the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Thurs­day, based on plea-bar­gain tes­ti­mony and an au­dio record­ing in which Te­mer al­legedly con­spired to ob­struct jus­tice with Joes­ley Batista, chair­man of the world’s largest meat­packer, JBS SA, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the O Globo news­pa­per.

The au­dio record­ing re­leased to the pub­lic on Thurs­day did not ap­pear to con­tain any ex­plo­sive proof that Te­mer com­mit­ted a crime.

It was, how­ever, just one piece of ev­i­dence Batista has of­fered pros­e­cu­tors. After lis­ten­ing to the record­ing, a spokesman for Te­mer said the pres­i­dent was more res­o­lute than ever to fight the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and sal­vage his deeply un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dency.

He said the tape proved he had not ap­proved brib­ing the wit­ness, for­mer lower house speaker Ed­uardo Cunha. A one-time Te­mer ally, Cunha was con­victed on cor­rup­tion charges re­lat­ing to Brazil’s sweep­ing graft probe known as Op­er­a­tion Car Wash. The jailed politi­cian’s tes­ti­mony could re­port­edly im­pli­cate scores of politi­cians, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent.

“There is no agree­ing with pay­ments for Ed­uardo Cunha,” Mar­cio de Fre­itas, a spokesman for Te­mer, said of the tape.

Protests call­ing for Te­mer’s res­ig­na­tion broke out in sev­eral cities on Thurs­day. Ac­tivists from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum called for large protests this week­end.

The hush money al­le­ga­tions have plunged Brazil back into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil less than a year after Te­mer played a key role in the im­peach­ment of his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff.

Rouss­eff ac­cused Te­mer of car­ry­ing out a "coup" to im­pede the Car Wash probe, in which more than 90 lead­ing busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures have been con­victed so far. Reuters


De­mon­stra­tors car­ry­ing a cof­fin at a protest against Brazil’s Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer (in­set) in Rio de Janeiro.

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