Brazil’s Temer escapes corruption trial
BRASÍLIA: Brazilian President Michel Temer hoped yesterday to turn a surprisingly easy victory in blocking his corruption trial into momentum for austerity reforms, but more turmoil could await the unpopular leader.
Temer needed a third of the lower house of Congress’s support to avoid being suspended from office and put on trial in the Supreme Court.
After hours of angry debates, he got 263 votes, more than half of the chamber. Another 21 deputies were either absent or abstained, deepening the defeat for anti-corruption prosecutors.
Accused of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes, Temer was the first Brazilian president to face a criminal charge while in office.
Revelations from the “Car Wash” antigraft operation, which has recently targeted Temer, eight of his ministers, a third of lower house lawmakers and many other senior politicians, have prompted disgust among Brazilians.
But Temer portrayed the “clear, indisputable” rejection of his trial as amounting to a fresh mandate.
Ever since coming to power a year ago following the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff, the centre-right Temer has pursued austerity reforms which he said would revive Brazil after two years of deep recession.
The reforms are opposed by many ordinary Brazilians, but welcomed by the business community, which has seen Brazil fall from emerging market poster child to regional basket case.
Now Temer said he had new wind in his sails.
“We are pulling Brazil out of its worst economic crisis in our history,” Temer said after the vote. “I want to complete the biggest transformation ever done in our country.”
“The markets will be happy," said Gesner Oliveira, at the Go Associados consultancy.
“It suggests that continuing the reform agenda is possible.”
However, the public shows no sign of accepting the reforms, which include cuts to the generous pension system, while Temer’s approval rating is just five per cent.
That raises the possibility of more violent street protests. Several previous demonstrations have turned into riots where protesters set fire to a government building here and torched buses and smashed bank windows in Rio de Janeiro. AFP
A protester reacting as he follows, on screen, a vote on sending corruption charges against Brazilian President Michel Temer to the Supreme Court for trial in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.