Brazil’s Te­mer escapes cor­rup­tion trial

New Straits Times - - World -

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

REUTERS PIC

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.

Michael Te­mer

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