Net clos­ing on Brazil’s pres­i­dent

Re­fuses to quit as pop­u­lar­ity slumps

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BRAZIL­IAN fed­eral po­lice handed a top court an in­ves­ti­ga­tion al­leg­ing that Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer ac­cepted bribes in ex­change for po­lit­i­cal favours from the largest meat­pack­ing com­pany in the coun­try as sev­eral ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion con­tinue to swirl around the pres­i­dent and his al­lies.

The po­lice pre­sented ev­i­dence claim­ing that Te­mer re­ceived money il­le­gally from Brazil­ian meat­pack­ing firm JBS. A video was re­leased ear­lier by in­ves­ti­ga­tors show­ing Te­mer aide Ro­drigo Rocha Loure car­ry­ing a suit­case filled with about $150000 (R1.95 mil­lion) in cash al­legedly sent from JBS to the pres­i­dent.

“Be­fore the si­lence of the high­est author­ity of the na­tion and his for­mer spe­cial aide, the ev­i­dence ob­tained from the in­for­ma­tion in this probe re­mains un­changed and in­di­cates, with vigour, the crime of pas­sive cor­rup­tion,” the re­port said.

Just weeks ago, Te­mer was ac­quit­ted of fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the 2014 elec­tion cam­paign in which he ran as vice-pres­i­dent.

The rul­ing came just a day af­ter he de­nied other cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions, as an ar­ti­cle in Veja magazine al­leged that the coun­try’s se­cret se­cu­rity ser­vice, known as Abin, spied on the judge in charge of the cor­rup­tion probes known as Oper­a­tion Car Wash.

The sub­mis­sion of the po­lice probe came the day be­fore it was re­vealed that only 2% of re­spon­dents con­sider the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion in a pos­i­tive light.

Te­mer, who was im­posed by Brazil’s Se­nate af­ter a par­lia­men­tary coup against demo­crat­i­cally-elected Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff, has pushed a host of un­pop­u­lar neo-lib­eral mea­sures, as well as be­ing em­broiled in graft probes.

The poll by DataPoder360, which was re­leased in Wed­nes­day, found that 75% of re­spon­dents a 10% – in­crease com­pared with a sur­vey con­ducted in May re­jected – Te­mer, while 79% of re­spon­dents pre­ferred Te­mer’s res­ig­na­tion or an an­nul­ment of his pres­i­dency.

A to­tal of 76% of the 2096 Brazil­ians in­ter­viewed agreed that his ac­quit­tal by the Su­pe­rior Elec­toral Court was a flawed de­ci­sion.

If Te­mer is re­moved, or re­signs, some­thing that he has adamantly re­fused to do, 87% of Brazil­ians pre­fer demo­cratic elec­tions.

This de­tail is im­por­tant be­cause if Te­mer’s pres­i­dency is an­nulled, Brazil’s Supreme Court would con­fer the right of con­gress­men and sen­a­tors to ap­prove in­di­rect elec­tions within 30 days. The term of the pres­i­den­tial sub­sti­tute would end on Jan­uary 1, 2019.

Te­mer has been em­broiled in the Oper­a­tion Car Wash in­ves­ti­ga­tions and faces charges of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice af­ter a wire tap of a con­ver­sa­tion with busi­ness­man Josley Batista, chair­man of JBS, ap­peared to show he en­dorsed bribery to a po­ten­tial wit­ness in cor­rup­tion cases.

In the record­ing, Te­mer was heard say­ing af­ter be­ing in­formed that hush money was be­ing paid to the for­mer head of the lower house of Congress, Ed­uardo Cunha: “Look, you’ve got to keep that up.”

Ex­ec­u­tives from JBS al­lege they paid Te­mer at least $4.6 mil­lion in bribes since 2010 to help win gov­ern­ment con­tracts, re­solve tax dis­putes and re­ceive free cheap loans from the state bank.

They also said they’ve paid about $154 mil­lion to nearly 1 900 politi­cians in the past decade, in­clud­ing some of Te­mer’s min­is­ters and al­lies.

Judge Ed­son Fachin last month ap­proved a graft probe into the leader, who has re­peat­edly said he is in­no­cent of all ac­cu­sa­tions and will not re­sign.

The next step will be for the top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, Ro­drigo Janot, to present for­mal charges against the pres­i­dent, which is ex­pected by the end of next week.

By law, crim­i­nal charges against a sit­ting pres­i­dent have to be ap­proved by two-thirds of the lower house of Congress and only then can the Supreme Court is­sue a con­vic­tion.

If that hap­pens, Te­mer would be sus­pended from of­fice and a trial would be­gin.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Brazil’s Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer.

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