Demonstrators marched across Brazil on Sunday calling for the resignation or ouster of President Michel Temer who is implicated in a widening corruption scandal that is undermining his government's fragile efforts to end a historic recession. Protests took place in cities including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where hundreds of demonstrators marched along the shoreline, chanting and waving banners reading “Temer Out!”
The protests were relatively small compared with massive marches in recent years, including 2016 demonstrations that built support for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Temer's predecessor.
Brazilians were shocked by a recording disclosed last week that appeared to show Temer condoning the payment of hush money to a lawmaker jailed in a corruption probe that has ensnared dozens of politicians and executives in the last three years.
Late Saturday, the Brazilian Bar Association, known as the OAB, took a vote 25 to 1, saying it would join the ranks of those filing impeachment motions against Temer in Congress, arguing that the recording, if proven to be accurate, showed a dereliction of presidential duties to uphold the law.
The revelations have badly eroded political support for Temer's measures to spur economic recovery, including overhauls to Brazil's labor and social security regulations.
“This could keep costing Brazil the stability and reforms it needs to encourage investment and growth,” said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper, a São Paulo business school, noting the massive selloff of Brazilian assets in stock and currency markets last week.
“Confidence comes with expectations of progress,” he added. “That is something that is quickly vanishing because Temer has lost at least the appearance of being beyond the scandals.”
Temer on Saturday sought to reassure Brazilians with a fierce denial that he had condoned or committed any crimes. Instead, he accused Joesley Batista, chairman of meatpacking giant JBS of manipulating a recorded conversation with Temer that is central to a plea agreement between prosecutors and JBS executives over illegal payments to politicians including the president and his two predecessors.
But few in Brazil appeared reassured, with one allied political party saying on Saturday that it would no longer support Temer's conservative government and another saying it would consider doing the same.
However the Supreme Court did accept Temer's appeal that the recordings be tested for doctoring, who also described Joseley Batista as a “big mouth charlatan”.
“This clandestine recording was manipulated and tampered, clearly with devious intentions,” Temer charged.
The Justice with the case, Edson Fachin, and who authorized the investigation of the president for active corruption, obstruction of justice and illicit association, did accept the “fraudulent” recordings appeal which will be decided on Wednesday. This despite the fact that the Attorney General Rodrigo Janot objected arguing there are even more incriminating recordings.
“We are facing in Brazil a clash between the political world and the judicial world,” said Thiago de Aragão, director at the Brasília-based consultancy Arko Advice.
With tumbling approval ratings, the president’s support in Congress will be the decisive factor. The PSDB, Temer’s main ally in his administration’s coalition, called for an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss whether the party would continue backing the struggling president, reports said.
Pressure is also growing on ministers to declare their hands. Some see Henrique Meirelles, the finance minister, as a possible successor to Temer. Other names are Raul Jungman, currently defense minister, and Nelson Jobim, ex minister of Justice, of Defense and ex Chief Justice, much respected by public opinion and with support from the main parties.
Carlos Melo, a São Paulo-based political scientist, thinks Temer is unlikely to survive the crisis but the reforms, including of the pension system, may. “The reforms are not irremediably lost because they are inevitable. Temer does not have credibility, so it will be up to the next political leadership to explain them properly to the people.”
Temer, who came to power a year ago after Ms Rousseff’s impeachment, has endured other scandals. But the latest one is proving an earthshaking development in a three-year-old corruption probe known as Lava Jato, which is upending politicians and businessmen. Former president Lula da Silva, who is a suspect in a corruption case but who wants to make a comeback, said on Saturday: “What we want are direct elections. We want Temer to leave soon.”
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