Brazil's Temer Could Lose Power as Fraud Accusations Pile Up

Temer is increasingly under pressure to resign, while court processes threaten to further jeopardize his executive power.

As multiple corruption scandals continue to swirl around Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government, the country's top electoral court has relaunched a case that could remove the president from office over alleged illegal financing in his 2014 campaign as running mate to former President Dilma Rousseff. 

RELATED: Brazil's Temer Defies Calls to Step Down over Wiretap Scandal

The court entered its second day of debates Wednesday, and analysts predicted the process could take weeks as several judges have requested more time to study the case to continue the hearings.

Just hours ahead of the scheduled start of the hearing Tuesday, Brazil's federal police sent Temer Monday an interrogation document with a list 84 questions as part of a separate investigation probing the president over accusations of corruption, organized crime and obstruction of justice.

Initially, Temer had 24 hours to respond to the questions, a deadline that ended Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. local time. 

But his lawyers requested an extension as they argued it was "absolutely impossible to demand a manifestation of the President of the Republic in the short term of 24 hours." The new deadline is set for Friday afternoon 5:00 p.m. local time.

Protesters with face masks of Brazil's politicians. Photo: Reuters

Protest against Temer in Sao Paulo. Photo: Reuters

Police patrol in front of the federal court in Brasilia. Photo: Reuters

As the election financing case moves forward and other corruption allegations continue to crash down around the president, protesters gathered outside the federal court in Brasilia to demand Temer's resignation and call for direct elections to choose the next president of Brazil.

The accusations stem from an explosive wiretap, reported May 17, in which Temer was heard appearing to give his approval to bribes to buy the silence of the jailed former president of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, the chief mastermind behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff last year and a powerful witness in government corruption cases.

RELATED: Protesting Austerity, Brazil's Workers to Shut Down Cities in General Strike June 30th

The conversation was recorded by Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS, the largest meatpacking company in the world, which was also involved in a large corruption scandal for bribing Brazilian politicians, as part of a bid to win a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.

The bribes were intended to keep Cunha silent about embarrassing secrets that could jeopardize the legitimacy of Temer's presidency. In the leaked wiretap, Temer is heard telling Batista about the payments: “Look, you've got to keep that up.”

The president said the recording wasn't proof of wrongdoing. He said that he didn't report the bribery references to authorities because he did not believe them. The case was delayed as authorities investigated the source of the audio.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has accused Temer of corruption, criminal organization and obstruction of justice as a result of the wiretap. Temer separately faces accusations of irregular campaign financing and has also been named in the central corruption investigations, known as Operation Car Wash, probing a bribery scheme in the state-run oil campany, Petrobras. 

According to  Brazilian Constitution, if Temer resigns or is dismissed, Congress must approve an indirect election to choose the person who will continue the electoral period that Rousseff began in 2015 and that ends on Jan. 1, 2019. Tuesday's electoral financing trial could unseat the president, or he could face an impeachment process over corruption accusations. Both processes would likely be lengthy. 

Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand Temer's resignation and for immediate direct elections to be held to allow Brazilian voters to elect the next president. Temer has reiterated that he will not be resigning.

According to a new poll released Monday by the country's largest labor union, known as the CUT, nine out of 10 Brazilians prefer direct general elections and 75 percent reject Temer's administration.

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Brazilian Workers' Party 6th National Congress to Nominate Lula for President

The congress opened with calls for free, democratic elections and included speeches by Rousseff, Lula and others.

The Workers' Party of Brazil commenced its 6th National Congress Thursday, which is expected to officially nominate former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva as its presidential candidate for the 2018 general election.

RELATED: Brazil Mainstream Media Admits Spreading Fake News About Lula

The congress, which will go on until Saturday, opened with calls for free, democratic elections. A slideshow featuring images of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara, and other revolutionaries, accompanied those calls.

Party affiliates, numbering more than 1,000 during the congress opening, reiterated their unity in the face of a government plagued by seemingly endless scandals and corruption.

During the congress, party members will discuss strategies to overcome the dangers to democracy presented by current selected president Michel Temer and his administration.

“I have my candidate. My candidate is Lula!” said Dilma Rousseff, former Brazilian president who was ousted due to what many describe as a parliamentary coup.

Key architects of her removal such as Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of Brazil's lower house of representatives; Aecio Neves, former congressman, and Temer himself have been denounced for receiving bribes, approving bribes, their involvement in a slew of corruption scandals, and other crimes.

"Opening of PT's 6th Congress: "Only direct elections can return democracy back to the people."

Lula also spoke at the opening of the congress. “They want to convict me for everything that I'm proud to have done,” adding, “I've already proven my innocence.” Brazil's former, most popular president concluded by saying, “The time has come to end the foolishness. This country can't take any more destruction.”

Luciano Santos, president of the Communist Party of Brazil, repeated his support for the coalition uniting his party and the PT, Rural Landless Worker's Movement, Central Worker's Union, and Brazil's Popular Front.

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Dilma Rouseff Petitions Supreme Court to Review her Case

The former president who was ousted in a parliamentary coup believes she should be reinstated.

As Brazil continues to descend into turmoil as a result of growing calls for the impeachment of President Michel Temer, former President Dilma Rouseff is calling on the Supreme Court to dismiss her impeachment, which has been widely condemned as a farce and parliamentary coup, and reinstate her.

RELATED: Brazil's Temer Govt Revokes Army Deployment Decree Amid Outrage

“The country is currently experiencing an acute political and institutional crisis on a scale as large as it has ever been seen,” said Rouseff.

The latest protests against the Temer administration, installed last year after the removal of Roussef, come on the heels of the most severe scandal to hit the government yet after a wiretap recording revealed Temer had endorsed bribes to keep quiet a powerful witness in corruption investigations.

Temer faces investigations for corruption and obstruction of justice after the damning wiretap.

The president has vowed that he will not step down over the scandal, saying in an interview with Folha de Sao Paulo, "I won't resign, oust me if you want."

Rousseff was charged with spending money without congressional approval and using an accounting sleight of hand to make the government's budget appear better than it was ahead of her 2014 reelection — a technique used by many previous presidents that critics of the process have argued is not an impeachable offense as defined in the constitution.

Defense lawyers initially appealed Rouseff’s impeachment to Supreme Court administrator, Teori Zavascki, who passed away January, 2017. Since then, her petition has been transferred to Alexandre de Moraes, former ex Minister of Justice, while they continue to await a ruling.

"Every day there is more evidence that the current president of the Republic, not chosen by anyone, is not fit for the mandate," said Rouseff of her former vice president.

So far, 12 requests have been made for Temer’s impeachment. According to HispanTV, the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) concluded Thursday there is enough evidence riding against Temer to proceed with the impeachment process.

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Beef with Temer: ‘Brazilian President's supporters jumping ship, his days are numbered’

The owner of one of the biggest beef exporting businesses in the world is testifying against Brazil's President Michel Temer, and this shows the scale of public dissatisfaction, Latin America expert James Petras, from Binghamton University, told RT.

The Brazilian capital has been in the grip of violent unrest with police deploying tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray against protesters.

The reason behind these mass demonstrations is the policy of current President Michel Temer, who came into power last summer as a result of the impeachment of elected President Dilma Rousseff.

One of his main promises was to fight corruption and improve Brazil's struggling economy. However, the economy continues to worsen while corruption is out of control.

Public discontent exploded last week when Temer found himself at the center of a bribery scandal.

RT:  Many in Brazil are demanding President Temer's impeachment. How likely is that to happen?

James Petras: I think it is very likely. It is a question of time, whether it is weeks or a few months, Temer is on his way out. He has taken power illegally by the opinion of most people. His seizure of power with the impeachment of the previous president. He is engaged in a large-scale privatization program, which alienates nationalists. Unemployment has doubled in the last four months. He has been involved deeply in corruption scandals involving his cabinet ministers, his closest supporters in Congress. I think the combination of corruption, social and economic problems with the labor force, employment situation and finally the fact that he is not an elected president, the fact that he was able to manipulate Congress to secure the impeachment. I think all these factors together, and his stubbornness in owning up to the corruption has finally turned the tide. I don’t think he has more than 10 percent of the electorate at this time.

@RT_com BREAKING: Police uses tear gas, stun grenades in clashes with protesters in Brazil (WATCH LIVE) https://on.rt.com/8cmu

RT:  Last week a tape was released discussing payments to silence testimony by a potential witness in the country's biggest-ever corruption probe. Was that the last straw for those calling for Temer's ouster?

JP: The corruption investigation is proceeding. I think we have to take into account that the principal witness taped the interviews with Temer, and the person engaged as one of the biggest capitalists owning one of the biggest beef exporting businesses in the world. The fact that he is testifying against Temer on the basis of his own personal experience weighs heavily. The fact that many of Temer’s strongest supporters are jumping ship, that he doesn’t have a supporting party outside of his narrow circles. I think that is the end of the trail. I think Temer is holding on because he has the backing of international financial groups; he has the backing of many of the elites that have been involved in the stock market, but nobody else. I think that is not enough to stay in power. The sooner he realizes the quicker we will turn to what will replace Temer, and that is a struggle between the Congress, where the conservative forces exercise a majority, or whether they will open to a new election, in which case the center-left, the Workers' Party may have a strong chance of reelecting a new president.

 
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Head of Latin American Studies at Middlesex University

RT:  Many in Brazil are demanding President Temer's impeachment. How likely is that to happen?

Francisco Dominguez: The government is imploding, and the level of corruption is just unbelievable. The people are very angry. They were taken away their right to vote for the president that they elected due to the coup - or the ‘impeachment’ as they call it over there. Now the people, who were supposed to be fighting Dilma Rousseff because of corruption, are absolutely corrupt themselves. The level of corruption is really reaching incredible levels. People around him, everybody, including Aecio Neves, the Presidential candidate, who disputed the presidency as a candidate with Dilma Rousseff is also centrally involved. People are being imprisoned, people are being arrested, and the amount of money that is being mentioned in the media is very partial in many respects… The government is unlikely to survive, regardless of whether there is violence or not. The mass protest is going to be so powerful from now on, and the people will not settle for anything else, but direct elections.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Odebrecht Buenos Aires Offices Raided in Corruption Probe

Around US$35 million in bribes were given in Argentina by the Brazilian company at the center of a multinational corruption scandal.

The depths of the multinational corruption scandal involving Brazil's largest construction company Odebrecht continued to expand as the company's Buenos Aires offices were raided on Wednesday by Argentine federal agents, Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported.

RELATED: Brazil Arrests Temer Aide, Other Former Politicians in World Cup Fraud Probe

Federal judge, Sebastian Casanello, ordered the raid as part of an investigation into bribes that were allegedly given in order to obtain construction contracts for a water treatment plant during the administration of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Within minutes of the raid, Odebrecht released a statement in which they they reaffirmed their position in “collaborating with the law,” La Nacion reported.

The company alleged last year that it had paid more than US$785 million since 2001 to achieve public contracts in at least a dozen countries, and has also financed armed groups for security. According to testimony by the former head of the company Marcelo Odebrecht, around US$35 million in bribes were given in Argentina.

Odebrecht has been at the center of one of the largest corruption scandals in the region's history, since an investigation that began in 2014 quickly mushroomed to encompass current presidents, former presidents, and officials in multiple countries.

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President Mauricio Macri's administration has repeatedly promised to take a tough stance on corruption. Former president Cristina Fernandez is currently under investigation for alleged corruption, which she denies, and which some have called an “attack from the justice system and the media.”

Macri's tough on corruption and “zero poverty” campaign promises have proven hypocritical since he came to power in 2015.

Macri has been widely criticized and protested for his involvement in corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, ongoing Odebrecht scandals, and scandals involving Avianca airline and Argentine mail company Correo Argentino.

RELATED: OAS Debates Venezuela, Not a Word About Brazil

Recent reports indicated that Macri himself recieved US$500,000 from the scandal ridden Odebrecht during his 2015 electoral campaign.

His term has also seen a massive rise in poverty due to neoliberal austerity measures.

Similarly, in Brazil, right-wing President Michel Temer faces massive protests and calls for impeachment and resignation in the face of ongoing corruption scandals involving him and his cabinet.

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Brazil President Temer faces impeachment calls as bribery accusations emerge

Brazilian President Michel Temer is facing mounting impeachment calls from politicians and the public, who are outraged over alleged secret payoffs. It comes less than a year after the impeachment of ex-leader Dilma Rousseff, also over corruption claims.

Prosecutors have reportedly been provided with recordings in which Joesley Batista, one of the two brothers who run the country’s biggest meat-packing company, JBS, tells President Temer he makes payments to the jailed politician Eduardo Cunha to keep him quiet over corruption allegations.

Temer is reportedly heard replying, “You have to keep it going, OK?” according to O Globo newspaper, which didn’t disclose how it had received the information.

Temer’s office released a statement on Wednesday denying the claims: “President Michel Temer never solicited payments to obtain the silence of former deputy Eduardo Cunha. He neither participated nor authorized any activity with the objective of preventing testimonies or cooperation with justice officials by the parliamentarian.”

Brazil: Thousands rally as Temer taped endorsing bribes to silence graft witness

Cunha was a powerful member of the same ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement party as acting President Temer, and was believed to be the mastermind behind the impeachment of former Brazilian leader Rousseff.

Cunha has previously said he had compromising information about several senior politicians linked to a vast political bribery scandal at state oil firm Petrobras.

O Globo also reported that security forces allegedly have audio and video proof that Temer aide Rocha Loures received weekly $160,000 payoffs for decades, supposedly for having helped JBS deal with a fair trade issue.

The tapes also implicate several other politicians, including former presidential candidate Aecio Neves and ex-Finance Minister Guido Mantega, the newspaper reported.

 
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Adriano Machado

While no audio or transcripts have been released, the reports have led to widespread outrage among the public. When the claims were shown on TV, shouts and pot-banging – a common form of protest in Brazil – could be heard among protesters, with crowds chanting, “Temer out.”

Several politicians also voiced their anger, with two congressmen submitting impeachment motions to the country’s lower house. It’s not the first time that Temer-linked figures have been entangled in a political scandal. Three of his ministers have resigned, while eight others have been linked to a massive corruption scandal branded the ‘Car Wash’ case.

Temer’s predecessor Rousseff was ousted last year over bribery accusations.

Following the removal of Rousseff, it has appeared difficult for Temer to win the public’s trust, with thousands of protesters regularly taking to the streets, especially over a controversial bill set to freeze government spending on healthcare, education, pensions, infrastructure, and defense until 2037, adopted back in November.

Rousseff repeatedly slammed Temer during an Al Jazeera interview in December, calling him “a traitor” and “illegitimate.”

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Impeachment of Dilma Must Be Annulled, Brazilian Professor Says

The express recognition by Michel Temer that the coup against the constitutional president Dilma Rousseff was a consequence of the fact that she did not give in to the blackmail of former Congressman Eduardo Cunha does not leave today another alternative to the Supreme Court that to annul the impeachment.

The opinion was supported by the doctor in Criminal Sciences Leonardo Isaac Yarochewsky, who in a commentary published on the website Justificando remarked that in a moment of serious institutional crisis respect to the Constitution of the Republic is expected to prevail over economic, political and other interests.

'Faced with the facts publicly admitted by one of the protagonists of the coup (Temer), the Supreme Court has no alternative but to annul the impeachment, if it does not want to definitively enter history as an ally of the process that removed a president from power who did not commit crime of responsibility,' the academic said.

In a TV interview last Saturday, Temer acknowledged that the former member of the Chamber of Deputies, Cunha (who is serving 15 years in prison for corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion) agreed to start the trial of Dilma in revenge against the then ruling Workers' Party.

'From the outset, and during all stages of the process -Yarochewsky said- the defense of the former president argued that Cunha had a deviation from purpose or abuse of power upon receiving the complaint against Dilma and the request for admission of impeachment.'

Yesterday, the defense lawyer of the deposed president, José Eduardo Cardozo, asked the Supreme Federal Court (STF) to include the interview granted by Temer to TV Bandeirantes in the process opened there, and that have yet to be tried, which requests the nullity of the Political trial to Roussef.

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Brazil leads FIFA rankings, Iran best in Asia

Brazil has taken over at the top of the FIFA rankings for the first time since 2010. 

After losing Lionel Messi to a four-match ban, Argentina lost 2-0 at Bolivia last week and dropped to No. 2. 

World Cup winner Germany is still No. 3, followed by Chile and Colombia. South American teams tallied more ranking points last month by playing two World Cup qualifiers. European teams played one. 

European champion Portugal is No 8, while Switzerland entered the top 10, up two to ninth, one ahead of above Spain. 

Mexico climbed one to No 16 and leads CONCACAF teams. The United States climbed seven to No 23. No 19 Egypt leads African teams, and No 28 Iran is Asia's best. 

World Cup host Russia fell one to No 61.

  • Published in Sports
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