Brazil’s corruption and economic crisis threatens to swallow president

Michel Temer

 

Contributed by Joe Montero

Brazil’s political crisis continues to deepen as President Michel Temer finds himself increasingly caught up in the web of corruption embracing his administration.

Eduardo Cunha, the Speaker of the lower housed (Congress) has now been jailed for 15 years.

The allegations are the latest development in Operation Car wash, a three-year long corruption investigation that has implicated many in Brazil’s business and political elite, implicating a large slice of Brazil’s politicians, implicating ministers and other cabinet members, along with members of Congress and the senate. A large nmumber already face charges and even more are under investigation.

Now one of the largest circulation newspapers reported a secret recording that that shows the president approving a payment to Eduardo Cunha, the mastermind behind last year’s impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff.  The tape was submitted to the Supreme Court by two senior executives from meat-packing giant JBS SA as part of a plea bargain deal, according to O Globo newspaper, in which information is offered in exchange for reduced sentences.

O Globo, the flagship of the country’s biggest media company has until now, been a fervent supporter of Temer.

“The president has lost the moral, ethical, political and administrative conditions to continue governing Brazil,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

The report also cited Senator Aecio Neves, president of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which is Temer’s main ally in Congress, alleged to have requested 2 million reais ($US635,000) from a JBS executive to help pay for the lawyer who’s defending him in the Car wash probe. Last Thursday, federal police raided his apartments in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte.

Eduardo Cunha under arrest

Brazil’s highest court released documents on Friday revealing that the nation’s top prosecutor is accusing Temer of corruption, obstruction of justice and being part of a criminal organisation.

The president is in serious trouble, but denies wrongdoing and has vowed that he will not resign. Under Brazilian law he is immune from prosecution while holding office.

The scandal comes at a time when the economy is reeling and Temer has been trying to force through unpopular new labour law and raising the age for the pension, which are  the cornerstones for a major austerity push.

Social unrest has been growing rapidly. Some of the biggest strikes and demonstrations in the nation’s history have been seen in recent times.

Former President Dilma Rouseff was impeached by Temer and his supporters, after she sought to transfer government funds to the same welfare system. She was accused of corruption for this. Rouseff’s supporters have called the impeachment a coup and she has vowed to make a comeback.

Temer’s popularity rating has been as low as 5 percent in some polls. With his government reeling from any shred of political legitimacy, political unrest is set to keep on rising.

Opposition parties have called for the president’s resignation and there has been at least one application for impeachment.

Investors are getting nervous and this has seen share prices plunge. They had surged earlier on the expectation that the new labour and pension laws would provide them with a boon. This has now evaporated, as the government has become effectively paralysed.

As the news got out, military police moved into position around the presidential palace and one of the judges on Brazil’s Supreme Court called for calm. “It’s a moment for serenity, moderation and watching the institutions work,” said Marco Aurelio Mello. Local TV images showed a crowd of protesters gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.

 

 

 

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