Brazil’s President Michel Temer has been hit with a second set of criminal charges, as corruption allegations continue to plague his scandal-tainted administration.
Chief public prosecutor Rodrigo Janot on Thursday formally accused Temer of obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy, saying he and several of his closest aides took kickbacks from government contracts, the prosecutors’ office said in an email. The highly anticipated charges culminate a week in which the CEO of the world’s largest meat packer and a former governor were arrested, the agriculture minister’s apartment was raided, and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva testified in court on corruption charges.
Temer, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, needs the support of just over one third of Congress to block the case from going to trial at the Supreme Court, a move that would force him to stand down from the presidency. Barring further unexpected developments, most congressional leaders and analysts say he is likely to survive the vote, like he did on separate charges of bribe-taking in August.
The real was up 0.4 percent against the US dollar after the announcement and the Sao Paulo stock market was down just marginally from record highs in recent days.
The presidential press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What is not clear is whether the process of mustering the necessary backing will distract the ruling coalition from Temer’s pledge to pass key economic reforms, including a bill to cut pension outlays and another to simplify taxes.
While Temer and his allies in Congress have expressed confidence in beating the charges, securing the votes to block a trial of the president for a second time may not come cheap, according to Rafael Cortez, from Tendencias Consultoria. “While a second set of charges may not have the same impact on public opinion, it will raise the price of political support,” he said. “It puts the progress of reforms at risk.”
Janot’s charges are based largely on testimony by a broker who says he moved funds for Temer and his aides in the ruling PMDB party, and by meatpacking mogul Joesley Batista, who claims Temer authorized him to pay hush money. Batista has been imprisoned and his plea bargain has been annulled by the Supreme Court over alleged irregularities.
This week’s headlines show that the three-year anti-corruption purge and resulting political uncertainty is far from over and will likely dog the Temer administration through the end of its term in December 2018. On Tuesday the Supreme Court authorized an investigation into yet other allegations of corruption against Temer involving a presidential decree relating to Brazil’s ports. Temer has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
All the probes, arrests, and charges have numbed many Brazilians, reinforcing the wide-spread perception that the country’s entire political class is self-serving and corrupt. That may fuel the rhetoric of tough-talking outsiders, such as former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro, who is placed second in voter intention polls for next year’s general election.