Charge marks latest crisis for Michel Temer, with stage set for constitutional battle as president is accused of working to silence witnesses
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, has been formally accused of conspiring to silence witnesses in a corruption investigation. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images
Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro-Friday 19 May 2017
Brazil’s embattled political hierarchy has suffered another indignity after the country’s top prosecutor formally accused President Michel Temer of conspiring with his chief coalition partner to silence witnesses and obstruct a corruption investigation.
Temer has lurched from crisis to crisis since he took power last year after plotting the impeachment of his running mate, Dilma Rousseff.
It also sets the stage for a disruptive constitutional battle between the judiciary and the government, adding to tensions that have already sparked violent protests and calls from a former chief justice for people to take to the streets in remove a tainted president.
The attorney general, Rodrigo Janot, said Temer and Aécio Neves –a centre-right senator who was runner-up in the last presidential election – had attempted to disrupt the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) inquiry into bribes and kickbacks from the country’s biggest companies to politicians.
Based on plea-bargain testimonies and secret recordings made by the top executives of the meat-packing company JBS, the president is accused of condoning hush-money payoffs to the jailed former House speaker, Eduardo Cunha.
Janot also alleges Temer (who heads the Brazilian Democratic Movement party) and Aécio (the head of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil) tried to use laws and appointments to disrupt the investigation.
“It is evident that Aécio Neves, in conjunction with – among others – President Michel Temer, has sought to prevent Lava Jato’s investigations from proceeding, either through legislative measures or through the control of the officials who oversee the investigations,” Janot said.
The supreme court has accepted the evidence and authorised the investigation, prompting calls for Temer to resign. At least eight lower delegates have filed motions requesting an impeachment hearing.
Temer was due to address the country on Friday evening. The previous day, the former constitutional scholar proclaimed his innocence and insisted he would not resign. His legal team is questioning the evidence against him.
More details of the testimony by the JTB executive Joesley Batista are due to be released, which could add to the pressure on the president, whose approval ratings were in single figures even before the latest corruption revelations.
The country’s biggest newspaper, O Globo, published an editorial on Friday that urged Temer to step down. On Friday, the former chief justice Joaquim Barbosa added his voice.
“There is no other way out: Brazilians must organize, go to the streets and demand with strength the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” tweeted Barbosa.