The Brazilian Congress has voted not to send President Michel Temer to face trial for corruption. Opposition lawmakers in the lower house of Congress failed to obtain the two-thirds majority needed to send the case to the Supreme Court.
Temer has been accused of receiving $12m (£9m) in bribes from the boss of a giant meatpacking firm, JBS. He has denied the allegation.The Congress session was marred by scenes of chaos and angry exchanges.
Brazilian lawmakers began voting on Thursday morning to authorise a corruption trial for President Michel Temer, with the centre-right leader confident he can avoid becoming the country’s second leader in 12 months to be forced from office.After more than nine hours of raucous debate, the lower house of Congress finally began the procedure.
Given that each lawmaker was due to vote one by one, live on national television, a result was not expected immediately.If two thirds of the house authorises a trial and the Supreme Court accepts the case, Temer would be immediately suspended for 180 days. The house speaker, Rodrigo Maia, would take over. Temer, a deeply unpopular veteran of the ruling PMDB party, is accused of taking bribes from a meatpacking industry executive.
The scandal is part of the enormous Car Wash graft probe targeting major politicians of every stripe in Latin America’s biggest country. But analysts believe Temer has easily enough support to bury the charge. “The government will defeat the motion to investigate the president by a wide margin,” Eurasia Group consultants said.
The upheaval comes only a year after Congress ejected Temer’s leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff in an impeachment trial for breaking budget rules. Temer, the first sitting president to face a criminal charge, now faces blowback from his leftwing opponents who also fiercely oppose his business-friendly economic reforms.
Expectations are that top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot could file at least one more criminal charge, including for obstruction of justice, in the coming weeks. “A thief is a thief and needs to be treated as a thief,” Major Olimpio, a deputy with the leftist Solidariedade party, told the assembly before the voting.
The debate was interrupted repeatedly by yelling and occasional scuffles.At one point, opposition deputies fought a Temer supporter who was brandishing an inflatable doll showing former president and leftist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in prison garb. Temer opponents also showered fake dollar bills showing the president’s face.
Temer was due to make a statement later, the presidential palace said.In the current charge, Temer is alleged to have agreed to receive millions of dollars in bribes from the JBS meatpacking giant.
A close aide was filmed by police running through Sao Paulo with a suitcase stuffed with the equivalent of $150,000 in Brazilian reais—money that the prosecutor says was intended for Temer.In a separate investigation, prosecutors cite a secretly recorded late-night meeting between Temer and one of JBS’s owners, Joesley Batista.
In the recording, Temer allegedly is heard authorising hush money payments to a onetime senior politician convicted of corruption, Eduardo Cunha.
Batista gave prosecutors the recording as part of his cooperation in a plea deal, one of the many that Car Wash investigators have used to build graft cases. Temer has denied any bribe-taking and says the secret recording does not include anything incriminating.
With PTI inputs