Thursday 17 August 2017

Under-fire Brazilian president 'will only leave office if forced out'

Brazil's President Michel Temer speaks during a national address from the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia (AP)
Brazil's President Michel Temer speaks during a national address from the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia (AP)

Embattled Brazilian president Michel Temer has said he will only leave office if forced out, despite facing growing calls to resign over a corruption scandal.

In an interview with the Folha de S Paulo newspaper, Mr Temer said he is innocent and will remain in office with the help of his shaken Congressional base until December 2018 so he can go forward with austerity measures and unpopular reforms.

He said: "I will not resign. If they want, force me out, because if I resign that will be a declaration of guilt."

Brazil's supreme court has opened investigations into Mr Temer for allegedly obstructing justice, passive corruption and being a member of a criminal organisation.

The move follows release of an audiotape that appears to show him endorsing the payment of hush money to an imprisoned former ally in exchange for silence.

Businessman Joesley Batista, who made the recording, also said in plea bargain testimony that he paid Mr Temer and his allies millions in bribes and illegal campaign funds.

Mr Temer has also been accused of negligence for failure to take any measures after hearing Mr Batista say he was paying bribes to two judges and a prosecutor.

The meeting with Mr Batista, the owner of giant meatpacker JBS, took place in March.

In the interview, Mr Temer also said he was "naive to welcome a person (like Batista)" at the vice-presidential palace in the middle of the night without any prior information published in his official schedule.

The business mogul was already under three legal investigations at the time.

The pressure on Mr Temer increased over the weekend with some allied parties leaving his base in Congress and Brazil's prestigious bar association deciding to push for the president's impeachment.

Small protests happened in 19 cities nationwide against the embattled leader, whose popularity is currently at 9%, according to a recent Datafolha institute poll.

As a result, consultancy Eurasia increased from 20% to 70% the chances that Mr Temer will not finish his term.

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