Brazil’s President Michel Temer promised Sunday during a press conference he would step in should legislators under suspicion of corruption make an attempt to grant themselves any sort of amnesty, in what was perceived as a move by th Executive to sweep away much of the untrustworthiness it has brought upon itself as scandals kept surfacing in recent months.
Temer, a center-right veteran who took power after the impeachment of his leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff, explained his mission was to save Brazil from its worst recession and corruption scandal in decades in order to be able to restore an economy that he predicted will see an upturn in the second quarter of 2017, for which he needs congressional approval to some of his proposed measures such as the 20-year spending freeze to be voted on by the Senate Tuesday. It would be the first of several deep reform bills.
Seated alongside the speakers of the Senate and lower house of Congress during the televised conference, Temer projected the image of a president who still retains enough political capital for now to proceed with his economic reforms, as he responded to public outrage over an attempt in the lower house on Thursday to vote on a bill apparently including an amnesty for the previous acceptance of undeclared funds — often suspected to be bribes — in political campaigns.
Temer’s last cabinet crisis involved the resignation of Government Secretary Geddel Vieira Lima on Friday after being accused by the former culture minister of traffic of influence to intervene in a real estate business deal. Although reports that Temer’s own voice has been recorded by the culture minister as proof of his involvement in the obscure deal have not been confirmed. Temer said he had never misused his influence and blasted the use of secret recordings. “For a minister to record the president of the republic is extremely serious.”
He promised recession-weary Brazilians that they would notice positive changes. “We’re not standing still, we’re working to build growth, and this will come little by little,” he said, predicting “results” in the second quarter. “We will propose reforms so that Brazil can exit the recession,” he added. “We will boost industry, business and agribusiness.” But the 20-year spending ceiling — to be followed by proposed cuts to social security, pensions and other politically sensitive areas — has already prompted fury in some quarters.
In downtown Sao Paulo, thousands of people gathered Sunday for a rally that organizers said attracted 40,000 demonstrators, although police did not provide any official figures.
Meanwhile, Temer and the elite in Brasilia face a potentially devastating new storm on the corruption front. Numerous members of Congress and political parties have already been linked to the alleged receipt of bribe money and campaign slush funds as part of the giant Petrobras state oil company embezzlement scandal. That could soon expand with accusations stemming from a mass plea bargain struck with dozens of executives at the construction giant Odebrecht, the company at the core of the Petrobras scheme.
Odebrecht systematically bribed politicians and parties, partly to win inflated contracts with Petrobras. Now, Brazilian media reports indicate that the executives may name as many as 150 politicians in the plea bargains struck with investigating prosecutors.
Temer said it would be “naive” not to be worried about the coming revelations. “When you’re talking about… 150 people from the political class, of course there’s concern, in an institutional sense.” (MercoPress)