Brazil President Temer fights for survival

Brasília: Brazilian President Michel Temer fought back against growing calls for his resignation on Friday after bombshell graft allegations left him depending on congressional allies for survival.
The centre-right president was holed up at the presidential palace and was scheduled to meet later in the day with his Defence Minister Raul Jungmann and military commanders in an apparent show of authority despite the crisis. But Temer, who just a few days ago was celebrating his claim to have begun lifting Brazil from a punishing recession, is now hanging on by his fingernails.
A secretly recorded conversation between Temer and a business executive purports to show the president approving payment of hush money to former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is in prison after being convicted of bribe-taking.
The allegation was first published by Brazil’s powerful Globo media organisation and on Thursday, the Supreme Court opened a formal investigation.
Temer angrily insisted on national television that he will not resign. However, opponents piled on the pressure, with eight impeachment requests filed in Congress.
Late on Thursday, he expressed confidence that he can keep his congressional alliance together, preventing impeachment proceedings.
“No one has come to ask me to resign. On the contrary, they’re all asking me to resist. I will resist,” he told Globo news site. “I will get out of this crisis more rapidly than you think.”
Temer’s conservative government has angered millions of Brazilians with its ambitious austerity reforms, which include the planned raising of the retirement age to fix the country’s unaffordable pension system.
Temer says the reforms are already helping to end a two-year recession, but with 13.7 per cent unemployment many Brazilians do not feel the supposed improvements.
Temer is also loathed on the left for his role in the impeachment just a year ago of leftist president Dilma Rousseff. As her vice-president, he immediately took over when she was pushed out.
On Thursday, thousands of people demonstrated against Temer in the capital Brasilia and in Rio de Janeiro. Nationwide protests were planned on Sunday, with turnout likely proving an important barometer of the national mood. Even a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Joaquim Barbosa, called for Temer’s head.
“There is no other way out. Brazilians must mobilize, must take to the streets to forcefully demand the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” he said on Twitter. Temer faces a perilous investigation in the Supreme Court. However, his more immediate danger is a collapse of his base in Congress, opening the way to impeachment.
“That’s why today the main question is to know whether the parties that form the government’s base will leave,” said Thomaz Pereira, a constitutional law professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio. So far only one minister, the culture secretary, has quit, but several others have been rumoured to have one foot out of the door. Folha newspaper referred to “a climate of confusion.” — AFP

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