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Pressure mounts on Brazil’s Temer as lawyers vote for impeachment

President struggles to hold government together after latest bribery and corruption revelations

Embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer, already facing an investigation into corruption, has been dealt a new blow: just hours after addressing the nation in a televised message in which he insisted he would not step down, the Order of Lawyers of Brazil (OAB) voted to request his impeachment, citing clear indications of wrongdoing.

Impeachment Michel Temer
Temer, speaking to the nation on Saturday. EFE

EN ESPAÑOL

This is the 13th request for Temer’s impeachment, but while the other 12 have been presented by opposition deputies, the OAB is regarded as impartial, and was also behind last year’s impeachment procedure against former president Dilma Rousseff, which allowed Temer, then vice president, to take office.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Friday accepted a request from the Attorney General to investigate Temer for passive corruption, obstructing justice and influence peddling. The daily O Globo has reported on  the existence of an audio recording in which Temer can allegedly be heard authorizing the payment of hush money to Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house who is in jail for corruption. According to O Globo, Temer was secretly taped on March 7 in conversation with Joesley Batista, a top executive at the powerful business group JBS. Batista is cooperating with authorities as part of a plea bargain resulting from the Petrobras graft investigation, and he had a recording device concealed under his clothes.

Temer is not fit to remain in his post

Claudio Lamachia, president of Brazil’s Order of Lawyers

On Thursday, thousands of people poured on to the Avenida Paulista – the main artery in São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital, demanding new elections.

After a seven-hour session late Saturday night, the OAB ruled by a large majority that Temer “is not politically fit to remain in his post,” in the words of the body’s president, Claudio Lamachia. “The president omitted to carry out his legal duty to act in the face of a criminal act,” said the OAB.

A protester makes his message clear: 'Temer out.'
A protester makes his message clear: 'Temer out.' EFE

The OAB also highlighted that the meeting between Temer and Batista took place in the president’s official residence at 10.40pm and that Batista’s arrival was not officially registered.

The task of processing the requests for Temer to face impeachment now rests with Rodrigo Maia, until now a loyal ally of the president in Congress, although from a different party. Maintaining the support of the different parties that have backed him until now will be Temer’s main task in the coming days. So far, one minister has resigned and three parties have withdrawn their support, the most important of which, the Brazilian Socialist Party, has 35 deputies out of the total of 513.

Temer has failed to garner voter sympathy over the course of his year in office

The greatest danger Temer faces is that his main ally, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, might pull its support. One of its leading figures, former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has suggested that Temer would be wise to step down.

Since taking over presidential duties almost exactly a year ago (in an interim capacity at first), Temer has failed to garner voter sympathy. His austerity policies, aimed at pulling the country out of its worst recession in decades, have already earned him two general strikes and widespread street protests. His administration has been engulfed in a series of back-to-back corruption scandals that have done little to improve his low popularity ratings.

Public anger over this latest scandal to rock Brazilian politics seems to have died down after last week’s protests: marches called on Sunday in cities across the country were poorly attended.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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