The turmoil in Brazil continued to grow over the weekend. Uncertainty over the country’s immediate future is mounting as new developments seem to be hitting headlines by the hour. Argentina is watching the crisis unfold from the first row, with experts and officials scrambling to gauge just how much the crisis will affect the economy here.
The most relevant news of the weekend came on Saturday, when the Brazilian Order of Lawyers (OAB) passed a resolution to initiate an impeachment process against President Michel Temer by 25 votes to one.
The request came after Temer announced that he wouldn’t resign, arguing the audio in which he appears to be acknowledging and condoning the payment of bribes to the disgraced, now imprisoned former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, was edited and used in an attempt to destabilize him.
It will be up to the Current President of the Chamber, Rodrigo Maia, to uphold or dismiss the request, which is the tenth of its kind.
However, Temer continues to defy the growing calls for his resignation, arguing that doing so would be an admittance of guilt. “I’m not going to resign. If they want [me gone], they will have to overthrow me, he said in an interview to Folha de São Paulo outlet.
Temer also requested the country’s Supreme Court to suspend the investigation initiated by the country’s highest prosecutor’s office until the Federal Police determines whether the audio that prompted the scandal is real. He has been charged with obstruction of justice — as he allegedly approved the bribes discussed in the audio — and of unlawful association.
In what was supposed to be a show of force, Temer attempted to organize a dinner with representatives of the parties that — for now at least — form his government’s coalition, but had to cancel it after most of them informed they wouldn’t attend. It’s expected these parties, especially the PSDB, will decide whether they will jump ship from the administration this week. Doing so would deal an important blow to Temer, leaving him practically alone against the accusations.
Another official who is in even hotter water, Senator Aécio Neves, also came out to defend himself from the accusations against him. Neves was recorded asking for roughly US $630,000 in bribes from meat processing company JBS, whose owners recorded the officials as part of a plea deal, to face the legal expenses of his defense in the massive corruption case known as Lava Jato. The country’s Supreme Tribunal ordered he be separated from his post and prevented him from leaving the country.
In a Facebook post published by his press office on Sunday, Neves admitted to receiving money from JBS but said it wasn’t a bribe, but a loan he will pay back. Moreover, he accused Joesley Batista — owner of JBS along with his brother Wesley — of “forging” a criminal situation to get the plea deal.
However, a large part of the Brazilian people have already made up their minds. Under a heavy rain, thousands of people marched down the streets of the country’s main cities yet again, calling for Temer’s resignation and for the government to hold early elections.
The country’s Chamber of Deputies will discuss a constitutional amendment tomorrow to change the procedure for electing the next president, should Temer leave his post. So far, it would be up to Congress, in representation of its constituents, to elect the new head of State through indirect elections. The amendment would allow the call of direct elections, leaving the choice to the Brazilian people.
While the crisis continues to unfold, the Argentine government continues to be extremely cautious when addressing the issue. After four days of silence, President Mauricio Macri said he is “following the crisis with concern,” but assured that “it’s different than Venezuela’s,” because “Brazil’s institutions work.”
While Argentine government officials continue trying to determine how negative will be the crisis’ effect in the economy, the entire political landscape closely follows the legal developments of the corruption cases, especially the Lava Jato, set to implicate more than one Argentine politician in the near future.
On Friday, Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado requested to analyze the phone records of the directors of Odebrecht, the company at the center of the scandal, to determine if they authorized the payment of kickbacks to Argentine officials or business leaders between 2006 and 2015 in exchange for public works contracts.
Leonardo Meirelles, a former Odebrecht employee who took a plea deal, confessed he was in charge of paying US $35 million in bribes in Argentina alone. One of the alleged recipients, according to Meirelles, was the current head of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), Gustavo Arribas. Arribas rejected all accusations, and counterattacked by suing Mierelles for slander instead.