The political crisis Brazil is immersed in continues moving at a frantic speed, ever since O Globo outlet went public with recordings directly implicating President Michel Temer and other high profile political leaders in diverse acts of corruption on Wednesday night.
Temer announced to the press corps that he’s not going to resign and assured the public that the recordings were edited; the Brazilian Supreme Court handed the audios to the executive branch and the press shortly after; the government maintained its stance and requested a group of experts analyze them; while the events unfolded along the political and legal landscape, there were marches in the country’s main cities calling for the president’s resignation in addition to calling for early elections — they are set to take place in October 2018. Further south, Argentina is closely following the events and with officials and specialists speculating just how harmful the crisis will be to the local economy.
How bad is it?
After announcing that he wouldn’t resign in a national broadcast yesterday — as it was speculated during the previous hours to his speech — Temer assured everyone that the tape he can allegedly be heard acknowledging and condoning the payment of bribes to the disgraced and now imprisoned former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, was edited as part of a conspiracy against his government.
Just a few hours later, the Brazilian Supreme Court handed over the files to the executive branch and the press, which was quick to publish them. You can listen to the audio here.
The file is 40 minutes long and was handed to the Brazilian judiciary by one of the owners of giant Brazilian meat processing company JBS, Joesley Batista, as part of a plea deal he and his brother Wesley reached. In the most important part of the conversation, when Batista tells Temer he has been paying hush money to Cunha, a voice alleged to be Temer can be heard saying “you need to continue that, you see?”
Following the release, the Temer administration requested a group of experts analyze the audio to determine whether it has been edited, as the president claims.
However, a great part of the Brazilian people have already made up their minds, or rather confirmed what they already thought about Temer. There were several marches throughout the country calling for Temer’s resignation and early elections. The thing is, actually making early elections happen would be quite a complicated thing to achieve, even if Congress is willing to do it, as the country’s constitution doesn’t contemplate early elections.
If Temer were to resigned or be removed from his post, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, would take office as interim president. He would then have to call “indirect elections,” where the members of Congress — in representation of their constituents — would elect the next president among all Brazilians older than 35.
There are four different scenarios that could end with Temer out of office:
Resignation: many speculated this would be the case yesterday, but a defiant Temer decided not to.
Impeachment by Congress: in order for this to happen, the President of the Chamber of Deputies would have to uphold a request from a representative to do so — there have already been two. But as the Dilma Rousseff case showed, the process is quite lengthy, and such a long period of political uncertainty won’t help the already harmed Brazilian economy.
Criminal trial by the Supreme Court: since Temer was accused of attempting to obstruct justice, the Supreme Court could open a case against him. For this to happen, the highest Prosecutor’s Office in the country would have to press charges against him, and have its request approved by two thirds of the Chamber of Deputies.
Trial by the Electoral Tribunal: the Superior Electoral Tribunal could annul Temer’s mandate, the body has been investigating charges against the Rousseff-Temer ticket since 2015 for the alleged “abuse of political and economic power” during the 2014 elections. According to La Nación, officials involved in the Lava Jato operation argue that Odebrecht construction company illegally financed the campaign. Temer always assured that neither him nor his party were aware of that, and pinned the blame on Dilma’s party, the Workers Party (PT).
While the turmoil continues, Argentine government representatives worry about how this could financially affect the country. Speaking from Japan, where President Mauricio Macri is on an official a State visit, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra described the general feeling among officials with a pretty clear analogy: “if Brazil sneezes, we get pneumonia.”
Economic analysts worry that the international trade with Brazil will drop even more than what it has already, and that the Real’s devaluation will harm Argentine exports by making them less competitive. Moreover, the crisis could also endanger the negotiations between the Mercosur trading bloc and the European Union to reach a free trade agreements, one of Macri’s main economic goals, and one that he wanted to announce in December.