BRASÍLIA: Brazilian President Michel Temer warned opponents on Monday he will not go without a fight as he won more breathing space in a corruption crisis sparking calls for his resignation.
“If they want to, then they have to force me out, because if I resign, that is an admission of guilt,” he said in an interview with the Folha newspaper.
Temer, who faces multiple impeachment demands, told Folha he had been “naive” in stumbling into the crisis that could bring him down just over a year since he replaced impeached president Dilma Rousseff. But he again insisted he had done nothing wrong.
The scandal erupted last week when Globo newspaper revealed a secret audio recording in which Joesley Batista, an executive from the JBS meatpacking giant, can allegedly be heard getting the president’s green light for paying hush money to a politician imprisoned for corruption.
With Temer placed under investigation for obstruction of justice and corruption, opponents are demanding his head.
Impeachment petitions are piling up. The highest-profile request was filed over the weekend by the Brazilian bar association—a stinging rebuke for Temer, a constitutional lawyer.
But Temer appeared to win new breathing space on Monday, slowing what had been starting to look like dangerously growing momentum for his ouster.
The Supreme Court had been due to rule on Wednesday on a request by Temer for the investigation to be suspended pending analysis of what the president claims was the doctoring of the recording at the center of the case.
Parties allied to Temer’s center-right PMDB had been reportedly waiting for that ruling to decide whether or not to jump ship — potentially bringing down the government of Latin America’s biggest country.
However, Temer’s lawyers said that they no longer are asking for a suspension because they are satisfied that the court is making analysis of the disputed recording a priority.
Brazilian media reported that Temer’s team is now confident that the recording was doctored and will not be considered admissible as evidence.
The bar association and others argue, however, that there is enough, even without the supposedly damning audio, to bring Temer down.
‘30-percent survival chance’
The crisis – linked to a gigantic corruption investigation targeting scores of top politicians—threatens Brazil’s attempts to exit the trauma of last year’s Rousseff impeachment and a severe recession.
Prosecutors have now recommended corruption and money laundering charges against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a case linked to the ownership of a country house.
If the charges are accepted by the judge overseeing the sprawling corruption investigation, it would be the sixth criminal case against Lula, a left-wing icon who ruled from 2003 to 2010.
For Temer, Eurasia Group risk analysts issued a note describing his fall as “likely to be quick,” with only a 30 percent chance of survival.
For now, most of the action is taking place behind the scenes.
Temer is scrambling to hold together his center-right PMDB party’s ruling coalition to prevent impeachment and fend off pressure to resign.
So far, only smaller parties have quit, but the PMDB’s biggest ally, the PSDB social democrats, has wavered repeatedly.
However, the national president of the party, Tasso Jereissati, was quoted by the noticias.uol.com news site saying that a decision had now been taken to stand by Temer until his legal situation was clearer.