BRASÍLIA: President Michel Temer insists that a growing corruption scandal in his government will not paralyze Brazil as it struggles to emerge from its deepest recession in history.
“Brazil doesn’t stop,” he said in an interview broadcast Saturday on Spanish television TVE ahead of a visit Monday by Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “So it won’t be corrupt acts that paralyze the country.”
Temer, who is alleged to have chaired a meeting where the corruption-riddled engineering giant Odebrecht agreed to pay a huge bribe to his PMDB party, said the accusations were unfortunate.
However, he took pains to voice support for the investigative judge, Sergio Moro, who is leading the massive probe known as “Car Wash.”
Moro is “fulfilling” his role, Temer said, adding that he would avoid criticizing a wave of new investigations because it “could be construed as wanting to shut down Car Wash.”
Eight of Temer’s ministers were placed under investigation last week for alleged participation in a sprawling embezzlement and bribery network in which Odebrecht and other companies paid politicians to get them contracts with the state oil company Petrobras.
A third of the Senate and 39 lower house deputies were also singled out for probes.
The developments are complicating Temer’s push for Congress to approve far-reaching austerity reforms, including a shrinking of the country’s hugely expensive pension system.
The scandal has also contributed to investor nerves. One of the world’s biggest emerging markets, Brazil is forecast to exit a more than two-year recession this year, although only just.
Temer came to power in 2016 after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached for illegally manipulating government accounts to mask the depth of economic problems. He says he will serve until a new president is elected in October 2018.|
As president, he has immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes committed before his term started. But although he is not under formal investigation, he has been put on the defensive by allegations that Odebrecht agreed to a bribe worth at least $40 million during a meeting in his office in 2010.