Government - Brazil's Temer Denies Paying Hush Money
Brazil's unelected President Michel Temer is denying a report that he had authorized payments to buy the silence of a potential witness in the country's biggest-ever graft probe, allegations that have brought demands for his impeachment.
The O Globo newspaper reports Temer was secretly recorded Temer discussing hush money pay-offs to former House speaker Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the House who has been jailed for his role in the sprawling Petrobras corruption scandal. Cunha was the loathed political operator who engineered the impeachment of Brazil's last democratically-elected President Dilma Rousseff, who was ousted for an accounting irregularity that isn't against the law. Temer was installed in Rousseff's place, but Cunha jailed for his role in the ever-expanding corruption scandal surrounding the state run oil company Petrobras.
Temer admits that he had met in early March with political ally Joesley Batista, the wealthy chairman of meatpacker JBS SA. But he claims the discussion did not "compromise his conduct" as president.
The Globo disagrees, reporting that recordings reveal Joesley telling Temer he is paying Cunha to keep him quiet. Temer allegedly replies, "You have to keep it going, OK?"
As the news broke, the anger was apparently and audible in Brazil's cities. The sound of banging on pots and pans - a favorite form of political protest in Latin America - rang out as people registered their displeasure. Crowds appeared outside the Planalto - the presidential palace - chanting, "Fora Temer!" - which translates to "Temer, Out!"
Two lawmakers in the lower house submitted impeachment motions, although it's questionable if the ruling party will act. Corruption surrounds Temer: Three of his ministers have been forced to resign and eight others are implicated in the same corruption probe that brought down Cunha.