Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Brazil's president denies authorizing payments to silence politician

Brazil's leadership lurched into another bribery scandal Wednesday, as one of the country's biggest newspapers accused President Michel Temer of paying a former senate colleague hush money.

Jornal O Globo said Joesley Batista visited Temer at his official residence in Brasília on March 7 while carrying a hidden recording device.

According to the O Globo report, Batista allegedly recorded the discussion with Temer about hush money the executive paid to Cunha, according to the newspaper.

According to Batista, Temer appeared to be satisfied with what was said, lowered his voice, and purportedly said, "Look, you've got to keep that up".

"President Michel Temer has never requested payments to obtain the silence of former Representative Eduardo Cunha".

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The paper reported, without saying how it obtained the information, that Batista and his brother, Chief Executive Wesley Batista, presented the recording to prosecutors as part of plea bargains struck with the Office of the Attorney-General.

Cunha was a powerful member of the same ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement party as acting President Temer, and was believed to be the mastermind behind the impeachment of former Brazilian leader Rousseff.

The report also cited Senator Aecio Neves, president of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which is Temer's main ally in Congress.

"Given the gravity of the situation and with the responsibility of not letting Brazil immerse itself in the imponderable, we have only the resignation of President Michel Temer and a change in the Constitution", Caiado said late Wednesday.

Despite getting the top job, Temer has since struggled against repeated jibes that he lacks legitimacy. Hidden in his pocket was a voice-recorder, according to Rio's daily newspaper O Globo.

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O Globo's report caused an immediate stir in Congress, where opposition congressmen started to shout anti-government slogans. It added that the episode may affect the ruling of Brazil's top electoral court, which is now assessing whether to scrap the results of the 2014 election.

As the events of past year proved, impeaching a Brazilian president is a tortuous affair.

Temer's predecessor Rousseff was ousted previous year over bribery accusations. However, the incidents in the reported recordings would seem to lead Brazil into new legal territory: these alleged crimes were committed just weeks ago.

He spearheaded the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff past year. But Brazilian law says he can not be prosecuted for those crimes while he holds the office of President.

Temer's office said the meeting in March occurred but called the allegations false.

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Beth Sahao, a Sao Paolo state lawmaker for the Worker's Party, said the report confirmed what opponents had been waiting for: "Concrete evidence of corruption in the Temer government, but especially of the person of President Temer himself".

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