Will Corruption Charges Against Brazil President Stick?

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The president of Brazil, Michel Temer, has been charged in connection with an expansive anti-corruption investigation, raising questions about whether congressional agendas could serve as roadblocks to his prosecution.

On June 26, Brazil’s Chief Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot charged Temer with “passive corruption,” making him the first sitting president in Brazilian history to face criminal charges. Two-thirds of Brazil’s lower house of congress must give permission for the Supreme Court to proceed with the prosecution.

According to O Globo, the indictment cites “abundant” evidence pointing to Temer’s involvement in corruption and bribery conducted “of his own free and conscious volition,” including allegedly accepting a $152,000 bribe from Joesley Batista, the Brazilian business tycoon and chairman of meat-packing conglomerate JBS. Temer and his former aide Rodrigo Rocha Loures were also promised an additional $11 million, reported The New York Times.

The Associated Press reported that Temer has denied the charges against him, describing them as “fiction” and a “soap opera plot.”

The charges follow on the heels of a plea bargain struck with JBS executives in exchange for cooperating with Brazilian authorities in a wide-ranging, years-long anti-graft effort known as “Operation Car Wash” (“Operação Lava Jato”). As part of the deal, Brazilian prosecutors received a copy of a surreptitiously recorded conversation in which Temer appeared to encourage Batista to pay hush money to jailed former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha in order to keep him from revealing details about JBS’ involvement in corruption.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although the indictment against Temer is historic, the question now is whether Brazilian lawmakers, many of whom face corruption probes themselves, will vote to put on trial a president who has previously moved to protect them from the Car Wash investigations. In a conversation with InSight Crime last week, American University professor Matthew Taylor said that Temer has been playing a “very savvy game” to ensure that he retains the support of at least one-third of congress to stave off a trial on graft charges.

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However, judicial officials seem to have planned on congress blocking the advancement of the Temer corruption probe. According to Reuters, Janot plans to unveil a rolling series of separate corruption charges against Temer — as opposed to a single, all-encompassing indictment — with the objective of withering the president’s defense. Forcing congress to repeatedly vote to prevent Temer from going to trial would likely lead to public outcry against politicians seen as providing protection to the least-popular president in the country’s modern history.

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