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Brazil's president charged with bribery

Brazil's top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes.

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Brazil's president charged with bribery

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Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes.

Rodrigo Janot submitted the charge to the country’s Supreme Court, alleging Temer had “fooled Brazilian citizens” and owed the nation millions in compensation for accepting bribes.

What do the charges relate to?

Temer was charged in connection with a graft scheme involving the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA.

Speaking in a plea-bargain testimony, executives said the president took bribes for resolving tax matters, freeing up loans from state-run banks and other matters.

The charging document alleges Temer arranged to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais (more than ten million euros) from JBS in the next nine months.

Joesley Batista, one of the brothers who control JBS, recorded a conversation with Temer in March in which the president appears to condone bribing a potential witness.

Batista also accused Temer and aides of negotiating millions of dollars in illegal donations for his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

Has Temer said anything?

Not immediately. Temer’s office and his lawyer, Antonio Mariz, declined to comment on the charges.

Temer has repeatedly said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

What happens now?

Under Brazilian law, the lower house of Congress must now vote on whether to allow the top tribunal to try the conservative leader.

Lawmakers within Temer’s coalition are confident they have the votes to block the two-third majority required to proceed with a trial.

But they are warning that support may wane if congressmen are forced to vote several times to protect Temer – whose popularity is languishing in the single-digits – from trial.

Is there an issue with corruption in Brazil?

Investigators think there is. They have uncovered “stunning” levels of corruption in recent years, engulfing Brazil’s political class and business elites.

A lot of it centres on companies paying billions of dollars in bribes to politicians and executives at state-run enterprises, in return for lucrative contracts.

Temer and one-third of his cabinet, along with four former presidents and dozens of lawmakers are under investigation or have already been charged.

More than 90 people have been convicted.

Are there any political consequences?

Analysts are warning there will be. They say the scandals could reduce Temer’s chances to push through reforms crucial for Latin America’s biggest economy to rebound from its worst recession on record.

Key lawmakers in Temer’s alliance have said they would halt work on proposed labour reforms if they are forced to vote on charges against the president.

Temer’s supporters say they have between 250 and 300 votes in the 513-seat lower house to block a trial. However, the president is soon expected to face charges of racketeering and obstruction of justice, each requiring a separate vote.

Prosecutors have also said they may file other charges which they have not yet given details of.

On Monday, the federal police recommended charging Temer with obstruction of justice – the first step toward a likely round of other charges in addition to graft.

With all of congress facing re-election next year, many said that if public outrage boiled over, it would be hard to maintain support for Temer.

What they are saying

“If this grinds on with multiple votes, you may start to see a lack of governability. In that case, there will be defections and colleagues may start to move against Temer.” – a senior lawmaker in Temer’s coalition.

“If Congress has any connection left whatsover with the society it represents, then Janot’s strategy of wearing lawmakers down with multiple votes will win and you will see the president put on trial,” – political scientist Carlos Melo says votes by lawmakers will be a test of how alienated Brazil’s political class is from an increasingly angry population.