Brazil’s Temer survives corruption vote

Author: 
AP
Thu, 2017-10-26 03:00
ID: 
1509032066961643200

BRASILIA: President Michel Temer may have saved his job by convincing a small majority in Brazil’s Congress not to suspend him and put him on trial for corruption, but his scandal-rocked government appears more weakened than ever.
The vote late Wednesday marked the second time in three months that Temer survived a legislative vote that could have suspended him for a trial, but analysts said he has spent so much political capital it raises the specter of a lame duck administration unable to enact a proposed overhaul of pensions and work rules aimed at reviving Brazil’s economy.
“Major structural reforms, such as social security reform, tax reform, further movement on labor, I think those are dead in the water in large part because Temer does not have a whole lot of political capital and legislators have very little incentive after this vote to cooperate,” said Matthew M. Taylor, a professor at the School of International Service at American University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The 77-year-old Temer spent recent weeks shoring up support, doling out local projects, plum positions and favorable decrees in a successful bid to avoid being put on trial for charges of obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organization. He needed backing from at least a third of the 513 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies — or 171 votes. He easily passed that mark with 251 votes for him, 233 against and the rest abstentions or absences.
“This accusation is fragile, inept and worse than the first one,” legislator Celso Russomanno said while voting in favor of the president.
Earlier in the day, Temer was hospitalized briefly for a urinary obstruction, but emerged smiling and flashing two thumbs up.
But the president did not get as much support as he did in an August vote on separate bribery charge, when 263 lawmakers voted in his favor.
In both cases, the number of supporters fell well below the 308 votes, or three-fifths of the chamber, that he would need to pass his big proposals, such as a revamp of the pension system that he says would help boost the economy. Latin America’s largest economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession that has led to high unemployment and pushed millions into poverty.
The opposition blasted Temer, whose approval ratings have dropped to single-digits.
“I vote with more than 90 percent of Brazilians who have already convicted Temer’s corrupted administration,” said lawmaker Luiza Erundina.
Beyond criminal accusations against Temer and scandals involving several of his Cabinet ministers, many Brazilians feel the administration lacks legitimacy because of how he came to power. Temer, then vice president, took over last year after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office. His term runs until Dec. 31, 2018.
For several hours Wednesday, many opposition lawmakers refused to enter the chamber, hoping to deny the necessary quorum and delay the vote into the night, when presumably more Brazilians are watching television. Many stations carried the vote live, forcing deputies to decide whether to publicly support a deeply unpopular leader with elections looming next year. All 513 seats will be up for grabs.
The charges against Temer stem from a mammoth corruption investigation that began as a probe into money laundering and ended up uncovering systemic graft in Brazil’s halls of power. Dozens of politicians and businessmen have been jailed since the probe launched in 2014.
Prosecutors allege Brazil’s government was run like a cartel for years, with political parties selling favors, votes and plum appointments to powerful businessmen. They say that Temer took over the scheme when he took power last year, after Rousseff was removed, and that his party has since received about $190 million in bribes.
Temer denies the charges and contends the prosecutor who brought them had a grudge against him.
He is not alone in facing allegations of corruptions. Watchdog groups estimate around 60 percent of members of Congress have been formally accused or are being investigated for wrongdoing, including numerous corruption cases. Many Brazilians say all they can do is hold their noses until next year’s election.
“To tell you the truth, I cannot think of any decent, honest politician who could be president right now,” said Marco Tribesi, a 19-year-old journalism student at Casper Libero University in Sao Paulo as he leafed through a magazine at a newsstand. “But hopefully someone will emerge and start to straighten things out.”

Main category: